Three-time NBA champion Dwyane Wade has taken a stake in the Utah Jazz, joining owner and team captain Ryan Smith to take an active role in the franchise and the region.
Wade, an eight-time All-NBA player with the Miami Heat, is the latest of several Hall of Famers to own NBA stock, including Grant Hill (Atlanta Hawks), Shaquille O’Neal (Sacramento Kings) and Michael Jordan, majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets. Magic Johnson owned 4% of the Los Angeles Lakers.
This goes way beyond the dream of just playing basketball in the NBA, Wade told ESPN. I saw Shaq do it in Sacramento. I saw Grant Hill do it in Atlanta. I saw Jordan do it in Charlotte. If this partnership is anything like my relationship with Ryan, there’s a lot I want to be involved in. . .
Unfortunately, people in my community don’t have that opportunity, and I don’t take it lightly. To really make a difference, you have to be at the top, and Ryan knows that. I’m grateful to him, and I know that I have a lot to contribute to this partnership as well, in addition to my basketball knowledge and skills.
Wade, 39, met Smith at a golf course in San Clemente, California, shortly after he left the game in 2019, and they quickly became friends. Wade wanted to understand Smith’s technology empire, including his company Qualtrics, and considers him a mentor. Smith, 42, floated the idea of Wade joining the ownership group after completing the $1.66 billion purchase of Jazz in October.
The NBA has a law that says ownership must be at least 1% of the team, but Wade’s financial stake in the franchise is immediately unclear.
Dwyane Wade joins Grant Hill (Hawks), Shaquille O’Neal (Kings) and Hornets majority owner Michael Jordan among the Hall of Famers with NBA interests. Kim Clement Sports – USA.
Wade joins a small ownership group that includes Smith and his wife Ashley, Accel investor and partner Ryan Sweeney, Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brooks and the Miller family, which previously owned the team.
Dwyane had the opportunity to be in as many different groups as he wanted, Smith told ESPN. Since we closed the team, we mostly discussed how to do it. The way I run my technology business, you want the smartest people.
Here’s the big picture. It’s so much more than basketball. This league is the biggest platform and we ran in it. This is not the league we came into, we say: Hey, it went where we’re not comfortable. That’s actually what we signed up for. We are the newest group of owners. We are the youngest. Dwyane is perfect.
We didn’t want more partners, that’s not what we were trying to do. I want to work with Dwyane on and off the field, in business and with our partners – for who he is as a person and what he has accomplished. These are the people you want to be with.
Wade has not said whether he has had any significant conversations with Heat’s owner about his financial stake in the franchise, where he has spent more than 14 seasons of his career. He described his strong personal relationship with Smith and the overall vision for this business partnership as the driving force behind getting the jazz part.
The respect I have for this organization [Heat] isn’t going anywhere, the love I have for the fans [Heat] – it isn’t going anywhere, Wade told ESPN. But this is the next phase of my life as an investor, businessman and entrepreneur. For me, it’s an opportunity to grow.
Heat owner Mickey Arison said he was disappointed that Wade did not renegotiate his share of the Miami franchise after earlier negotiations, adding that he wished him luck and more success with the Jazz.
Wade spoke of the synergy between Smith’s forward-thinking vision and the desire to turn the Jazz’s success on the field – including a 41-14 championship record – into cultural leadership in the community and the state. In addition to Smith’s lifelong love of the Jazz and basketball, his involvement in public affairs made it easier to sell the organization to Wade. He has awarded a four-year scholarship to an underprivileged student for every Jazz win this season and, along with Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, invested $4 million to build eight Encircle homes, which provide a safe home for LGBTQ youth and their families. Smith has joined the Black Lives Matter movement and openly supports his players on these issues.
We don’t walk away from racial, social and LGBTQ conversations, Wade told ESPN. I’m determined to get the job done. I’m talking about the LGBT community, which everyone knows I care about. My daughter is part of this community.
I don’t just see it as a relationship with Utah. I see it as a relationship that has many facets – business, basketball, I can bring Ryan into my world as he brings me into his.
Wade had a close relationship with Jazz All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell, who has been regularly compared to Wade since his arrival in the NBA.
I call it 2.0, Wade told ESPN. If there’s one player who looks like me, it’s Donovan Mitchell.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Mitchell Wade observed in South Florida.
He wanted to get in the car with me, go to the gym and shoot, and he really wanted to probe me, Wade said. He’s on the short list of people who call me and talk for hours. We have a great fraternal relationship.
That relationship gets a chance to grow, as does Wade’s basketball role with the Jazz. Wade says they have the right people and sees an opportunity for them to pick their spots to contribute to the team.
Whether it was meetings with free agents or one-on-one interviews, Wade said he was fully invested in the future of the franchise. Wade, his wife Gabrielle Union and his family live in Los Angeles, near Utah. They spent Valentine’s Day skiing in Park City. I’ve fallen on my ass many times, Wade said. Ryan shows us every inch of Utah.
Smith said: Every city in every state looks to their community leaders for help. Whether it’s Minnesota, New York or Los Angeles, what we do can be used to promote the culture of an entire region. This is the work Dwyane and our group are talking about. We are in a world where basketball unites this state, while everything else in the world tries to divide us. If we can use this platform to do and lead well and write change for the future, then we can look back and say: Wow, that’s a legacy.
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