High school graduates in Parkland, Florida, got an unexpected surprise from Dwyane Wade upon receiving their diplomas.
On Sunday, the crowd at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s graduation ceremony erupted in cheers as Wade, 37, stepped onto the stage to deliver a powerful and moving commencement speech.
“My life is bigger than basketball and that’s why I asked to come to Marjory Stoneman Douglas to do whatever was needed of me,” Wade said, according to ABC News.
After the tragic shooting in February 2018 at the high school left 17 students and staff dead, the NBA star visited the Florida school.
“I remember pulling up and seeing a few security guards outside,” he continued. “I remember being met by one of the staffers. I remember us walking to the school and I remember hearing absolutely nothing. I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’ve never felt – I’ve never heard this kind of silence before in my life.’ “
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He continued: “I remember being so nervous to see and meet everybody. What would I say? I grew up in the inner city of Chicago and I’ve experienced a lot of awful things. But I’ve never experienced anything to the magnitude that you guys have just experienced.”
Joaquin Oliver, a 17-year-old victim of the shooting, was a huge fan of Wade, and was buried by his parents in the star’s jersey. In response, Wade dedicated the remainder of his 2018 NBA season to Oliver, and reflected on the impact during his speech.
“Thank you for reminding me of my purpose. I’ll try to continue to be a leader and the fighter that Joaquin Oliver thought I was,” he added during his speech, according to ABC News. “What I loved most and appreciated the most was that you all became advocates. You became the faces and the voices for kids all around the world. I’m so proud to say the words ‘MSD strong.’ “
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Wade – who recently welcomed daughter Kaavia James, 6 months, with wife Gabrielle Union – played his final career game in April, which came with a splashy celebration when he was drenched with water by his supportive teammates.
The Miami Heat star received a standing ovation from the Brooklyn crowd, which included Union, 46, as well as fellow players and friends Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, and Chris Paul.
Budweiser also released a special ad in Wade’s honor that featured the star being given special gifts by people whose lives he’s touched, which included Oliver’s sister.