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The greatest player in Miami Heat history has purchased an ownership stake in the Utah Jazz, the Jazz announced on Friday.
Retired Heat guard and three-time NBA champion Dwyane Wade will join Jazz majority owner Ryan Smith “with plans to take an active role in the franchise and region,” ESPN first reported.
Wade, who had his No. 3 Heat jersey retired by the organization last season, has spoken in the past about his interest in taking on an ownership role in the NBA. Wade said in 2019 just a month before playing in his final NBA game that the Heat would get first crack at him as a potential owner.
Heat owner/managing general partner Micky Arison offered his reaction shortly after the news of Wade’s investment in the Jazz surfaced Friday, posting on Twitter: “I want to congratulate Dwyane on his recent announcement. We had discussed having him join our ownership group after his retirement but he was not prepared to commit at the time. Of course I am disappointed that he didn’t reconsider. Having said that I wish him good luck and much success with the Jazz. To me Dwyane will always be a Heat lifer.”
According to a source familiar with the situation, Wade had not recently engaged the Heat in such an ownership position.
Wade said in January 2020: “When it comes to talking to the Arisons about ownership, we’ve definitely sat down and talked about what I wanted to do when the game was over with. That is a conversation that will continue to be ongoing. Right now, as you guys know, my family and I moved to Los Angeles and I’m really involved in so many other areas of my life and I want to get that going. Basketball will be there. My ties to Miami will never go anywhere. When the opportunity makes sense and it’s right, then we will definitely sit down and have an even more in-depth conversation.”
Smith, the Jazz’s majority owner, and Wade have known each other for several years. Shortly after Smith purchased the Jazz in October, he and Wade began conversations about Wade joining the ownership group.
“The respect I that I have for that [Heat] organization will not go anywhere, the love that I have for the [Heat] fans — that goes nowhere,” Wade told ESPN. “But this is about the next phase of my life as an investor, a businessman, an entrepreneur. For me, this is an opportunity to grow.”
The Jazz’s small ownership includes Smith and his wife Ashley, investor and Accel partner Ryan Sweeney, Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes and the Miller family, which previously owned the team.
Wade attended Friday afternoon’s game between the Jazz and Indiana Pacers at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City and was introduced by the in-arena announcer as “a new member of our ownership group.”
“I’m really excited for Dwyane,” coach Erik Spoelstra said before Friday night’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. “I think him being involved in this game in some fashion, and of course he’s doing it in spectacular fashion. I think it’s an incredible opportunity. I think the partnership that he’ll be able to create there in Utah with Ryan, I think will be ground-breaking and who knows where this is going to go. Dwyane has such an innovative and creative entrepreneurial mind that I think it’s a perfect fit. He brings an incredible amount of class and credibility to his name. I think it’s a major plus. Obviously, I also have mixed emotions because I always will see Dwyane in the black and red. But I’m just thrilled for Dwyane and his family, and I think it’s an incredible opportunity. I think for other players to see this, also, is I think a really powerful thing.”
Wade, 39, joins a list of former star players with NBA ownership stakes. That list includes Shaquille O’Neal with the Sacramento Kings, Grant Hill with the Atlanta Hawks and Michael Jordan who is the majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets.
“This goes way beyond the dream I had to just play basketball in the NBA,” Wade said to ESPN. “I’ve seen Shaq do it in Sacramento. I’ve seen Grant Hill do it in Atlanta. I’ve seen Jordan do it in Charlotte. If this partnership is going to be anything like my relationship is with Ryan, there are going to be a lot of things that I’ll want to be involved in.”
“... Unfortunately, people in my community don’t get this opportunity, and I do not take it lightly to have this opportunity. To make real change, this is where you have to be — at the top — and Ryan knows that. I’m thankful for him, and I know too that I bring a lot to this partnership outside of just my basketball knowledge and skills.”
It is not immediately known how much of an ownership stake Wade has in the Jazz. NBA bylaws say any ownership stake must be for at least 1 percent.
Wade, who was drafted by Miami in 2003, is the Heat’s all-time leader in categories like points, games played, minutes played, assists and steals and is considered one of the top shooting guards in NBA history. Among his most impressive accomplishments: Three championships with the Heat (2006, 2012, 2013), a Finals MVP award in 2006 and an NBA scoring title in the 2008-09 season.
Wade spent most of his 16-year NBA playing career with the Heat, only leaving briefly to play one season with the Chicago Bulls and part of a season with the Cleveland Cavaliers before returning to close his career in Miami. His final season was in 2018-19.
Wade left Miami and relocated to Southern California after he retired in part because he wanted to be closer to the acting career of his wife Gabrielle Union. He has also served as an NBA analyst for TNT’s Tuesday studio coverage in retirement.
Under NBA rules, like with O’Neal and Hill and their similar roles with TNT, Wade can’t be involved in Jazz basketball operations while he also serves as an NBA broadcaster. The NBA’s anti-tampering rules also now apply to Wade.
“Partnering with Ryan and the Utah Jazz is the perfect fit as we share the same vision and values,” Wade said in a press release. “Not only is this group focused on building a championship franchise, they are also committed to using their platform to do good and actively create a more inclusive, equitable world. We share a lot of the same goals and are trying to go the same places in life. As a businessman, entrepreneur, and investor, I bring a lot to this partnership outside of my basketball experience. I’m excited to help take the Utah Jazz to the next level. I am always looking for new opportunities to grow and challenge myself. I’ve always done things my own way and this is the next step in my journey. As a kid from the south side of Chicago, this partnership goes beyond my wildest dreams of playing basketball, and I hope to inspire the next generation of dreamers.”