When you really think about it, there is probably no better player-shoe company fit in the NBA than Dwyane Wade wearing Jordan Brand shoes. He’s an elite shooting guard who is capable of making huge, highlight reel plays on both ends of the court, who constantly attacks and who, oh yeah, is from Chicago. Not to mention, he’s spent the entirety of his career thus far playing for a team that wears black, red and white. It is a literally perfect fit, which is exactly why the brand put Wade right alongside MJ to launch the Air Jordan 2010.
Except, as Nick De Paula from Sole Collector magazine tells us in a very interesting post about big name players without shoe deals, it’s not quite as perfect as it may seem.
Despite literally all of the stars aligning, the endorsement deal somehow didn’t end up working out for either party. Wade signed on with the understanding that he would be the lone man to lead the annual Air Jordan shoe each February, a huge undertaking and passing of the torch for a guy who grew up on the south side of Chicago and as a teen idolized MJ during the Bulls’ legendary ’90s run. Once Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and others rocked the Air Jordan 2010 during Wade’s very first All-Star Weekend with the brand, the plan seemed to already be in disarray and the relationship more fractured than anyone wanted to admit at the time.
By all accounts, Wade can certainly be sensitive to work with at times and indecisive when it comes to product feedback. The brand’s efforts to make up and launch his very own signature Fly Wade series for each spring’s playoff run churned out two models that struggled mightily at retail. With an endorsement price tag of nearly $10 million a year and all kinds of athlete service stress to deal with in the form of custom sneaker modifications and extra attention, perhaps Jordan Brand doesn’t see the value in extending Wade’s deal this summer.
As it stands, there isn’t a product plan in place for DWade with his third Fly Wade shoe already scrapped for this season. After starting on such a promising note with so many complementary qualities seemingly working in both Wade and Jordan Brand’s favor, it’s looking like that partnership will come to an end just three years in.
Very weird that this isn’t working out. I talked to Wade right after he signed up with Jordan Brand and he told me that getting a call from Michael Jordan to wear his shoes was “one of the unbelievable moments in my entire life, and it’s something I take with pride. Because I got the call from Michael Jordan himself. His brand is his name. It’s his logo. So it really means a lot.” Less than two years later, that relationship is over?
Looks like it. Here’s De Paula on Twitter:
Hearing from several people that Dwyane Wade will likely leave Jordan Brand and sign with Li-Ning. Huge shift.
Li-Ning, you guys. Shoe home of guys like Jose Calderon, Baron Davis and Evan Turner. Getting Dwyane Wade in the prime of his career — OK, the end of his prime, but he’s playing on an NBA championship team and is still really great, so it still counts as the prime — would be huge for them. And probably super weird for us to see a guy go from being the best player on the Jordan Brand roster (unless you love Mike Bibby and Jared Jeffries like some kind of crazy weirdo), to wearing a Chinese shoe brand that is pretty hard to find in North America. Interesting choice.
Of course, for the majority of people who don’t care if Dwyane Wade is wearing his childhood idol’s shoes, this changes nothing. He’ll still be wearing shoes when he plays and they’ll still match the Heat’s jerseys. For the rest of us shoe nerds though, pretty big news.