SOUTH MIAMI, Fla. (AP) — Dwyane Wade had some trying moments in 2010. The fight for custody of his kids continues, his divorce became final and he nearly left the Miami Heat.
Others, he knows, have it so much worse.
Wade spent Tuesday reaching out to those in need, taking 10 families on a shopping spree and visiting sick kids at a children’s hospital with his Heat teammates. He’s done similar things around the holidays for years, and said he’s grown to appreciate it now more than ever.
“Moments like this and times like this really click and make you understand what life is about,” he said. “When you get opportunities to be out in the community and change people’s lives, it makes everything else feel like, ‘Ah, so what?’ This is what’s important.”
The Heat have emphasized charitable events, especially around holidays, for years.
All players and many staffers visited two hospitals Tuesday, a scheduled day off for the team. Parents who didn’t know what awaited at Baptist Children’s Hospital couldn’t believe it when Wade, Jamaal Magloire, Carlos Arroyo, Eddie House, Juwan Howard, Joel Anthony and Dexter Pittman arrived. Other players, including LeBron James and Chris Bosh, visited another hospital.
“All they said was that some Heat players were coming,” said Tiffany Fonseca, whose 6-year-old son Max was hospitalized with a severe cold. “I didn’t think Dwyane Wade was coming.”
When Wade entered the room, Max — coincidentally dressed in Heat pajamas — was stunned into silence. He was to be discharged a few hours later, but meeting Wade was the highlight of his day.
“It’s so touching that they take the time,” Tiffany Fonseca said. “They have their holidays to prep for, too.”
Details of Tuesday’s events were not publicized beforehand so the emphasis was on those who were actually benefiting. There was a time when seeing sick or needy kids would bring Wade down but, after eight years in the NBA, he’s figured out how to make these events uplifting — for the families involved and himself.
“I know that I’m able to make a big impact just by my presence,” he said. “Some of them look at me as one of their own, part of their family. You walk into a room and get a big smile, that makes a huge difference for me.”
TV ratings have gone up for NBA
NEW YORK — More viewers are tuning into the NBA — and it’s not just the fascination with the Miami Heat.
Television ratings for games on ESPN and TNT are up more than 30 percent so far this season compared to last year.
Sure, the Heat are drawing big audiences after a summer of free agent intrigue concluded with LeBron James and Chris Bosh joining Dwyane Wade in Miami. Ratings for Heat games on ESPN have increased 69 percent from last season.
But take out the five matchups involving Miami, and the network’s NBA coverage is still up 23 percent from a year ago.
“It tipped off with a great deal of interest about the Heat and about ‘The Decision,’” NBA Commissioner David Stern said last week, “and it seems to have gone from there, when the story lines have unfolded were not about the Heat initially — except about their struggles — but about San Antonio, New Orleans’ start, the Knicks’ start, the Lakers’ start and the Lakers suddenly stumbling a little bit, the Celtics’ strength.
“It’s across the board,” Stern said, “a whole variety of story lines.”
The successes of several prominent franchises have boosted viewership numbers. Ratings for ESPN’s games are up 58 percent in Los Angeles, 56 percent in Boston and 36 percent in New York.
“It’s sort of all jelling in a way,” Stern said, “and our broadcasters are reaping the benefits of it, which is terrific for us because they’ve made this huge investment in us over the years.”