The second tier endorsement wave that’s washed over the NBA shows no signs of waning. Proof positive is the release of the newest Dwyane Wade shoe, the Li-Ning Wade Essence 2.
Labeling a product as “second-tier” may sound like a pejorative to some, but it’s more so an American popularity designation, than a statement about the shoe’s quality.
For decades the goal for athletes and their agents was to grab one of those big endorsement deals from a major company (from the late ‘80s to mid ‘00s that included Nike/Jordan, adidas & Reebok, but Under Armour has moved Reebok from this category) and pump out a signature shoe every year. The idea that a major guy would sign with a non-descript brand was unthinkable, but nowadays with the global market fully open, it’s a smart play.
For Wade, who moved from Converse to Jordan to Li-Ning, it’s something he knows well. He first signed with the Chinese athletic brand in 2012 and has brought the company brand recognition and respect. Other players such as Portland Trailblazers guard C.J. McCollum have followed in his footsteps of out the box thinking.
Wade’s newest shoe takes a step towards the sock liner trend popping up in athletic shoes lately. Offering extra stability, but with enough leeway for sharp turns, the sock trend is likely going to stick around for a while. As is one of the other Wade Essence 2’s signature looks, the heavy outsole. It makes the shoe more flexible, which eases injuries, but it’s also a strong aesthetic look. For this shoe, that’s needed. Outside from Chinese lettering, the shoe is fairly plain, but that also falls in line with current trends. As basketball shoes has gotten away from their purely function performance look and into a more lifestyle appearance, sneakers have eliminated a lot of the unnecessary style additions. For a Li-Ning shoe, this is a solid release and coupled with a competitive price point of $169 will likely play well in the Asian markets.