For the Heat’s longtime franchise player, Dwyane Wade, this trip is all business.
Before Miami stepped in the court in Beijing to take on the Los Angeles Clippers, Wade made his rumored shoe endorsement deal with Chinese apparel company Li Ning official in a lavish press event that described as over the top. The event even had a dancer that juggled basketballs while doing kung fu poses.
For Wade this not only a departure from an established name in Nike’s Jordan brand, but it’s a chance for him to make his own shoe empire in China and eventually the US.
Many were surprised when it was rumored that Wade didn’t renew his Jordan contract at the end of September in order to sign with a Chinese brand. Wade however told the Heat media that Li Ning gave him an opportunity he didn’t have with Jordan: his very own brand.
The decision to give Wade his own brand was easy for Li Ning, whose namesake and founder is a Chinese national hero that lit the Olympic torch in the 2008 Beijing Games. With Wade in the fold the company now has a legitimate current superstar to go alongside their other NBA players like Evan Turner of the Philadelphia 76ers and Jose Calderon of the Toronto Raptors. Li Ning is already successful in China being only behind Nike in popularity, but the brand has been losing ground recently to other domestic competitors. The company is hoping Wade will reverse that trend.
Wade wore a version of his new shoes in Miami’s October 11 win against the Clippers and will do so again when the two teams face each other in Shanghai. Those shoes, however, will not be the final version that American and Chinese consumers will see when Wade’s brand makes its retail debut.
Li Ning plans to debut Wade brand shoes and apparel at their Chinese stores later this year and in the US in early 2013.