Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: October 2, 6:27 PM ET
Source: Dwyane Wade joining Li-Ning
By Jared Zwerling
Special to ESPNNewYork.com
Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade has officially departed Jordan Brand for Beijing-based footwear and apparel company Li-Ning, according to a source familiar with the situation.
Wade had been with Jordan Brand since 2009 and his contact expired on Oct. 1.
"The Jordan Brand and Dwyane Wade have mutually agreed to end our relationship. We wish Dwyane well as he continues his career," Jordan Brand said in a statement.
Wade confirmed Tuesday that he left Jordan but did not say what brand he would represent.
"I did mutually part ways with the Jordan and Converse umbrella," he said. "We had a great nine years, but we did mutually part ways."
On not being involved with his idol, Michael Jordan, Wade added: "We went our separate ways. I still feel honored to have represented my favorite player of all-time and his brand, and the opportunity I was given. But I'm not disappointed at all."
Rumors started heating up that Wade would be leaving Jordan Brand last month when he wasn't scheduled to debut a new sneaker for the 2012-13 season, which his fellow endorsers Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul were set to do. There was still uncertainty through the weekend after Wade wore his Jordan Fly Wade 2 kicks to Heat media day on Sept. 28.
In addition to the source's information, Philadelphia 76er Evan Turner, who reps Li-Ning, tweeted this on Monday: "I'd like to welcome the homie D Wade to the Li-Ning family!!!" The tweet has since been removed.
It remains unclear the terms of Wade's Li-Ning contract.
Wade is now Li-Ning's biggest headliner. In addition to Turner, its current endorsers include Toronto Raptors point guard Jose Calderon and Shaquille O'Neal, whose shoes are only sold in China. The company has previously sponsored former NBA player Damon Jones, Oklahoma City Thunder center Hasheem Thabeet and Baron Davis, who had another year on his deal, but he reached a buyout agreement.
Li-Ning, which has U.S. offices in Chicago and Portland, Ore., has long established itself as a solid No. 2 in China's sports footwear and apparel market after Nike, but Peak Sport Products and especially Anta Sports Products have been closing the gap. According to WantChinaTimes.com, between January and June of this year, Li-Ning's net profits dropped 84.9 percent to $6.95 million, while Anta climbed to $121.6 million.
A large part of Li-Ning's struggles comes as Nike continues to increase its presence in the country, thanks to better technology and the strength of its main pitchmen Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Li-Ning also has struggled mightily in the U.S. to make an impact after launching the first Baron Davis sneaker, the BD Doom.
They obviously hope to change that with Wade.
Jared Zwerling is a contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.