Dwyane Wade apparently had a little business to take care of after the Miami Heat arrived in China earlier this week in preparation for their upcoming two preseason exhibition games against the Los Angeles Clippers.
In a heavily rumored move that was all but confirmed during the offseason, All-Star guard Dwyane Wade officially announced today he is joining Chinese sportswear company Li-Ning as not just a sponsored athlete but as "Chief Brand Officer" for an all-new WADE brand of apparel and footwear that is set to launch not just in China but also in the United States next year.
"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."
Mr. Li Ning and Wade announced the multi-year partnership at a press conference earlier today in Beijing. Financial details were not disclosed.
Wade leaves behind Jordan Brand after only three years with the hugely successful spin-off company from Nike that was created by Wade's childhood idol Michael Jordan. He was previously sponsored by Converse (which was bought out by Nike back in 2003) before the switch to Jordan in 2009.
In a 2007 Converse Basketball promotional Look Book, Wade is quoted as saying...
I always like to go somewhere that's not the biggest and have it become something. Just like I did in high school, just like I did at Marquette, like I did with the Miami Heat and I have been able to do with the Converse brand.
Leaving Jordan Brand for a company that is largely unknown to his American fans certainly falls in line with that thinking.
"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 at today's press conference. "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."
The good news for Heat fans is that prior to the official launch of his first signature shoe, Wade will wear two specially-created, high performance Li-Ning-branded basketball sneakers during upcoming Heat games, including the two preseason games to be played this week in Beijing and Shanghai against the Clippers. The shoes from the first two preseason games will also be held for auction in China.