When Dwyane Wade ended his association with Jordan Brand only a few weeks ago, the assumption and reports of everyone indicated that he would sign a new deal with emerging Chinese brand Li-Ning. It was a big change for Wade, but also an opportunity for him to help establish a new market force rather than help a preexisting power player. The only question was if his new products would entice basketball fans to buy them.
On Tuesday, Wade revealed his Li-Ning deal and "Way of Wade" shoes at an event in Beijing (the Heat are in town for a few preseason games). While it may seem that Li-Ning got these shoes together awfully quickly following the end of Wade's deal with Jordan Brand, Jonathan Sawyer of Complex reports that Li-Ning had done prep work for a superstar's sneaker and brought those preexisting designs to Wade. They also claim that Wade is and will continue to be heavily involved in the design process, so we should see some changes and new colorways for the "Way of Wade" shoes soon.
After the jump, check out several more photos of Wade and the sneakers, as well as this report from Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:Dwyane Wade wears his new Li-Ning sneakers at Heat practice on Wednesday (Nathaniel S. Butler/ Getty).
''It was a great nine years, but for me, it was just time to move on,'' Wade told the AP. ''I have certain goals that I want to reach and I felt that I had to leave to reach those. So I'm doing things a little differently. That's how I am, in a sense. I'm not necessarily a status-quo type guy.''
Wade's debut in Li-Ning sneakers is expected Thursday, when the Heat play a preseason game in Beijing against the Los Angeles Clippers. He's also hoping to play when the Heat and Clippers meet again in Shanghai on Sunday, and Li-Ning plans to auction off the sneakers from those first two games.
However, what he's wearing this week is not a true unveiling of his brand - to be called Wade.
''What you see in China will not be the final product,'' Wade said.
Wade's line of apparel and footwear is to be available at Li-Ning retail stores and online in China ''soon,'' with a U.S. retail debut expected in 2013. His shoes are expected to sell for about $120.
Wade's Li-Ning look is quite different from the more familiar designs he wore for Jordan Brand, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The key will be for the designs to reflect his sensibilities, and for the nation's consumers to care.
That last bit is where things get tricky. Li-Ning has worked with a superstar before — Shaquille O'Neal represented the brand from 2006 to 2010. However, as most basketball fans know, Shaq was nowhere near his peak during that period, which helped ensure that Li-Ning didn't get quite the sort of brand awareness they likely hoped for when they signed him. While Wade is not especially old at 30 years old, there have been signs that he's entering a new period in his career, one where he might not be quite the league-altering player he once was. He's an All-Star, certainly, but also clearly a level below his teammate LeBron James. It's an open question as to whether he can still command the attention (and dollars) of the sneaker-buying public.
However, those questions haven't been answered yet, and Li-Ning has many reasons to be positive. In a few years, we could identify Wade's launch as the moment when a new power emerged in the world of basketball shoes and apparel.
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