Dwyane Wade to sign with Li-Ning?

Dwyane Wade looks like he’s set to join Evan Turner at Li-Ning

Is a Chinese shoe company about to sign a major, in-their-prime NBA superstar? Well, if you believe everything you read on Twitter, it certainly sounds like it.

From a dude who knows a thing or two about sneakers, SoleCollector’s Nick DePaula on Friday:

Hearing from several people that Dwyane Wade will likely leave Jordan Brand and sign with Li-Ning. Huge shift.

The news comes after the word that Wade’s current shoe company, Jordan Brand, has cancelled his Fly Wade 3′s and the two sides are reportedly seriously considering a split, with the eight-time All-Star contemplating a switch to Li-Ning.

This isn’t the first time Li-Ning has dipped its toes into the NBA waters. Former and current endorsers include Shaquille O’Neal, Jose Calderon, Baron Davis, Evan Turner and Hasheem Thabeet. It would be the first time, however, that Li-Ning, or any one of the other Chinese sneaker companies (Peak, Anta, 361 Degrees, Qiaodan) would be able to secure a player of Wade’s pedigree.

For a brand that’s been struggling as of late, the addition of Wade may be what it needs to move past what has been a rocky and unprofitable period.

After the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Li-Ning aggressively expanded into the American market, opening an office in Portland, Oregon. But, their ambitions failed to come to fruition as a partnership with Champs Sports ultimately fell through as did plans for retail stores across the United States. As a result, net profit dropped 65% in 2011 and the company was forced to close down its Portland office last February. The company has since relocated to Chicago, where they are in the process of building a strategy that will focus on e-commerce over retail.

Apparently, that strategy built around a top-10 NBA player as well. Wade, although not an elite sneaker seller, still commands respect in the American shoe market and would increase Li-Ning’s credibility among consumers in the American market. In China, he’s a clear second behind LeBron James in the Miami Heat pecking order, but Wade is still a huge name out here and an agreement with Li-Ning would certainly generate some buzz in the PRC. He’s put in work over in the Chinese market over the last few years, coming over to travel the country on summer promotional tours with Brand Jordan. His name has further been enhanced in China from starring on the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medal American squad.

For Wade, a move to Li-Ning could be more lucrative than sticking with Nike, who has James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant all overshadowing him as the brand’s centerpieces. Things would obviously be much different at Li-Ning, where he’d immediately become the front guy for a company based in the fastest growing market in the world. With the Heat threatening to build a dynasty, Wade — and his new kicks — would be in the forefront of a market that some people stands to make another shoe company, Nike, US $4 billion in revenue off of the team’s “not one, not two, not three, not four…” potential championships.

Since entering the NBA in 2003, Wade has been with Nike subsidiary, Converse, and Jordan Brand , the latter of which he has been with since 2009. His deal with Jordan is worth a reported US $10 million a year.

Wade’s potential signing marks another major event in what has been a busy and expensive summer for Li-Ning. In the Chinese basketball world, the company just recently paid CNY 2 billion to become the official outfitter of the Chinese Basketball Association. The deal starts this season and will last through the next five.

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