Converse had some of the most notable and iconic players serve as its brand and global ambassadors during the NBA glory days of the ’80s including Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, whose epic and fierce rivalry and comedic Converse Weapon TV commercials remain equally timeless and legendary as their performances on the basketball hardwood.
Following Converse’s basketball nirvana and prominence in the ’80s and REACT recess of the ’90s, the brand entered the new millennium in search of a new face, a player whose personality, smile and intelligence could represent the brand’s deep history and heritage while helping the brand stay relevant in a time where sportswear and basketball sneakers shifted towards a fashion-forward, lifestyle aesthetic.
In 2003, a young, rising star from the South Side of Chicago would emerge from the college ranks to become one of the game’s greatest shooting guards, helping transform not only an entire NBA franchise and city, but also helping to define and ultimately redefine a company’s identity and subsequent return to prominence as an established, recognized basketball global giant.
His name was Dwayne Wade.
A 3x NBA Champion, 13x NBA All-Star, 3x All-NBA First Team, 2006 NBA Finals MVP and undoubtedly the greatest Miami Heat player in franchise history, Dwayne Wade has not only proven himself but also silenced the dissenters throughout his illustrious future Hall of Fame career.
Now in his 16th and final season which recently saw him eclipse Jordan’s record for most blocks by a guard in NBA history – today’s Nice Kicks’ Throwback Thursday turns back the clock where we remember Wade’s first championship shoe, his inaugural Converse signature silhouette, the Wade 1.
Raised on the South Side of Chicago, Wade’s basketball acumen was improved and perfected both on the streets of the Windy City, at Richard’s High School in Oak Lawn and followed by his playing days at Marquette in the Big East Conference where he led his college team to an NCAA Final Four appearance three years after setting foot on campus.
Following his collegiate success, Wade was selected as the fifth overall selection in the 2003 NBA Draft, one of the most talented NBA Draft classes in history.
Wade made his presence immediately felt his rookie year in Miami, helping transform the franchise and injecting life into a fan base which had fallen on tough times amid a slow and painful rebuild after years of past playoff failure.
In his first few years, Wade slowly blossomed into a full-fledged NBA superstar, gradually increasing his scoring each season throughout the early part of his career. In the process, he was named to the All-NBA Rookie Team, All-NBA Second Team, NBA All-Defense Second Team as well, eventually being named an All-Star, illustrating his ability to compete as a complete, two-way player.
His sophomore campaign, the 2004-2005 season, was a defining year for the Miami Heat franchise and for the career of Dwayne Wade as well.
Shaquille O’Neal – Superman – would play alongside Flash to lead the Heat to a 59-23 record, clinching the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference as well. While Shaq received ample media attention, falling just short in NBA MVP voting to Phoenix Suns’ point guard, Steve Nash, it was Wade who truly blossomed into his own, averaging an impressive stat line of 26.3 points, 8.8 assists, and 6.0 rebounds while shooting 50% from the field.
By 2006, Wade, Shaq and the Heat were ready for the big stage.
Facing off against the Dallas Mavericks in the 2006 NBA Finals, the Heat had arrived but struggled early.
Despite a 28-point/6 rebound/6 assist game from Wade, the Heat lost Game 1 in Dallas to trail the series. Game 2 provided no relief, with Wade once again leading the Heat in scoring with 23 points. Game 3, the first NBA Finals home game in Heat franchise history, would become a classic. June 13, 2006 marked the birth of the Way of Wade as the legendary player we know today.
In the fourth quarter of Game 3, the Heat staged an improbable 13-point come-from-behind win led by a spectacular shooting array by Wade where he showed the entire repertoire – scoring off the jumper or going glass a la Tim Duncan, oftentimes drawing contact and making clutch free throws – putting his team in position to tie the game.
Wade was the game’s brightest star, putting up a double-double with 42 points/13 rebounds helping cut the series deficit 2-1. Game 4 once again saw Wade perform beautifully, exploding with 24 first-half points en route to a game-high 36 points, tying the NBA Finals at two games apiece.
In Game 5, Wade scored a big-time layup with 2.8 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime. Wade worked his magic yet again, making two clutch free-throws en route to a one-point win behind a memorable 43-point performance.
Then, in the clinching Game 6 in Dallas, Wade would put the finishing touches on his NBA Finals series debut, scoring 36 points and pulling down 10 rebounds for yet another double-double en route to the Heat’s first-ever NBA Championship, but also Wade’s well-deserved NBA Finals MVP performance, becoming the fifth youngest player in NBA history at the time to capture NBA Finals MVP honors.
Wade drew many comparisons to Michael Jordan throughout the series, having recorded the third highest scoring average by a player in his first NBA Finals with 34.7ppg, an NBA Finals performance which remains timeless and discussed today.
While Wade’s on-court performance and career is certainly noteworthy, so too are his first championship kicks – the Converse Wade 1 – centerpiece of the brand in the post-2000 era, a sneaker which today remains arguably as the most notable and memorable Wade iteration, forever synonymous with his historic 2006 NBA Finals MVP performance.
Similar to the Air Jordan 6 – one of the most iconic and timeless first championship sneakers of all time – the Wade 1 served a truly elegant and refined pair of basketball kicks at the time, whose lines, and basic, toned down aesthetic was both soothing and pleasing to the eye, reminiscent of tuxedo basketball, a concept introduced a decade prior with the Air Jordan 11.
The sneaker itself appealed to the consumer due to its clean lines and aesthetics, especially at profile. From a sneaker anatomy perspective, the shoes featured a leather upper with faux alligator texture on toe which provided flexibility, a Nubuck finish on heel, a Laser All Star® graphic on tongue and Wade logo on heel.
The herringbone pattern on rubber outsole delivered excellent traction. Additionally, the shoe offered excellent comfort, fit, stability, and flexibility; very good foot support, cushioning, traction, and responsiveness; with moderate grip and breathability, a shoe designed for guard play.
In April 2009, the Wade 1 made its retro return and featured several details which commemorated Wade’s accomplishments over the years including a “.08” on the inner heel of the shoe, a reference to the two game-winning shots made during the 2006 season.
Additionally, Wade’s #3 was featured on the eyelets, while his name was outfitted on both the heel and tongue. A Champs Sports exclusive, the reissued version retailed for $90.
In an interview with Sole Collector, Wade said the following on his first signature:
“This is what we have been looking for because this gives me a chance to separate myself from the other guys, but also to help build something from the ground back up. What I like about Converse is that it’s original and it’s one of the first shoes. They have a great history and I love to be part of history. So, for me to be a part of that, years from now, I just hope to be named with those great people from history.”
Through it all, Wade faced many life hardships both before and during his NBA playing career, having met each challenge head-on, with fortitude, poise, and faith. He has not only become the quintessential modern NBA guard but also serves as a role model for the younger generation of players and fans, also paying tribute to players from the NBA’s golden era who inspired him to play the game of basketball.
When reminded of what the Air Jordan 11 meant to him growing up in Chicago, Wade stated, “Hopefully, one day, with the start of my shoe, maybe people will want to collect the first D-Wade shoe.”
A Jordan disciple and student of the game, Dwayne Wade has made an everlasting footprint on an entire basketball generation of players and fans while revitalizing and helping rebuild the Converse brand from the ground up.
Lace up your pair of Converse Wade 1s, enter Dwayne’s World, and light up your competition the Wade Way.