Chinese sponsors are, of course, not a new thing (remember when Steve Nash signed up with Lu You? Or when KG signed up with ANTA?), but this is a major breakthrough, a potential beginning. It could mean the large sporting goods company making its way over to the European and North American markets.
Snagging Wade was a huge coup. Sure, having Baron Davis on your side is one thing, but netting a superstar like D-Wade is absolutely another.
Wade is an A-lister, and while Li-Ning had worked with Shaq during Shaq’s twilight years, Wade represents a whole new level.
What was unveiled wasn’t the real shoes, however, but only a taste of things to come. Wade said, ”What you see in China will not be the final product.”
Still, we do get a chance to see a preview, however, getting a gander at two new looks that not everyone is happy about.
Bleacher Report’s Ian Hanford called them juvenile, saying, “They lack flair and clean design, and they don’t look all that comfortable either.”
Shoes, of course, regularly belie their look; your cloggy clunkers can be your most comfortable footwear, while your $200 neon Sauconys can pinch. It happens. We’ll have to wait until reviewers get to try them on before really passing judgment.
The actual shoes are, of course, less important than what this deal means for Wade the superstar, who is pretty excited about this new deal. “I first visited China in 2008, when I competed in the Beijing Olympics, and was deeply moved by the country’s genuine passion for basketball,” he said. “I have been blessed with an opportunity to make an impact on the game in the United States, and I look forward to now being active with the sport on a more global level. I am honoured to join forces with LI-NING and grow the game, beginning in China, which is home to more basketball players – 200 million – than any other country in the world.”
What the deal means for Wade, of course, is that he will be coming out of the shadow of Jordan Brand, with whom he broke association with a few weeks ago. As “brand officer” to Li-Ning, Wade will become his own brand, rather than another cog in the great Jordan machine. That this deal will also allow Li-Ning to upset the Nike-Adidas-Reebok triumvirate on this side of the GMT only sweetens the deal.
Wade will be showcasing custom-made Li-Ning sneakers at two pre-season games in Shanghai and Beijing, where the Heat will play. Exciting stuff.
[Images from B. Metelus]