NBA legend Dwyane Wade buys a minority ownership stake in Utah Jazz

‘As a businessman, entrepreneur, and investor, I bring a lot to this partnership outside of my basketball experience,’ the retired Miami Heat star says

Former Miami Heat guard and NBA champion Dwyane Wade purchased a portion of the Utah Jazz, the Jazz announced Friday, making him one of the club’s minority owners behind majority owner and Qualtrics founder Ryan Smith.

After Smith purchased the Jazz for $1.66 billion in October of 2020, he raised the idea with Wade — who he had met at a California golf course in 2019 — of joining the team’s ownership group. Wade agreed, and the deal was recently completed.

“When you’re able to get an opportunity to meet someone like Ryan that has been very successful in business, that can educate you, that can teach you — I’m all about I want mentors, and Ryan became a mentor to me,” Wade explained. “Did I ever think that this would be a part of our conversations? No, I did not. But this was always a goal of mine, to one day hopefully be a part of something bigger than I, and that’s what the Utah Jazz is — something bigger than myself.”

Terms of the deal were not reported. While it wasn’t immediately clear how much of the Jazz Wade now owns; NBA bylaws say any ownership stake must be at least 1%. Wade, 39, is one of a few people who have a minority stake in the team, including Accel’s Ryan Sweeney and Atlassian co-founder and Australian Mike Cannon-Brookes. The Miller family also still owns a portion of the club after the October sale.

Smith indicated that Wade’s addition might come both on and off the basketball court.

“Dwyane is not only a basketball legend, he is also a great leader, businessman, and human being,” Smith said in a statement. “As we continue to build on the incredible legacy of the Utah Jazz franchise, we are excited to add Dwyane’s experience and expertise to the equation. Utah is an amazing place and I couldn’t be more thrilled about the future of the franchise and the future of this state. Dwyane’s influence will be important to both.”

Wade also wanted to be involved in the off-court actions of Smith’s, like college scholarships for underrepresented youth.

“I’m a living example that fairytales do come true,” he said. “I’m excited about what this not only does for the NBA, but what it does for the little boys and girls out there that look like myself.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, left, hugs Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade after the game between Utah Jazz and Miami Heat at Vivint Smart Home Arena Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018.

Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell — who suffered a sprained ankle in Friday’s game as Wade watched — is one of those players. In fact, Wade considers Mitchell his protege, thanks to his similar size, and game on the court.

“I call him 2.0,” Wade told ESPN, who was first to report the news. “If there’s a player similar to me, it’s Donovan Mitchell.”

Mitchell was unavailable for comment due to his injury, but other players reacted positively to the news, excited to have a player some regarded as an idol growing up among the team’s leadership.

“A Hall-of-Famer, we all know his accolades. For him to be so interested in joining an organization like this, a team like this, our city, our state, it says a lot,” point guard Mike Conley said. “It says a lot about what he believes can come from it, and the growth that can be made. It’s pretty neat to see him in the stands.”

It does seem that there was a bit of competition to determine which franchise Wade would buy a majority stake in. The obvious pairing for Mitchell would have been the Heat, the team he led for 15 seasons, including to multiple NBA Finals trophies. But Heat owner Micky Arison, the former Carnival Cruises CEO, tweeted that “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.”

“Dwyane has had a chance to be part of so many different [ownership] groups if he wanted that,” Smith told ESPN. “We’ve basically been in discussion from the time we closed on the team on how we can get this done. Like I run my tech business, you want the brightest people around.”

Wade said the conversations with Smith evolved over time, but the more he heard, the more he saw a fit with the Jazz in Utah, not the Heat in Miami.

“We just started talking about what this could be, what this feels like, what it could look like,” Wade said. “It wasn’t just about one thing. It was a whole holistic approach for us. We have some similar pillars and things that we believe in, away from this chair.”

“It was just a perfect fit,” he added. “For me, as a retired NBA player in my next act in business and in life, this feels right. It feels good.”