MIAMI (AP) Dwyane Wade has been in the public eye for most of his life.
Never like this, though.
Wade was announced Tuesday as one of the cover models for this year's ESPN The Magazine's ''Body Issue,'' which will be released online on July 6 and hit newsstands on July 8. The Miami Heat star spent several hours at a shoot for the magazine last month, posing without clothes after turning down invitations to be part of the issue multiple times in recent years.
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''I was very nervous. Very nervous,'' Wade said in an interview with The Associated Press. ''It was not natural for me. There's some people who can get in front of the camera without anything on, but it was not natural for me at all. Not one moment of it. But deep down inside, deep down, it felt good to overcome something - my fear, my insecurity.''
Super Bowl MVP Von Miller and NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta will also be featured in the eighth annual issue.
Other athletes photographed include NFL stars Antonio Brown and Vince Wilfork, UFC champion Conor McGregor, WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne, swimmer Nathan Adrian, beach volleyball Olympian April Ross, soccer player Christen Press, wrestler Adeline Grey, boxer Claressa Shields, and retired diver Greg Louganis. Duathlete Chris Mosier is the first transgender athlete to appear in the issue.
In past years, Wade declined the magazine's request without hesitation.
''Absolutely not. No way. No. No. No,'' Wade said. ''That was always my reaction.''
But now, the 12-time All-Star and three-time NBA champion says he's evolving and feels more freedom than ever before. He's also touting his underwear line, Naked - and figured that alone helped make the timing right to take the plunge and pose.
''I'm at the point in my life where I'm 34 years old and understand where I am in life,'' Wade said. ''I know how I'm going. I'm at this point where I'm doing things I never thought I would, trying things that I never thought I would, that I always said no to. I'm trying not to be that guy. I'm trying to be more open to living life and enjoying it and everything that comes with it. So they caught me at the right moment.''
So Wade and his team of advisers started looking into the process, then found what worked for them from a comfort standpoint.
''I wanted a male photographer, the room to be empty, a lot of things like that,'' Wade said. ''A lot of things had to be in the agreement for me to do it, but it worked out.''
Wade also knows he's opening himself up to some teasing from his friends - as he's faced at times in the past, like when he was featured in People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful issue in 2005. (His wife, Gabrielle Union, has also been among People's most beautiful in recent years.)
''Oh, man, the memes that I'm going to get, the group texts that I'm going to get, they're going to be hilarious to say the least,'' Wade said. ''But you know how I am. I do things because I want to, and I'm not afraid what others say to me.''