Wade becomes the biggest NBA name to endorse the Li-Ning brand since his former Miami teammate Shaquille O'Neal. Wade said he has gotten to know Li Ning, the brand's namesake, after first seeing the Chinese gymnastics hero — a winner of six medals, three gold, at the Los Angeles Olympics — when he lighted the cauldron at the 2008 Beijing Games. Wade helped the U.S. win basketball gold at those Olympics.
"I had to get to know him and have him get to know me," Wade said.
Li-Ning is still trying to gain recognition in the U.S. It has around 8,000 retail outlets in China.
"In the U.S., the China brand is not the cool factor," Wade said. "A lot of work has gone into this and a lot of work is going to continue to go into it. For me, it's a challenge. As an athlete, you look forward to that."
Wade is the second Heat player to endorse a Chinese shoe label. Heat forward Shane Battier has worn Peak sneakers since 2006.
"My biggest concern was the language barrier," Battier said. " But all in all, it's been a great experience. It's been fun."
Wade's deal with Jordan Brand expired Sept. 30. He will have say in virtually everything about his brand, from design to endorsers.
He's hopeful that he'll be able to wear something close to a final product by Oct. 30, when the Heat open the regular season against Boston.
"I'm not rushing," Wade said. "To me, I want to make sure it's a good product and when people see me, they need to know I'm comfortable with it. I want to make sure people understand that this is a big deal, not only for China, but for me."
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