MIAMI -- Dwyane Wade pleaded for years to join the Jordan Brand family, wanting to wear the shoe his idol made famous.
His persistence is being rewarded.
When Jordan Brand makes its long-awaited release of the Air Jordan 2010 in February to commemorate the popular line's 25th anniversary, Wade will debut the shoe. Hand-picked for the role by Michael Jordan himself, the Miami Heat guard called it "a huge honor."
"I was in awe, because I know what it means to not only be a part of Jordan Brand but really represent Michael on the court in the shoe he would wear," Wade told The Associated Press. "Very excited, to say the least."
The shoe will be launched nationwide Feb. 13 and will carry a retail price of $170. That coincides with All-Star weekend near Dallas and is four days before Jordan's 47th birthday. It's unknown if Wade will wear the shoe beforehand, say in Miami's marquee Christmas Day game at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks.
"Sometimes you have to pass the torch. ... He epitomizes what the brand represents," Jordan said Wednesday night, when the arrangement was formally announced. "Being a player from our home community of Chicago, he has won championships already, his work ethic ... those is are all things that I feel like represent the brand. I think we can build a great relationship."
Wade's game has often been compared to Jordan's, even though the Heat guard is two inches shorter than the six-time champion -- something Jordan pointed out Wednesday, when he stood back-to-back with Wade.
"He thinks he can beat me; I know I can beat him," Jordan said, smiling. "The only way to find out is to put these shoes on and go out and play. He's wearing my shoe. I'm not wearing Dwyane Wade's shoe."
Jordan said that consumers have pushed him "to take the next Air Jordan beyond their wildest imagination."
This was beyond Wade's imagination, anyway.
He spent six years wearing Converse apparel, then made the switch to Jordan Brand in July. (Both are owned by Nike.) Details of his contract with Jordan Brand were not disclosed, although it was certain to at least match the remaining three years at $6 million annually left on his Converse deal.
Jordan Brand spokeswoman Terri Hines said Wade is the first pitchman for the Air Jordan other than Jordan himself.
It's the latest notch in Wade's business world: He also has strong deals with T-Mobile and Gatorade.
"One thing I understood coming over to the brand, it's a team," Wade said. "I'm fortunate enough to be able to be in a spot with guys like Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Derek Jeter, all those guys. We all have a role to play. And I'm going to play the role that they signed me up for and hopefully I do the best I can."
The shoes displayed Wednesday night were black and white with red trim and circular windows on both sides, with Jordan calling them "trendy," "stylish" and "high-performance."
This arrangement had been kept under wraps for months. Wade told only few people, including teammate Quentin Richardson, who like Wade is a Chicago native who grew up idolizing Jordan's play with the Bulls.
Richardson has worn the Jumpman line throughout his NBA career.
"I think it meant the world to him, truthfully," Richardson said. "Us being from Chicago, I don't think people understand. ... We adored M.J. We watched every move he made. I think for us guys, it made a big difference. And even before he came over to Jordan, Dwyane would wear it. He'd come over to my house and get stuff all the time."
Aligning himself even closer to Jordan is as big a perk as being able to wear the Air Jordans, Wade said.
"Before this, our relationship was kind of on the basis of seeing him and still being in awe of the person I grew up watching," Wade said. "Now I can e-mail, call him, all these lines of communication. So I think it's kind of cool. He responds back to me a lot quicker now than he used to."