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Dwayne Wade, ESPN Magazine, The Body Issue

Carlos Serrao for ESPN The Magazine

Even superstar athletes like Dwyane Wade can admit to feeling self-conscious about their bodies.

The Miami Heat basketball star covers the front of ESPN The Magazine's annual Body Issue, and although he's posing completely nude, he admits he had to build quite a bit of courage to do it.

"I had a fear of being naked in front of others and a fear of being judged," he explained. "So to me, overcoming that is the biggest thing. Someone may look at me and think, 'Why would you have insecurity?' Well, this is real life and I'm human, and these are the things that I deal with that many others might deal with."

One of the biggest factors catering to his insecurities was the fact that he had an outie belly button he feared peers would make fun of if he ever took his shirt off. Thus, he spent much of his younger years covered up, refusing to go in the pool without a shirt or show his stomach in the locker room.

He even denied ESPN's Body Issue for the last seven years because of it, only starting to feel comfortable in his own skin four years ago.

"As you go through life, you get more comfortable with yourself," he said. "It's like everything else with life—you change, you grow. People might think it's simple, but for me it was hard to even feel comfortable walking around naked when it's just me and my wife. So the thought of doing it at a photo shoot in front of people [laughs]—it was like, 'No way ever.'"

Dwayne Wade, ESPN Magazine, The Body Issue

Carlos Serrao for ESPN The Magazine

So what changed his mind? He explained, "In my underwear line, Naked, we have this thing called the 'Naked Truth'—and my naked truth, I always say, is me being my authentic self. That became a part of me doing this shoot. I'm like, 'You know what, nothing is clearer than this, being my authentic self.' Right here is just me baring it all. This is as authentic as it gets."

Now, he jokes, he's making the outie belly button cool.

Wade also works hard on his body for him not to be willing to showcase it, spending hours in the gym, working out and doing cardio. "I'm 34 now; it doesn't come as easy as it did when I was 21, 22. I have to work at it now, where it used to be something that just came natural," he revealed. "Now I have to put in so many hours, but it makes me feel good to see the finished product."

But he also admits putting in the hours is partially due to his deep love for food.

"I can put on a few pounds pretty fast. I love to eat. I'm one of those guys who's low-key, but I'm a fat boy at heart, man, when I'm eating," he said. "To me that's kind of like my happy place: a great burger, fries and a soda. It's easy for me to pack pounds on, but it's easy for me to get them off at the same time."

Read Wade's full interview on ESPN and check out his behind-the-scenes video below!