Photos via Li-Ning
EXECUTIVES & ENTREPRENEURS

Dwyane Wade, Li-Ning Launch “Way of Wade” US Web Store

The new WayOfWade.com will be the central hub for all of D-Wade’s signature shoes and current NBA player PEs

Dwyane Wade took a gamble in 2012, leaving a signature shoe deal with Jordan Brand at the height of his career to sign with Li-Ning.

Not only did the eight-year, $10 million pact pay considerably more annually than what Jordan was offering as an extension, but it made him Chief Brand Officer of Li-Ning and established his own Way of Wade sub-brand. That has since morphed into a lifetime deal, extending well beyond his 2018 retirement from the NBA.

After selling products in 5,704 Li-Ning storefronts and 11 standalone WADE stores throughout China, Li-Ning and Wade are teaming up yet again to launch WayOfWade.com and bring more consistent launches to his US fanbase.

“When I decided to make the move in 2012, that was the vision, to be able to go to China and build a brand that was lifetime-worthy,” Wade told me just hours after his lifetime deal announcement ceremony in 2018.

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All along, the deal was centered on establishing a signature shoe business that would outlast his Hall of Fame career as one of the NBA’s all-time greatest shooting guards. The Heat icon has done just that, cementing a brand that fans can recognize globally. He does it partly through annual tours of China, where he connects with fans and launches each new Way Of Wade sneaker. He’s also bolstered the Wade athlete roster under Li-Ning.

During his time at Jordan Brand, which began in 2009 with a transfer within the Nike Inc. umbrella from Converse to Jordan, Wade learned the power of individual branding. 

“I was able to see how Michael went from being a great player to taking his legacy from what he’s done in basketball and having it live on for so many years,” Wade said in 2012. “I had an unbelievable opportunity here to try and follow in similar footsteps, but in a different capacity hopefully.”

From the brand’s standpoint, Wade has been the exact ambassador it had hoped to land. With detailed input in the product process, Wade wearing the sneakers in on- and off-court settings, and a committed interest to growing the business, Wade was able to land the lifetime deal that will continue his signature series well into retirement. After retiring, he got his Wade logo tattooed atop his left kneecap.

“With a lifetime of collaboration in front of us, we look forward to creating new ways to work with Dwyane to bring basketball to both China and around the world,” Mr. Li Ning said at the lifetime deal announcement ceremony. 

The company founder, namesake, and Chinese sporting hero won six medals as a gymnast in the 1984 Olympics — the first Summer Games that China participated in. In 2000, Li Ning became the first Chinese gymnast inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame. He later lit the Olympic torch at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. 

Now, the brand is enjoying continued success as it enters its fourth decade, branching off successfully into runway fashion with its “Li-Ning of China” lifestyle silo.

D’Angelo Russell’s Li-Ning Way of Wade 9 PE

The first chapter of the Way of Wade e-commerce expansion into the US will include not only Wade’s ninth signature sneaker and his All-City team model, but also limited edition colorways that D’Angelo Russell will wear this season with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“DLo” will lace up vibrant green player exclusive pairs featuring his “DLoading” logo along the heel and toe.

Three years removed from the league, Wade is still looking to sign and add new players under the Way of Wade banner to continue his sneaker line’s visibility on the game’s greatest stage. 

In the late 2000s, Li-Ning had a partnership with Shaquille O’Neal, signed Cleveland Cavs guard Damon Jones, and launched a signature shoe with LA Clippers point guard Baron Davis — but it was Wade’s signing in 2012 that has made the impact that both sides hoped for nearly a decade later. 

Now, Li-Ning boasts a roster of current players that includes Russell, Jimmy Butler, CJ McCollum, Fred VanVleet, RJ Hampton, and Heat OG Udonis Haslem. 

“I just hope to be able to inspire so many [players],” Wade said. “So that if they one day have this same crossroads, where they have to decide, ‘Should I or shouldn’t I?’ I’m glad to be one of the people that can say, ‘I think you should.’”