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National Columnist

Ugly custody saga sheds new light on Wade as a father and a role model


Dwyane Wade, at the 2010 NBA Finals with older son Zaire, wrote a book about fatherhood. (Getty Images)  
Dwyane Wade, at the 2010 NBA Finals with older son Zaire, wrote a book about fatherhood. (Getty Images)  

MIAMI -- This started Saturday, the day before Game 3 of the NBA Finals. At first Dwyane Wade had no idea. He practiced with the Miami Heat late that morning, then met the media at about 12:30 p.m. With Father's Day approaching, Wade spoke about being a dad, saying it was "one of the most purest relationships and purest things that you have in life."

At that moment -- I mean, at that exact moment -- his two sons were near Chicago, engulfed in a story that soon would be detailed with chilling words. Words like abduction and ambulance, police and handcuffs. Barricade. Standoff. Children, ages 10 and 5.

Horrible stuff, and Wade didn't know. As he spoke to the media -- Wade said, among other things, that "Father's Day is special when you get to look at your kids' faces and see yourself in them, but just to see kind of what you guys have, and that's love" -- Wade had no idea what was unfolding outside Chicago at the home of his ex-wife, Siohvaughn Funches-Wade.

Their divorce and custody battle already had made headlines, with Cook County (Ill.) Circuit Court Judge Renee Goldfarb calling it "just the saddest thing" in January 2011, but this was supposed to be a routine exchange of kids between parents. Since Wade was in Miami for the NBA Finals, he sent his sister to Funches-Wade's home in South Holland, Ill. -- recently described by Forbes as Chicago's "Most Livable Metro-Area suburb" -- to pick up the boys at around noon. There was a 3 p.m. flight waiting to take Zaire, 10, and Zion, 5, to Miami.

Wade's sister went to Funches-Wade's home. No answer. Kept calling, ringing. No answer, not for hours. Given the timing of everything, Wade's sister was trying unsuccessfully to pick up his children outside Chicago at the very moment Wade was in Miami, talking to the media, calling fatherhood "one of the most special things in life."

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By the time it turned ugly in that Chicago suburb, Wade knew what was going on. Police had been called. His attorney had been called. Unable to get onto Funches-Wade's property or even to see inside the house because of a 10-foot privacy fence, police officers went next door for a glimpse of what was happening inside the home of Siohvaughn Funches-Wade. Good news: Through a window, they spotted Zaire and Zion, safe and sound.

What was happening inside the head of Siohvaughn Funches-Wade? Bad news. Because she wouldn't let the police in, either. For hours they waited until Funches-Wade finally came outside, where she was placed in handcuffs before reportedly resisting arrest. A friend who was with her at the home, a 35-year-old woman named Nadgee Alarcon, reportedly got involved too -- engaging the police in a frantic game of tug-of-war, trying to pull Funches-Wade back behind the gate.

As if it couldn't get more ridiculous, Funches-Wade complained to police about asthma, and an ambulance was called to the home. The children eventually were allowed to leave with Wade's sister, but the 3 p.m. flight to Miami was missed. So Dwyane Wade arranged for a private jet. By that night, his sons were with him at home.

That was Saturday.

On Sunday, Wade played Game 3. Played well, too. He had 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, and the Heat won. At the time, news hadn't leaked about the custody drama involving his kids, the police, the word "abduction." We didn't know to ask, and Wade didn't offer information, though he would later put out a statement that said this was "the second time an occurrence with my boys took place on Father's Day. I am happy they are now here safely in Miami with me."

At the time, when he met the media after Game 3, Wade closed his press conference by saying, "Once again, happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there."

Understand, this is a guy who has a soft spot for children, and not just his own. Wade has authored a book on fatherhood, A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball, because -- as he was saying Saturday in Miami, unaware of what was happening outside Chicago -- "Fatherhood is a culture thing, and it's something that everyone can share in. I thought I would share my experiences and hopefully help others."

Wade's not kidding about helping others. You know how some guys talk the talk? Wade walks the walk. He has the foundations and the outreach programs for kids that lots of rich athletes have -- and that's great, really it is -- but he gets involved at the most personal level, too. A few years ago he read a story about a boy in South Florida who accidentally burned down his aunt's home before Christmas, so Wade bought the family some furniture, some clothes, even some gifts so they would have presents to open on Christmas morning.

Then he bought them a house, too.

Whether you hear about it or not, Wade does stuff like this. He goes to local hospitals without telling folks, because he's not there for the photo op. He's there for kids like Michael Stolzenberg, an 8-year-old Heat fan who nearly died from a bacterial infection after suffering a bug bite in 2009. After hearing about Michael, who had both hands and feet amputated, Wade visited him in the hospital, showered him with Heat memorabilia, invited him to a game and shared a private moment with him right there on the court.

"I knew where he was sitting," Wade said in 2009, "so when I caught his eye and saw him smile right back ... it didn't matter at that time, the connection that we had, it didn't matter who was looking. It was just us."

This is a good man. Have I complained about his on-court antics? Yeah, I have. At the moment I'm not too happy about that, either, because at the moment I'm not seeing Wade as a basketball player with antics. I'm seeing him as a father, a man who loves kids, all kids, but especially his kids.

And I'm seeing this photo that was taken before Game 4, when a photographer from the Sun-Sentinel spotted Wade on the bench, with his sons, the three of them surrounded by 20,000 fans but utterly alone. Wade is hugging both of them, his eyes closed, his face touching each of his boys' heads.

Happy Father's Day to you, Dwyane Wade. Sorry it's so late. Glad it turned out so well.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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