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Is Dwyane Wade's Chinese shoe deal the wave of the future?

October 10, 2012
  • Dwyane Wade, left, and Li Ning appear at a news conference Wedesday to announce their new business partnership.
Dwyane Wade, left, and Li Ning appear at a news conference Wedesday to announce… (Bob Metelus / PRNewsFoto )

Dwyane Wade has signed a shoe deal with Chinese sportswear maker Li-Ning that will give the Miami Heat star his own brand within the company as well as creative and strategic input. He is the biggest NBA name to endorse the brand since Shaquille O'Neal.

Writers from around Tribune Co. discuss whether Wade's signing with the Chinese company is an anomaly or the wave of the future for big-name basketball players. Check back throughout the day for their responses and join the conversation with a comment of your own.

K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune

Remember the "Starbury One"? Didn't think so. Remember Steve & Barry's? No problem; the company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008. Dwyane Wade signing with a Chinese shoe company is an anomaly along the lines of the "Starbury One," the $14.98 shoe that Stephon Marbury endorsed from Steve & Barry's in 2006.

That's not to say Wade's Chinese shoe company will make cheap shoes. It is to say the major shoe companies are so entrenched in today's culture and lifestyle that detours like the one Wade took recently typically end up where players started -- in swooshes or stripes. All-Star center Ben Wallace followed Marbury's lead to Steve & Barry's and admitted later in his career that the move hurt him. He returned to one of the major shoe companies.

What Wade is trying sounds all well and good now, but look for the experiment to end. And look for few to follow.

Dwyane Wade’s decision to sign with Li-Ning is yet another sign that NBA stars will seek endorsements from Chinese companies -- as long as China’s economy weathers the global economic slowdown.

This is all about common sense. Why wouldn’t a star player sell his endorsement to the highest bidder, even if the company is based overseas? Wade isn’t the first NBA player to sign with a Chinese shoe company, anyway. Philadelphia 76ers swingman Jason Richardson in recent years has endorsed a brand called Peak.

China, with its population of over a billion people and its growing middle class, offers shoe and apparel companies a chance to grow their revenues. This is why Adidas sends Los Angeles Lakers star Dwight Howard to the Far East every summer: Company officials want to generate a demand for their product. Howard is happy to oblige. He, too, sees the future.

[Updated at 10:54 a.m.:

Broderick Turner, Los Angeles

Let's be honest -- Dwyane Wade or any other NBA player that signs a shoe deal with a company in China is doing this because of the money.

They are all looking for cash to put in their coffers, and it doesn’t matter if it comes from the United States, China or any other country.

Wade's Heat teammate Shane Battier has a deal with a Chinese sporting goods company. Lakers guard Steve Nash and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry have shoe deals with Chinese companies.

So, no, what Wade did is not an anomaly. The future of signing deals with Chinese companies already is here.

Players like Wade see themselves as global marketers, and China is the new frontier for NBA players.

It’s all about the money, baby, and China is shelling out the dough right now.

Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Market economics, plain and simple, whether in Communist China or free-market America.

With Jordan Brand placing its primary focus on Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, their teams' leading men, it only made sense for Wade to get out of the Nike shadow alongside LeBron James and Chris Bosh with the Heat.

And yet, the reality is that if Jordan Brand was willing to re-up with Wade at something similar to his previous rate, Wade likely would be continuing in the Nike division.

What Li-Ning was able to provide that Nike did not need to offer is an equity stake in the brand. Such a shoe-agreement model could yet impact how the likes of LeBron, Dwight or Rose handle business going forward.

For now, the reality is that Dwyane Wade found his best deal half a world away, so he took it, just as Shaq had worked with Li-Ning previously. Nothing new here, just the old story of how money talks.]


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