Three-time NBA champion and 13-time All-Star Dwyane Wade joins the WNBA’s Chicago Sky ownership group, becoming the latest high-profile figure to invest in the league at a pivotal moment in its 27-year history. .
“We all talk about support, and support looks different for everyone,” Wade, who will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame next month, told ESPN. “So instead of tweeting and saying ‘go support the W’, instead of showing up in-game and supporting, I wanted to take it to the next level, and this was the next level for me.
“It’s a great opportunity to be a part of the league in its early stages… Growth is going to happen, and so I want to be a part of the growth of this league.”
Wade’s investment is subject to approval by the WNBA Board of Governors. The exact ownership percentage of her has not been disclosed.
“He’s had an impact now on business and philanthropy in really meaningful ways that are lasting and authentic and true, and that’s who we at the Chicago Sky are,” Sky co-owner and COO Nadia Rawlinson told ESPN. “So the fact that he can now help us be a part of his story with that is extraordinary.”
Wade’s interest in the WNBA made waves last month after he was spotted visiting a Sky practice in Deerfield, Illinois. His interactions with the team garnered rave reviews from players, Rawlinson said, before his official involvement was announced Friday.
The NBA legend is the newest investor in the franchise after Sky sold a roughly 10% stake in the team (at an $85 million valuation) last month to a group that includes Cubs co-owner Chicago, Laura Ricketts.
Michael Alter, who first brought the team to Chicago prior to the 2006 season, remains the team’s primary owner.
This isn’t the first pro sports ownership effort for Wade, who retired from the NBA in 2019 and has since joined the ownership groups of the NBA’s Utah Jazz and MLS’s Real Salt Lake. And when it comes to Sky, Wade said, the partnership just “makes sense.”
Wade, a Chicago native who attended high school in suburban Oak Lawn, credits his mother, JoLinda, with first introducing him to the team and taking him to a game. “[She] I was a Chicago Sky fan before I became a Chicago Sky fan,” Wade told ESPN.
Wade also had a pre-existing relationship with former head coach/general manager James Wade, and he said the team has frequently supported his camps in Chicago.
“This is important for the players and for the city in general,” Rawlinson said. “Dwyane Wade is a son of Chicago. And I think what sets us apart from other franchises is that we are Chicago. We are the future of Chicago. We are the culture of Chicago. We are in it and of it, and he is kind of a character main character in that story. And we’re happy and excited for what the future can bring with the two of us working together.”
Wade’s commitment to Sky comes at a fascinating time in the organization’s history. Not even two years after its first WNBA championship in 2021, the team is in the midst of a transition after James Wade left for an NBA assistant coaching job earlier this month. Last offseason, Candace Parker and Courtney Vandersloot opted to play elsewhere in free agency, while Allie Quigley and Emma Meesseman also didn’t return.
Those departures did not discourage Wade’s involvement with the franchise; rather, now with his support, the team’s previously determined priorities can be “accelerated and amplified,” Rawlinson said.
Those priorities include keeping Chicago a destination for players and fans, investing in physical resources and bolstering marketing and storytelling. In particular, the organization has begun scouting locations for a new team facility, which Rawlinson called a “grossing priority.”
Keeping the Sky in contention for the championship remains a focus for Wade. That could largely depend on whether the team can re-sign 2021 Finals MVP Kahleah Copper when he hits free agency this offseason. Wade also envisions the Sky establishing itself as “a big part of the city, just like the Cubs, just like the White Sox, just like the Bulls” by securing key sponsorships and partnerships with Chicago businesses.
“No pun intended, but the sky’s the limit,” Wade said.
Wade’s investment makes him the latest high-profile athlete to become a WNBA owner, joining the likes of Tom Brady (Las Vegas Aces), Alex Rodriguez (Minnesota Lynx) and Magic Johnson (Los Angeles Sparks).
Rawlinson said that bringing in a figure of Wade’s stature both on and off the court reflects a “continued validation of the WNBA as a top-tier professional league.”
Wade said high-profile ownership names help bring “some light” to the league, but “the players are the ones that are going to drive this league forward.”
“No one is bigger than the players,” Wade continued. “No one is bigger than A’ja Wilson right now. No one is bigger than Aliyah Boston. No one wants to be bigger than them as an owner. That’s not what you want. And so we want to call attention to the league that we can, but we also want to bring our resources to the league. We want to bring what we’ve learned from playing in these leagues for a long time to the front offices, to the management teams and everybody.”
Wade also acknowledges that the Sky franchise’s trajectory could affect the league as a whole as it approaches 30 years of existence, which was a big draw.
“I’m going to enjoy this process, probably even more than the NBA process, because this one isn’t ready,” Wade said. “This one, he’s got a lot of room to improve and grow, and I just want to be additive to this whole league. Hopefully we can do that. All of us.”