On Wednesday, Dwyane Wade and Chinese athletic apparel company Li-Ning announced a lifetime partnership at an event in Beijing.
The Miami Heat star has been with the company since 2012 after shaking up the sneaker world with his departure from Jordan Brand. The announcement of Wade's new lifetime deal also coincided with the unveiling of his latest signature shoe, the Way of Wade 7.
In an interview with B/R Kicks, Wade explains his decision regarding this groundbreaking partnership, what made the brand different from others and the possibility of seeing the Way of Wade in U.S. stores.
B/R Kicks: What does a lifetime deal mean to you?
Dwyane Wade: Forever. It's a forever thing for me.
B/R Kicks: What does it mean for you to build something with your name on it?
Wade: You know what, it's been surreal. You know? I know the work that was put in on both sides. I can remember being on the call when I was contemplating leaving the Jordan Brand to come over to Li-Ning and thinking about all the things that could go wrong.
So just to be here and to be able to go through everything, it's a real surreal moment for me. It really made me happy that I could be the face for others who will eventually go through the same thing, who will have to take a step outside of what people think is the norm and do something a little different. Look no further than me.
B/R Kicks: What won you over to Li-Ning that made them different from any other brand?
Wade: For me, they committed to me from the beginning. When we did our first sit-down, they committed to doing something that hasn't been done often. There's only one Michael Jordan out here.
They were committed to really trying to build something from a global standpoint with my brand. I was 30 years old at the time, I can't say it was something I was thinking about coming into that summer. It was something they had already envisioned about. I was amazed that without them even knowing me, and just watching me from afar, that this was a part of their thinking.
For me, it was like, 'This is where I want to be.' I want to be able to be with a brand that really believes in what I can bring, not only to them but to a country, to a community that's very important to them here in China. That's one of the things that Li-Ning makes sure we talk about: 'How are we gonna make sure we're moving the game forward with these young athletes in China?' It comes from a basketball standpoint, not just sneakers.
B/R Kicks: Only Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Cristiano Ronaldo have lifetime sneaker deals. What does that mean to you to join that kind of company?
Wade: I mean, crazy. I watched Michael Jordan. I played with LeBron. I remember when he got his lifetime deal; we were actually about to play them in Miami. I remember reaching out to him like, 'Dawg, that's so big-time. I'm so happy for you.' And Ronaldo, the biggest athlete in the world. So to be in that class, it's so hard to put that into words. I'm just thankful. I'm blessed. It just feels good when somebody believes in you, man.
B/R Kicks: Will we ever see Way of Wade on the shelves in the U.S.?
Wade: For me, that's always gonna be the goal [laughs]. I definitely think we're in a good space right now, I think our brand is moving in the direction that we want to. I'm gonna continue to keep pushing for it. Hopefully when I do push for it and it does happen, the support is there because there's a lot of cool things a lot of people haven't seen about this brand.