Former Miami Heat player Dwyane Wade addresses the crowd at his retirement ceremony at the 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 venturing into 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 differently than everyone else.”
Wade is teaming up 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 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 shareholder of the NBA franchise.
“It’s an opportunity to be part of a young brand that is 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”.
Still, the NFT collection is unfolding during a bearish cycle for digital assets. According to The Wall Street Journal, daily NFT sales have fallen by more than 90% since September 2021. It also comes amid a sell-off around cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin.
But Wade doesn’t hesitate to try his luck in space.
“If you look at my basketball career, my business career is very similar,” he said.
Wade’s Critical Business Decision
Wade, who retired from basketball in 2019, made nearly $200 million in income during his 16-year NBA career, according to Spotrac, a website that tracks sports contacts. Forbes estimates that he earns $17 million a year from endorsements.
“It’s different,” Wade said when asked about his retirement. Wade said he learned 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, Wade signed with sneaker brand Converse in 2003. He then took a big step towards Nike’s Michael Jordan brand in 2009, pairing him with other 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 a stock stake. Wade, who called the offer “the most important deal from a business perspective,” seized the opportunity and left the Jordan brand for Li-Ning.
“Thanks for laying down the plan,” Wade said to Jordan. “I’ll try to make my own version of it.”
Jordan, in turn, told Wade that he “understands and respects the decision,” Wade said.
Finally, in 2018, Wade signed Li-Ning to a lifetime contract for an undisclosed fee. Young NBA stars like New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum and Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler joined him. Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell has also signed to the sneaker line.
“It’s a slow build up,” Wade said. “Athletes take risks by doing something else.”
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 years. I want to build something that is a legacy for my family.”
Isaac Baldizon | NBAE | Getty Images
Building on momentum
Wade continued to venture into new areas after retirement.
Wade started a wine company called “Wade Cellars”. He has an interest 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 necessity”.
Wade said: “We have a 3-year-old daughter and go to 80 different stores to buy products. We said, ‘That doesn’t work for us. How can we build what works for us – the minorities and communities of our world?’ ”
In April, Proudly released its line of products, which include baby wash and lotion. The company will eventually offer diapers.
In sports ownership, Wade also took a small stake in the NBA’s Utah Jazz in April 2021, joining Blackstone director David Blitzer as a co-owner of MLS club Real Salt Lake. Wade did not disclose the value of his bet, but said it was a small percentage.
Wade said it was “the ultimate goal” for him to become the majority team owner. But in this scenario, there may be limits to his risk appetite.
“But maybe I’ll go through this process and say, ‘No, you don’t want that headache,'” he said.