SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – A former NBA superstar is investing in the Utah Jazz.
Three-time NBA champion Dwyane Wade has purchased an ownership stake in the Jazz.
Wade joins majority owner and governor Ryan Smith, co-founder of Utah-based Qualtrics.
“Dwyane is not only a basketball legend, he is also a great leader, businessman, and human being,” said Smith. “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 won three NBA championships with the Miami Heat. He is a 13-time All-Star and is an 8-time member of the All-NBA team. He retired from basketball in after a 16-year career following the 2018-19 season.
Wade, 39, met Smith on a golf course in California shortly after retiring and they became friends.
Wade is just the latest of several top former NBA players with ownership stakes, including Shaquille O’Neal (Sacramento Kings) and Michael Jordan (Charolette Hornets).
“Partnering with Ryan and the Utah Jazz is the perfect fit as we share the same vision and values,” said Wade. “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.”
Wade, who has known Smith for several years, also has a strong relationship with Jazz all-star guard Donovan Mitchell.
Wade’s investment in the team is not clear at this time. The NBA has a bylaw that ownership stakes can be no less than 1% of the team, but Wade’s financial investment in the franchise is not immediately clear. But Wade plans to take an active role in the franchise and region.
In December, the NBA Board of Governors unanimously voted to approve the sale of the Jazz to Smith and his wife, Ashley for $1.66 billion.
Smith, 42, is the co-founder of Qualtrics, the leader in customer experience and creator of the experience management (XM) category. Qualtrics helps organizations design and improve the four core experiences of business — customer, employee, product, and brand — on a single technology platform.
“This goes way beyond the dream I had to just play basketball in the NBA,” Wade told 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 of that 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.”
The small ownership group of the Jazz has previously consisted of tech leaders, including legendary investor and Accel partner Ryan Sweeney, and Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes in addition to the Miller family and now Wade.
mith has been a corporate partner of the Jazz and co-founded “5 For The Fight” whose logo has been featured on the Jazz jersey since 2017. 5 For The Fight is the campaign to eradicate cancer by supporting groundbreaking cancer research and has raised more than $26 million. The patch, donated to 5 For The Fight by Qualtrics, is the first philanthropic jersey patch in the history of North American professional sports.
“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.
Gail Miller and the Miller family announced the agreement on Oct. 28 to sell a majority interest in the Jazz after 35 years of stewardship. The Millers have retained a minority interest in the team.
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