Miami Heat: Should Dwyane Wade consider playing in China?

JINAN, CHINA - JULY 14: Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem attend a commercial event on July 14, 2018 in Jinan, Shandong province of China. (Photo by VCG)
JINAN, CHINA - JULY 14: Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem attend a commercial event on July 14, 2018 in Jinan, Shandong province of China. (Photo by VCG) /

Is Dwyane Wade playing in China completely out of bounds?

The Chinese Basketball Association is a mainstay in the international basketball circle.

As the premier professional league in Asia, the CBA has played host to a number of US talents, for either those looking to revamp their floundering careers – Stephon Marbury – or those who wanted one final hurrah before soaking in retirement.

For the Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade, the CBA presents what could be the next turning point of his career. Sportando reporter Zhang Duo noted last week that the Xinjiang Flying Tigers are prepared to offer Wade a behemoth sized deal.

The offer is no surprise, considering Wade’s activity overseas.

Li-Ning, the apparel company Wade partnered with to produce his current shoe line, just extended his deal to one of lifetime proportions.

Though the exact figures are undisclosed, when Wade’s first pair of Li-Ning kicks debuted in 2013 they retailed for $120 USD. For comparison, Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan 1 High debuted the same year in the $300 range.

Expanding his Chinese footprint has long been on Wade’s radar. Per the University of Pennsylvania, according to a study by the Chinese government, the nation had 300 million basketball fans as of 2011.

"“This was something I needed to do from the standpoint of building something,” Wade told The Associated Press. “That’s what I set out to do. This word we all talk about, legacy, I tried to set out to build a legacy for myself and my family. And after six years of that, it’s cool to be here today.”"

Though Wade has yet to inform the public of how seriously he’s considering suiting up in China, his interest in legacy building is key.

Among basketball heads, Wade, who has competed for 15 seasons in the NBA, ranks third all-time among shooting guards. Falling after Jordan and Kobe Bryant, Wade’s 3 championships, 12 All-Star selections and 2008 Olympic gold medal pepper his resume with legendary successes.

Still, much of his success is accompanied by the presence of a fellow basketball titan. In 2006 it was Shaquille O’Neal. For the titles this decade it was LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

Thus, building a fanbase in China through his on-court play would elevate his career’s story to a level incomparable to his contemporaries. His successes overseas would be entirely his own, giving Wade the total spotlight he’s earned through his life’s work.

Additionally, accepting a Chinese deal, however short, could yield a similarly successful return for Heat basketball.

When Yao Ming was selected No. 1 overall in the 2002 NBA Draft his drafting team, the Houston Rockets, immediately felt the ripple of their newly acquired international status.

By 2005, Ming was the leading vote getter for the NBA All-Star Game. Owing some of his popularity to his international appeal, the popularity worked both ways, delivering the Rockets a new and profitable market for years to come.

Even long after Ming retired, the Rockets have enjoyed a steady fanbase.

"“This has always been a long-range goal of (team owner) Leslie (Alexander), to be not just the most popular team in China, but to be the most popular team in the world,” Rockets’ CEO Tad Brown told in 2016. “Make no mistake, the Rockets did not make Yao the No. 1 pick because of the market. He was the No. 1 pick because we believed he could be the best center in the world and he became that. But Yao did open doors that we are happy to continue to walk through.”"

With Wade playing in China, the Heat could enjoy similar growth. As of September 2017, Miami ranks as the 16th largest media market, according to a Nielsen report. The South Florida city falls behind 14 current NBA cities (15 if Seattle is included).

Miami fans haven’t galvanized around the Heat as passionately as they did in prior to James departure in 2014. Once making nightly appearances on National broadcasts, Miami has taken a slide, losing ground to teams that are heavily active in snagging free agents.

Next: Miami Heat: Who will rule the Eastern Conference in 2018-19?

Seeing Wade retire in a Heat jersey is surely a dream for most of Heat Nation, but the fruits of an international career could prove delightful in the long run.