At a time when megastars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant battled for the title of the most popular basketball player in the world, Dwyane Wade might’ve been a comfortable third. Alongside James, Wade forged his path to greatness by winning a ring alongside Shaquille O’Neal. In the process, he proved to be another superstar from that loaded draft.
Now a year removed from retirement, Wade is still living well thanks to one unusual move he made during the later years of his career.
Dwyane Wade’s rise in the NBA
Entering the NBA alongside the likes of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, Wade initially took a backseat when it came to coverage. A three-year star out of Marquette, details Basketball-Reference, Wade put the NBA on notice thanks to his relentless ability to attack the basket and take over games with a stunning killer instinct. He was picked by the Miami Heat, and a star was officially born.
Wade took a backseat to James and Anthony despite a stellar rookie campaign where he averaged 15 points, four rebounds, and almost five assists to go with a steal per game. The following year, however, the Heat acquired O’Neal, and his career was never the same. Although O’Neal was aging at this point, his presence opened up a lane for Wade’s relentless driving ability.
In just his third year in the NBA, Wade averaged 28 points per game, almost seven assists, and just under six rebounds per game. To top that all off, his Heat overcame an 0-2 deficit in the NBA Finals and defeated the Dallas Mavericks with Wade taking home the Finals MVP. He was now a superstar in just three years.
Meet the Heatles
Wade and O’Neal never came close to that level of success again, and before long they were in a rebuild. With O’Neal gone and the Heat now barely contending for playoff sports some years, Wade needed help. Enter James and Chris Bosh.
When James and Bosh joined up with Wade in Miami, the entire NBA landscape changed. Never had a team drawn that caliber of stars through free agency at the same time. The Heat responded. In four years together, They won two NBA Championships and made it to the Finals every year during the Heatles era. In 2014, however, James went back to Cleveland. Around that same time, Bosh came down with a heart condition that ended his career, as well. The Heatles era was over.
Although Wade kept the team afloat as good as he could. Everything changed in 2016 when Wade got fed up with the notion that the Heat refused to pay him after years of taking pay cuts. He moved on to Chicago for a year, where his Bulls put up a valiant fight against the Celtics thanks in large part to his domination. The next year, after a brief reunion with James in Cleveland, Wade returned to Miami.
His 2018-19 season was a farewell tour of sorts, and Wade retired after 17 years with three rings, countless accolades, and a reputation as one of fiercest competitors in history.
Dwyane Wade’s still making money
Wade’s meteoric rise to NBA superstardom made him a shoo-in for endorsement deals across the NBA. He initially went to Converse, reports Sneaker News, which got him at a discount while James and Anthony got lucrative deals before they stepped foot on the court. He wore Converses for most of his first six years in the NBA before jumping ship and signing with the Jordan brand. This lasted three years before Wade did the unthinkable.
Despite signing major deals with Nike and Converse, Wade’s most lucrative deal is the one he signed with Li-Ning, a Chinese brand that has started purging NBA stars from the American staples. This deal, which reportedly lasted ten years at signing, showed the global impact of Wade’s game. Right before his final year, he extended that deal to a lifetime contract.
The deal paid off. While Wade could theoretically be making good money in the NBA, he is set thanks to this final shoe deal. Despite being retired, reports Forbes, Wade made $12 million in 2019 from Li-Ning. Easily the biggest star on their brand, he continues selling sneakers after hanging his own up for good.
Few stars will ever reach the height that Wade reached. This shoe deal in China helps show the level of stardom he reached. As his career moves further and further into the past, it will be fascinating to see where Wade’s bankability goes from here.