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.

Comments (16)

  1. Always love the shoe nerd posts, thanks Trey.

    Wearing exclusive Jordans would be nice, but having to wear Jordan Brand is another story.

  2. I think the best players on the Jordan Roster are CP3 and Melo. I’ve always thought that there were too many Jordan shoes in the marketplace (Ideal world would be only the actual J’s, retros, hybrids). No player-branded shoes for Wade, or the others bc it is too tough to market. Is it a Jordan? A Melo? Both? Keep them in the top-level annual release and the brand retains its air of exclusivity. No more letting non-Brand Jordan players wear them, and limit the roster to big names.

    • They treat Jordan Brand as its own separate brand, so there are a bunch of shoes and then signature athletes, just like Nike has a bunch of random shoes and then signature athletes. It just gets weird because when you put the Jumpman on there, you’re expecting a Jordan, rather than something like a standard Nike.

  3. That is crazy for real, and not just because I recently bought about 4 pairs of Wade bball shorts and a few t-shirts as well. It’ll be weird to my eyes to see him in some foreign brand (foreign in the sense that I barely know what it is), but I suppose it’d be weird as hell for Wade’s feet. He’s probably worn Jays his whole life. Having good shoes that feel just right is important, and I’d think any athlete would have some trouble finding shoes that hit the spot from some new company.

  4. BILLY HOYLE WITH THE SCOOP!

  5. Li-Nings? Those are like Crocs! Good luck DWade!

  6. The white-tipped Wade’s from 05-06 were his coolest sneakers. Converse. Everyone in Miami still has those. My dad has those and he doesn’t like basketball.

  7. What a shame… I always thought his shoes looked the best out of the bunch.

  8. Unfortunately for Wade, his public image has taken a huge hit in recent years. Injuries have caught up to him, and he suffered some of the backlash for the drama surrounding the Super Team (including the championship celebration before they ever played their first game together).

    More than that, he’s earned reputation for whining to the refs more than making clutch plays. He won a championship, but he was no longer the best player on his team.

    So it’s absolutely understandable for the brand to want to cut ties, especially with Melo and Paul doing so much better at selling shoes for the Jordan brand.

  9. Now I am a weirdo for thinking Mike Bibby is better than Wade

  10. I’m glad the relationship is ending. Really. I don’t think there should be THAT much jordan brand athletes. At least not all being basketball players. If they are going to promote the jordan brand, I think tennis athletes would be nice.

    I always thought Wade made Converse and couldn’t fathom why he left to be in the cast shadows. If he kept it going, could he had possibly have his own brand of sneakers after he retired? At least here locally in south florida? Who knows..

    His Jordan shoes in my opinion were ugly and overpriced. I like When the Jordan Brand Only had Melo, Ray Allen, CP3 and Jordan.

  11. Wade is my Favorite player, and the 2006 finals converse and how he wore them made them looked absolutely the bomb, but when Wade joined Jordan Brand, I always thought that is a bad move, because Jordan Brand has never really have a face of the brand, to me the players that they signed don’t have the personality or the swagger, i personally never liked any of the team Jordan players apart from Ray Allen, but it seems as though Ray is there to just sport some PE Jordans. I think no can could ever be the face of the Jordan Brand because there is always a over casting shadow from Michael Jordan, this is why I thought the move Wade made in joining Jordan Brand was a bad move, and since he joined, there is really isn’t much of his product available, I tried to look for some of his clothes but there is just isn’t any available, I am siting outside of the US, so coming from the view outside of the US. I don’t know about Li-Ning, but I just can’t visualize the Li-Ning Wade connection.

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