Former Miami Heat player Dwyane Wade addresses the crowd during his jersey retirement ceremony at American Airlines Arena on February 22, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
Michael Reaves | Getty Images
Dwyane Wade likes to take risks when it comes to business.
The retired three-time NBA champion has invested in media companies and consumer products. Wade, 40, has bought a stake in two sports teams and hosts a TV show. Wade is also taking a chance with the volatile NFT market.
“I’ve always taken risks,” Wade told CNBC in an interview. “I’ve always been a guy who did things a little different from everyone else.”
Wade is working with Budweiser Zero on an NFT collection that goes on sale May 24. Wade co-founded the alcohol-free, sugar-free drink in 2020. The NFTs will sell for $180 each and give shoppers the chance to win prizes, including autographs. Wade sneakers and a chance to watch a Utah Jazz game with him. Wade is a minority owner of the NBA franchise.
“It’s an opportunity to be part of a young brand trying to build a fan base and deliver great experiences,” he said, calling the NFT Collection another option for fans. “to do something unique and cool”.
Yet, the NFT collection is unfolding during a bearish cycle for digital assets. Daily NFT sales are down more than 90% since September 2021, according to the Wall Street Journal. It also comes amid a sell-off around cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin.
But Wade does not hesitate to try his luck on space.
“If you look at my basketball career, my business career has become very similar,” he said.
Wade’s Crucial Business Decision
Wade, who retired from basketball in 2019, racked up nearly $200 million in earnings during his 16-year NBA career, according to Spotrac, a website that tracks sports contacts. Forbes estimates he earns $17 million a year in endorsements.
“It’s different,” Wade said when asked about retirement. Wade said he found how to apply “the same things that made me a special athlete” to his post-career during the pandemic.
He set the tone for his post-retirement years with a pivotal business decision at the height of his career.
As a rookie in 2003, Wade signed with sneaker brand Converse. Then he took a big step into Nike’s Michael Jordan brand in 2009, pairing it with fellow NBA stars Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul, among others.
Then, in 2012, Chinese sportswear company Li-Ning approached Wade about launching their own shoe line. They offered him an equity stake. Wade, who called the offer “the most significant deal from a business perspective,” seized the opportunity and left the Jordan brand for Li-Ning.
“Thanks for laying the plan down,” Wade told Jordan. “I’ll try to make my own version of it.”
Jordan, in turn, told Wade he “understands and respects” the decision, according to Wade.
Eventually, in 2018, Wade signed Li-Ning to a lifetime contract for an undisclosed amount. Young NBA stars such as New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum and Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler joined him on the mark. Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell has also signed with the sneaker line.
“It’s a slow build,” Wade said. “Athletes take risks by doing something a little different.”
He added, “I’m not trying to recreate anything,” Wade explained. “I’m trying to have a sneaker and apparel company that players have been wearing for many years. I want to build something that’s a legacy for my family.”
Issac Baldizon | NBAE | Getty Images
Building on momentum
Wade continued to venture into new areas of endeavor after his retirement.
Wade started a wine business called “Wade Cellars”. He owns a stake in media company Players TV. He and his wife, actress Gabrielle Union, co-founded Proudly, a company that makes baby products. He said the start-up “was born out of need”.
Wade said, “We have a 3-year-old daughter and go to 80 different stores to buy stuff. We said, ‘That’s not working for us. How can we build what works for us – our world’s minorities and communities?'”
In April, Proudly launched its line of products, including a baby wash and lotion. The company will eventually offer diapers.
On the sports ownership front, Wade also took a small stake in the NBA’s Utah Jazz in April 2021 and joined Blackstone executive David Blitzer as co-owner of MLS club Real Salt Lake. Wade did not reveal the value of his stakes, but said it was a small percentage.
Wade said becoming the majority team owner was “the ultimate goal” for him. But there may be limits to his risk appetite in this scenario.
“But maybe I’ll go through this process and be like, ‘No, you don’t want those headaches,'” he said.