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 2010 and his contact expired on Oct. 1.
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, and Jordan Brand hasn’t officially commented. However, the company will be releasing a reactive statement soon.
Wade is now Li-Ning’s biggest headliner. 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 their presence in the country, thanks to better technology and the strength of its main pitchmen Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Li-Ning has also 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.