Wade tells PEOPLE in an interview ahead of the release of his documentary, D. Wade: Life Unexpected, that Bryant’s legacy is so much more than his illustrious career in the NBA.
“His legacy is what he was in the process of building that we all got a chance to watch, right?” says Wade, 38. “We’ve seen what he did for basketball. We’ve seen that legacy.”
Continues the former Miami Heat star, “But the legacy he was building outside of there was being there for the players, being a voice for the next generation. Working them out, being on the court with them, being there in his kids’ lives, being a real all-star, superstar parent. Being an amazing husband.”
Bryant, 41, was married to Vanessa Bryant, 37. The couple shares four daughters, including Gianna, 13, who was also killed in the crash.
“And I think the one thing Kobe told us along the way is that no one is perfect in this, but at some point in his life — I said this recently — he mastered all of it,” Wade tells PEOPLE. “He started mastering all of this. And then he showed us, too, that, ‘Listen, we can do anything we want.’ “
Wade calls his friend’s legacy “so huge,” adding, “and I think the thing that hurt more so than anything is that we all feel that we lost a loved one when Kobe passed.”
“And that’s powerful — for someone that a lot of people haven’t even met or didn’t even know, still are mourning and trying to get over it, trying to move on with life,” the retired athlete reflects. “That’s when you know that you’ve built something, you’ve created something special.”
Immediately after Bryant’s death, Wade released a video of himself crying on Instagram, admitting, “Today is one of the saddest days in my lifetime.”
“It seems like a bad dream that you just wanna wake up from. It’s a nightmare.”
D. Wade: Life Unexpected from ESPN Films and Imagine Documentaries and directed by Bob Metelus premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. EST on ESPN.