NBA legend Dwyane Wade gave Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students a big surprise Sunday when he was introduced as the guest speaker at their graduation ceremony.
The basketball player, who retired from the Miami Heat in April, arrived at the Parkland, Florida, school to speak to the 2019 graduates more than a year after the mass shooting that killed 17 people, including staff members and students.
In a video posted on Twitter by an audience member at the ceremony, Wade looked back on his March 2018 visit to the school three weeks after the violence unfolded.
“I remember being so nervous to see and meet everybody,” he recalled. “What would I say? I mean, 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.”
To Wade’s surprise, he said, he was met with smiles from students who were excited by his arrival.
Speaking to the school that month, Wade offered his support to students, who responded with shouts and cheers.
“I just wanted to come and say I’m inspired by all of you,” he said. “As someone out here in the public eye, I’m proud to say I’m from this state because of you guys, because of the future of this world because of you guys.”
The tragedy became especially personal when the athlete learned 17-year-old Joaquin Oliver, who died in the shooting and was a fan of Wade’s, was buried in his team jersey.
“This is why we will not just SHUT up and dribble!” Wade tweeted after hearing the news. “It’s way BIGGER than basketball. We are the voices for the people that don’t get to be heard. Joaquin Oliver may you Rest In Peace and i dedicate my return and the rest of this Miami Heat season to you.”
For the school’s 2018 graduation ceremony, late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon was the surprise guest speaker, delivering a speech sprinkled with jokes and words of encouragement.
“Choose to move forward,” he told the graduates. “Don’t let anything stop you.”