There has been a major development in the world of athletic shoes, and to no one's surprise, it involves Nike (NKE). Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat has taken his shoes and gone from Converse to Brand Jordan. Wade stated that he "didn't want to be in the Converse brand anymore because it seemed like they didn't know what to do with me." In addition, Wade told the Associated Press that he wanted to global, and this move was necessary to achieve such notoriety.

Wade will now join a stable of athletes that includes NBA players Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony and MLB star Derek Jeter. As Wade noted, he has "enormous respect" for the Nike brand, and grew up on the south side of Chicago idolizing Michael Jordan (for whom the brand is named). It must have done Wade's heart well to hear Michael Jordan say that he is "thrilled" that Wade is in the Brand Jordan family.
Wade reportedly first looked into switching from Converse (which is under the Nike umbrella) before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, mainly because of concern over the brand's long-term prospects in basketball. While the initial switch request was rejected, the timing for the switch is perfect. Wade just won the NBA scoring title and led the Heat to 43 wins after notching only 15 victories a year before. Wade's star is shining bright right now, and making the switch to Brand Jordan makes sense for Nike. But where does it leave Converse? Wade was the biggest name in the Converse umbrella since Magic and Larry Bird sported the Converse Weapons (what beauties!). This move leaves Converse with Kirk Hinrich, Udonis Haslem, and Elton Brand -- and I would guess that these players might be looking for new sponsorships.

I suspect that we will soon learn that Converse is no longer in the basketball business, at least the modern basketball business, even though there is a Wade 5 in the works. Wade leaving Converse isn't a signal that the company is going to fail -- Nike wouldn't let that happen. Converse is an iconic brand thanks to its history with Chuck Taylor (which are on my feet as I write) and Jack Purcell. These brands pull in too much money and have too much potential for the Converse name to ever disappear. I can't imagine Nike (as self-absorbed and self-obsessed as the company is) placing its iconic swoosh on a pair of Chuck Taylors. If they do, I can guarantee that thousands of people will never buy a pair again; it's bad enough that they cost $40.

What does this mean for Nike? It is a major catch. Dwayne Wade is as marketable a basketball player as there is outside of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and the retired Michael Jordan. This is a case of the rich getting richer. Brand Jordan is an iconic brand thanks to its association with the best player in the game. Wade brings the biggest basketball name to the brand since Jordan retired.

The other major winner here is Dwayne Wade. He wants to become a global name and this move will help him achieve the goal. Wade is locked in with Gatorade and T-Mobile, but the signing with Nike is the gem that will make the Dwayne Wade brand a global force.

This deal is good for all parties concerned, even Converse. Remember sometimes when a door is closed (like Wade leaving Converse and leaving its current basketball brand DOA), another is opened (allowing the brand to concentrate on its retro shoes, which are rather hot right now).


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