Dwyane Wade Remembers ‘Quiet’ Cousin Nykea Aldridge, Aims for Purpose 'Bigger Than Basketball' With Return to Chicago

The NBA star says his family is “torn up” over his cousin’s death.

September 02, 2016, 7:31 AM

— -- The Chicago shooting death of Dwyane Wade's cousin came just hours after he had participated in an ESPN Town Hall on violence in America, and the NBA star said he was “hurt” by how media reports characterized his cousin Nykea Aldridge.

“Instead of talking about a mother of four and getting to know her and getting to know how amazing, how great she was as an individual ... most of them said ‘this is Dwyane Wade's cousin.’ That was the whole thing from her murder. That kind of hurt me and put me in a dark place for a few hours,” he said, speaking in an exclusive interview with “Good Morning America” co-anchor George Stephanopoulos that aired Friday on the show.

Aldridge, Wade’s first cousin, was fatally shot on Aug. 26 as she was pushing a stroller through Chicago’s Parkway Gardens neighborhood.

Police said the 32-year-old mother-of-four was not the intended target. Two brothers described by police as known gang members have been arrested and charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder in Aldridge’s death.

ESPYs Opening Was 'Call to Action'

Wade, who was born in Chicago and grew up in one of its toughest neighborhoods, played with the Miami Heat for 13 years before signing this year with the Chicago Bulls. He said he aims to make a difference in the community, saying he believes his purpose in life is “bigger than basketball.”

Wade and fellow basketball superstars LeBron James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony opened the ESPYs in July together on a somber note by highlighting gun violence deaths, including the killings of two black men by police and a sniper attack in Dallas in which five police officers were killed.Wade told Stephanopoulos that he and the other players’ message was a joint “call to action."

“And hopefully all our athletes were listening. And the world was listening. And we all have a responsibility, you know? It's not just on athletes. It's not just on politicians. It's not just on actors. It’s on all of us,” he said. “It's not just because you make this kind of money and (you’re) on TV you have to do this. We all can do good. We all can do better, you know, with what God has given us.”

He said the violence in Chicago – where rampant gun crimes continue to thrust the city into the national spotlight – is the result of a combination of problems, including a lack of jobs and other opportunities for youth and a failure to help ex-offenders learn skills behind bars.

One of the suspects accused in his cousin’s killing “just got out of prison not too long ago,” Wade said. “So, you know, guys go to prison and then we let them back out on the street and they’re going to go back to what they're used to and what they know ... If there's something we can do with the prison that can help with work programs, that can help -- when people come out it gives them an opportunity to try to better themselves. And we’re not doing that.”

He also said Chicago youth need mentors.

“I was a kid who wanted to play basketball, who got lucky and was able to have mentors in my life to help me. And I think that's one thing that a lot of our kids today is missing is mentorship, you know?” he said.

Wade tries to teach his sons right from wrong and envisions challenging situations to help them learn how to react and interact with others, including with the police, but Wade said his sons are afraid of the police.

“My boys are afraid of police just the same way I was when I was growing up. And you know, not all the police, obviously. But you know my boys hear everything that’s going on in the world ...,” he said.

When Stephanopoulos mentioned that Chicago police have said they’re fighting a "war” on the streets of the city, Wade agreed.

“They are. They are fighting a war. And, they can do a lot better, but they can get more help as well to do better ... These other cities have way tougher gun laws, we have weak gun laws,” he said.

Don't Use My Cousin's Death for 'Political Gain'

A day after Aldridge was killed, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump sent a tweet referring to her death and saying African-Americans would vote for him.

Wade said the tweet left him “conflicted,” adding that he didn’t want his family to be used for political gain.

"I was grateful that it started a conversation but on the other hand, it just left a bad taste in my mouth because of what my family is dealing with and what our city of Chicago is dealing with and it looks like it’s being used as political gain," Wade said.

Wade said he just wants his family to be able to grieve for his cousin, whom he described as “the quiet one.”

Aldridge “would just be there,” he added. “She would be about her kids. She would be about her family. But you would never know she was in the room. It was shocking. It was shocking to hear not only that she was murdered. But it was shocking to hear the way and how. And her mother -- my auntie, my mother, the family is, you know, is torn up.”

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