Once upon a time, Dwyane Wade was overlooked, both on the court, and in the world of endorsements. Due to the over-analysis of his game (and lack of prototypical SG height), Dwyane ended up falling to fifth in the 2003 draft, and to Converse in the sneaker department. Six years and one championship later, DWade, no longer overlooked by anyone, recently left Converse to join Brand Jordan. Now that he’s moved on in the sneaker game, let’s take a look back to where it all started…with the Wade, in KICKS 8. Which player(s) will be debuting new kicks early this season? Find out soon in KICKS 12.—Tzvi Twersky
by Ryan Jones
Looking back, it’s hard to remember how anybody wasn’t sure about Dwyane Wade. How wasn’t he a McDonald’s All-American? How wasn’t he the college player of the year? How were four other players drafted ahead of him? And how did it take him two years to get a shoe with his own damn name on it?
We can’t speak for anyone else, but give the folks at Converse credit for at least rectifying the shoe issue. Simply named the Wade, it’s not only Dwyane’s first signature joint, but it also has the potential to be the company’s most serious foray into performance hoops gear since the glory days of the Magic-and-Larry-endorsed Weapons. It’s a lot for one 23-year-old to carry, but like we said—and his first two NBA seasons have confirmed—there’s no reason to be anything less than certain about Dwyane. Looking at the Hall of Famers who’ve preceded him on the original All-Star brand, Wade says, “When you think about greatness and you think about the right way to do things, you always look to the guys who did it right. It’s a great honor for me to say I’m with Converse.”
Fresh off his gritty performance in the Eastern Conference Finals, Shaq’s right hand rolled through New York City on a hot summer afternoon to give us the real on finally getting his very own shoe, the very real pressure of repping the granddaddy of all sneaker companies, and whether he can replace that sand version of the Larry O’Brien trophy with the real deal.
KICKS: Playing in the Final Four, being a Lottery pick, starring in the playoffs as a rookie, and now getting your own shoe. Is this just another one of those dreams
coming true for you right now?
DWADE: Oh, definitely, this is one of those dreams, one of those goals from when you’re a shorty. You want to have your own shoe.
KICKS: When you first signed with Converse, was it just a shoe deal, or did you know you’d eventually get a signature model?
DWADE: Just a deal. It wasn’t guaranteed that I’d get my own shoe. They didn’t know what to expect from me, and I didn’t know what to expect from them. But things have worked out faster than people expected.
KICKS: What has your involvement been with the Wade? Have you had a lot of input?
DWADE: I’ve been very involved from the first time I saw them from the start of the season. The shoe really reflects me—like, see the white on the bottom, how it’s kind of smooth? I wanted that, ’cause it looks good when you wear it with jeans. Of course I loved Jordan growing up, and that was the thing on one of his shoes. It had the white so you could wear it with jeans or whatever, and it looked good.
KICKS: Which Js are you thinking of?
DWADE: Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know the numbers or anything like that. [laughs] I don’t even know the numbers.
KICKS: So you’re not really a collector type?
DWADE: Nah. I mean, I love the Jordans, but it’s not like that.
KICKS: You were just conscious of wanting the shoes to look good off the court, which is how most people rock them anyway.
DWADE: That’s the main thing—how can I sell shoes so that kids will want to wear them to school? And no question you want it to be reasonable, where kids can afford to get it.
KICKS: What did the Converse designers do to get a sense of your game and what you needed in a shoe?
DWADE: They just asked everybody who ever knew my foot, like, especially the trainers with the Heat. They were looking at how I play, all that. For my own pair,
my feet are really wide, and I got extra ankle support…
KICKS: You’ve got a very aggressive style on the court, so I’m assuming that was something they had to think about as well.
DWADE: Oh, yeah, they’re very durable. I go through shoes a lot faster than I want to. Last year I went through about a pair a game. I never thought I’d be able to do that—you know, I need to break ’em in. But once they’re made to fit your feet, you just jump right in. In the playoffs this year, I was wearing two pair a game, changing ’em up at halftime. I sweat a lot, so they were just soaking wet.
KICKS: This shoe is big, not just for you, but for Converse. Even with all their history, it’s like a new beginning, and you’re the guy they’re banking on. Is it a lot of pressure?
DWADE: I was very mindful of that, and that’s something I want, to be the face of a brand. I don’t look at it as pressure, I look at it as an opportunity. It’s getting a golden opportunity to do something most people don’t get to do.
KICKS: Along the same lines, we’ve heard little industry rumors bubbling up—you’re a hot commodity now, so other companies want to get in the mix, and Converse is gonna have to work really hard to keep you.
DWADE: [smiles] I’m not blind to it… all I can say is that we’re negotiating. When I signed with Converse, I was very optimistic, and since Nike bought Converse, it’s been good. Right now, I’m happy being the person that, when you think of Converse, you think of me.
KICKS: Getting down to the really important business for a minute—the Heat came really close this year. It was your first season with Shaq, and although you guys seemed to mesh right away, Diesel’s not getting any younger. What will it take for you guys to make that next step?
DWADE: I think our mentality with the team is, everybody gotta crawl before they walk. Last year was our crawlin’ year. Hopefully next year we can walk.
KICKS: As much success as you’ve had so quickly in the League, do you ever catch yourself, sort of remind yourself not to take it all for granted?
DWADE: All the time. I think the best example I can use is Dan Marino. He made it his first year and never got back. It’s an example our coach used, just not to take it for granted.