Dwyane Wade Made a Huge Investment in the $1.66 Billion Utah Jazz, Joining Majority Owner Ryan Smith

Dwyane Wade is synonymous with the Miami Heat as a player, but he’s now a part-owner of a different NBA franchise. To the surprise of most, Wade is now in business with the Utah Jazz. The team’s new majority owner hopes to change things behind the scenes, and a partnership with a future Hall of Famer could be a step in the right direction.

Utah already has an excellent team. Could adding Wade’s input to the organization help them get over the hump in the playoffs?

No one saw Dwyane Wade’s latest business venture coming

Given his wealth, fame, and ambitions, the news that Wade was becoming a minority owner of an NBA team was not that surprising. But eyebrows involuntarily raised when the press learned the team is the Utah Jazz. “As a businessman, entrepreneur, and investor, I bring a lot to this partnership outside of my basketball experience,” Wade said in a press release. “I’m excited to help take the Utah Jazz to the next level.”

Wade linking up with the Jazz sounds like a total non-sequitur. He never played for them. It wasn’t even public knowledge that he wanted to enter the ownership game at all. And given Wade’s status as the most iconic player in Miami Heat history, one would assume that this sort of deal would be more likely to happen there than in Salt Lake City.

The plot thickened further when Heat owner Micky Arison went to Twitter to reveal that he and Wade had discussed an ownership stake soon after his retirement, but Wade didn’t want to pursue it at the time:

We’ll never know why Wade and the Heat couldn’t come to a deal, but the 13-time All-Star is excited to start working in a new field. Wade said: “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.”

Utah’s new owner wants to change the franchise’s reputation

Utah Jazz owners Ryan Smith and Dwyane Wade look on during a game
Ryan Smith and Dwyane Wade, co-owners of the Utah Jazz | Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

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Adding someone like Wade to the Jazz ownership group would’ve sounded unimaginable just a few years ago. To put it kindly, Salt Lake City is not a destination for the typical NBA players. Between the snow-filled winters and the heavy Mormon influence, the Jazz struggle to sign high-profile free agents.

The franchise itself also has some embarrassing moments in its past, such as when Russell Westbrook got into it with an over-the-top heckler got in 2019. Ryan Smith wants to change that reputation for the better. 

Smith, a technology entrepreneur and founder of experience management company Qualtrics, became the majority owner last October for the measly price of $1.66 billion as part of a group that includes tech leaders Ryan Sweeney, an Accel partner/investor, Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes, and the Miller family who were the previous owners of the team. 

Smith has been one of the more outspoken owners when it comes to the NBA’s commitment to social justice. He’s backed up his words about making the world a more equitable place with action. Smith created the Utah Jazz Scholars Program, a fund that gave out four-year college scholarships to students of color at Utah colleges for every win during the regular season.

Bringing Wade into the ownership level is an additional way of putting wealth into underserved communities. 

How can Dwyane Wade improve the Jazz on the floor?

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The Jazz are an objectively great team. They finished the regular season as the top seed in the Western Conference; Donovan Mitchell continued to progress as the face of the franchise, and Rudy Gobert, to the frustration of Ben Simmons, is the likely Defensive Player of the Year.

Head coach Quin Snyder adjusted their offense to become a three-point heavy blitzkrieg without sacrificing any of their potency on defense. (Utah ranks in the top five for both offensive and defensive ratings.) But their 52-20 record has not earned them much respect from their rivals.

Most people remain suspicious of what the team will accomplish in a playoff setting. There are legitimate reasons to have reservations. Outside of Mitchell, Utah lacks real elite shot creation to get good shots outside of the offensive scheme. On the other side of the ball, Gobert’s ability to defend against the likes of Anthony Davis or a perimeter player he has to switch out on has been underwhelming in the past. 

Wade is a three-time NBA champion. He may be able to provide words of wisdom on how to overcome tough obstacles during the playoffs. He could also help sell the franchise to prospective free agents or the next unhappy All-Star looking for a change of scenery. It’s an uphill battle but never say never.