Dwyane Wade Leaves Jordan, Officially Signs with Li-Ning
By: Pedro Heizer
Two-time NBA Champion, and 2006 Finals MVP Dwyane Wade is officially part of the Li-Ning company.
China’s leading sportswear company and Wade announced earlier today the creation of a new athletic footwear and apparel brand called WADE, which will serve as the centerpiece of the corporation’s growing international basketball strategy, and be shaped by an unprecedented level of creative and strategic direction from the two-time NBA Champion.
Li-Ning will the the third shoe brand Wade will wear in his 10-year career.
As a rookie, Wade signed a deal with Converse, who weeks later, were bought by Nike. Wade stayed with Converse until 2009 when he moved on to the Jordan Brand, also owned by Nike.
Wade’s relationship with both Nike brands wasn’t always smooth sailing despite what everyone thinks.
Wade sometimes wore shoes on the court that were not his signature shoes, like the time when he was in his final year of the Converse deal and instead of wearing the new Wade shoes coming out, he decided to go back to the Wade 1 which cost the brand millions because no one wanted to wear shoes that Wade himself was not wearing.
“In the end, the pros outweighed the cons,” Wade said. “Jordan might have that cool factor, but I’m at a different point in my career. I want to be involved in building something.”
And building something he is. Brian Cupps, Li-Ning’s vice general manager of basketball, said the WADE brand will first unveil a Wade shoe, with an apparel collection to follow.
Cupps says Wade’s first shoe will appeal to the growing Chinese middle class, as the shoe will sell for about $130, compared to the Nike LeBron and the adidas Derrick Rose shoes, which sell for closer to $200.
“I am so proud to welcome Dwyane Wade to the Li-Ning family,” said Li Ning, Founder of Li-Ning Company. “Dwyane is a superstar for his athletic achievements, and also for the way he carries himself on and off the NBA court. I have come to understand what motivates him, what he cares about, and the personal and professional path he wants to take in the coming years. There are remarkable similarities between Dwyane and myself in this regard, and I could not be more excited about developing a brand with him that speaks to those shared views. At the same time, the WADE brand will deliver the high quality and performance characteristics consumers have come to expect of our Company.”
The exact financials of the deal are not known, but it’s a multi-million dollar deal and will last until Wade retires and into his early retirement. Wade will also get significant equity in the company, according to his agent, Henry Thomas, something that Wade wouldn’t be able to get with Nike or adidas.
In the past, Chinese shoe brands like Li-Ning, Anta and Peak have gained a reputation of signing NBA players at the end of their careers, but the Wade move is a move away from that direction.
“I first visited China in 2008, when I competed in the Beijing Olympics, and was deeply moved by the country’s genuine passion for basketball,” said Wade. “I have been blessed with an opportunity to make an impact on the game in the United States, and I look forward to now being active with the sport on a more global level. I am honored to join forces with LI-NING and grow the game, beginning in China, which is home to more basketball players – 200 million – than any other country in the world.”
Prior to the official launch of his signature shoe, Wade will wear two specially-created, high performance Li-Ning-branded basketball sneakers during upcoming Miami HEAT games, including two pre-season games to be played later this week in Beijing and Shanghai against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The first shoe, called the “Way of Wade”, will not be sold in the United States until mid 2013.
Check out exclusive photos of the new shoes here: