NBA legend Dwyane Wade has acquired an ownership stake in the Utah Jazz. Wade, 39, joins the league’s youngest ownership group, which is led by 42-year-old Ryan Smith, founder of software company Qualtrics. Smith and his wife, Ashley, purchased a majority interest in the Jazz in October 2020 for $1.66 billion.
Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but NBA bylaws stipulate ownership stakes must be at least 1% of a team. Sportico assessed the Jazz’s fair-market value at $1.71 billion in its NBA franchise valuations.
Ryan Sweeney, a partner at the venture capital firm Accel, Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes, and the Miller family (the team’s previous owner) are also part of the current ownership group.
“Dwyane is not only a basketball legend, he is also a great leader, businessman and human being,” Smith, who is also the team’s governor, said in a press release. “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.”
The release said Smith began conversations with Wade about joining the ownership group shortly after his acquisition of the Jazz franchise last fall.
“Partnering with Ryan and the Utah Jazz is the perfect fit as we share the same vision and values,” Wade said. “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. 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.… 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.”
Wade, who played most of his 16 seasons with Miami, was apparently approached with a similar offer with the Heat after his retirement in 2019.
“I want to congratulate Dwyane on his recent announcement,” Miami Heat owner Micky Arison tweeted following the news of Wade’s Jazz purchase. “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.”
The three-time NBA champion joins a number of fellow athletes-turned-owners in the NBA. Most notable is Michael Jordan’s majority ownership of the Charlotte Hornets. The trend extends beyond professional basketball franchises—Wade’s former teammate LeBron James, for example, became a partner in Fenway Sports Group, which owns both the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC, late last month.