Storyline: Sneaker Deals

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5 days ago via ESPN

While the incumbent Nike and potentially poaching Adidas are the two mainstays in the conversation, Chinese brand Li-Ning remains a dark horse to take seriously. The company’s last major signing was then-Heat superstar Dwyane Wade in the fall of 2012, but it’s looking to refresh and re-energize its roster of athletes. The offer the company is expected to make would certainly rank highest among the three pursuing brands at more than eight figures annually. The contract could also possibly feature an equity or stock component.
2 weeks ago via ESPN

Russell Westbrook, the NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player, will look to continue to establish himself as one of the league’s top global superstars, inking a 10-year extension with Nike’s Jordan Brand that will be the most lucrative total endorsement deal for a Jordan athlete to date, according to industry sources. After first signing a five-year endorsement deal in 2013, Westbrook has been positioned as the face of the brand and the annual Air Jordan model each subsequent season. During that stretch, he also elevated his game yearly as the franchise point guard of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
3 weeks ago via ESPN

As he meets with brands over the coming weeks, LaVine is expected to decide on his next endorsement partner by the end of the month, eventually starting the 10-day clock for Nike to decide whether or not to match the contract offer. “For the next phase of his career, Zach is looking for an organic partnership where the brand’s belief and vision is genuine and aligned with his,” Namakian said. “He wants to be a creative and engaged partner working together in continuing to grow his brand globally.”
3 weeks ago via ESPN

After spending his first three seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, an offseason move to the Chicago Bulls could see Zach LaVine cash in as he looks for a new sneaker-endorsement deal heading into the 2017-18 season. The deal LaVine signed with Nike as a rookie expires at the end of this month, and the move to Chicago meant an overnight rise in intrigue from a handful of brands looking to sign him even as he recovers from February surgery to repair a torn ACL. “The interest in Zach from a brand perspective was instantly raised when he went from being the third option in a small market to the primary option in a legacy market,” said Nima Namakian, LaVine’s agent at BDA Sports.
3 weeks ago via ESPN

However, Nike is expected to aggressively look to make its own initial offer in the coming weeks to retain LaVine. Adidas, looking to retool its roster of NBA players and add more explosive wing players, is also interested in signing LaVine, who wore adidas sneakers while at UCLA. Known by fans in China for his two instant classic NBA Slam Dunk Contest performances, LaVine has also emerged as the top target of Chinese brands Li-Ning, Anta and Peak. “He’s the only player we’ll pitch this year,” said one brand source in China.
1 month ago via ESPN

At the time, the brand had hoped that Timberwolves rising phenom Andrew Wiggins could fill that role, but internally there has been strong hesitation about whether Wiggins could carry his own signature shoe. Antetokounmpo’s game is already more established and more accomplished, leading the company to look at making a massive offer that could steal him away from Nike. Adidas is enjoying momentum in other categories as a brand and hasn’t been shy in offering monster deals in the past to its top priorities, such as the 13-year deal to Harden and the seven-year contract to Porzingis.
1 month ago via SLAM

With his adidas deal, Mitchell joins a growing stable of very young, very cool players like Brandon Ingram, Jamal Murray, Kris Dunn, Jaylen Brown, Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, James Harden and Damian Lillard. Considering he didn’t even think he would be in the NBA at this point, the fact that he’s got a sneaker deal is another milestone that came way quicker than anticipated. “When my agents and I were talking about the sneaker deal, I thought it was going to be the typical agent meeting where they promise you a shoe deal and you’re like, Alright, I’m not that good, this is for guys who are big-time,” says Mitchell. “So when it happened, I was like, Wow, you were right, it did happen! It was a no-brainer going with adidas and I’m blessed and happy to be in this position and hope to keep representing them for a long period of time.”
2 months ago via ESPN

The most marketable NBA players are typically guards. Players with the ball in their hands — explosive attackers with an endless flair to their game. As kids look up to and spend endless hours in front-yard hoops emulating their every move, brands are left constantly looking for the next great athletes who can translate into equally great endorsers. Dennis Smith Jr. checks all of those boxes, leading Under Armour to sign the Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard and No. 9 overall 2017 draft pick to a three-year footwear and apparel endorsement deal worth as much as $2 million per year with incentives, according to sources. The brand plans to incorporate him immediately as one of its key featured basketball players right out the gate.
2 months ago via ESPN

“The first time that I saw Dennis Smith at camp was when Stephen ran out of the gym after he tried to dunk on somebody,” Stone said with a laugh. “Dennis got so high — his elbow was at the rim. It was unbelievable. That was my first time experiencing what Dennis can bring to the table in terms of explosiveness. The reaction that Stephen had was ridiculous. Stephen was coming off of an MVP season and an NBA championship, and here he is, watching a high school kid own the moment and respecting it.”
2 months ago via ESPN

After each stateside brand passed on expressing interest, Big Baller Brand engaged China-based athletic brand Anta to discuss a potential partnership. Anta currently has traditional sponsorship deals with Klay Thompson and Rajon Rondo, and made signature shoes for Kevin Garnett for his final seven seasons in the league. After a “round of conversations,” according to a source, Anta declined repeated requests for a follow-up meeting after Big Baller Brand presented them with a private label manufacturing concept.
2 months ago via ESPN

Since launching the $495 pre-order edition of the ZO2 sneaker, along with an autographed $995 “collector’s edition,” Big Baller Brand is on the hook to both manufacture and deliver the shoe to customers by the Nov. 24 promised ship date. More than 700 pairs have already been ordered. All things considered — sky-high price, six-month shipping delay, brand that has never before made a shoe — it’s a respectable number that beat out the expectations of several rival industry sources.
2 months ago via ESPN

In negotiations with the big brands — Nike, adidas and Under Armour — LaVar made it known that he was looking for $1 billion and wanted those brands to sublicense his Big Baller Brand. The shoe brands quickly passed. Days later, the first Big Baller Brand shoes launched on the company website. Industry sources indicate that a deal for Ball from the traditional companies originally fell in the $1.5 million a year range. Playing on the Lakers, plus the power of his holdout, could boost that up over $2 million a year.

Antetokounmpo getting a big shoe deal?

The “Greek Freak” kicks of a new four-year, $100 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks next season. Antetokounmpo will also likely be armed with a new shoe deal. He is by far the hottest free agent this summer in the sneaker market and insiders think he could command a deal of at least $8 million annually and potentially over $10 million if everything breaks right. Credit his age, 22, and unique skill set, which has made him one of the NBA’s most alluring young stars.

The headline numbers on new shoe deals are often inflated and include bonuses and optimistic royalty payouts. The yearly guarantees are often much lower and can include reductions if sales tank. Below is a breakdown of Forbes’ estimates on what the NBA’s biggest stars—past, present and future—earned on their shoe deals over the past 12 months, including bonuses and royalties, based on conversations with industry insiders. Michael Jordan: $110 million, Nike (Jordan) Jordan hung up his high-tops for the third and final time in 2003, but he is still the king of the basketball shoe market. Sales of the Air Jordan XXXI have been soft, but the retro Jordan business remains strong. Nike’s Jordan revenues were $2.8 billion for the fiscal year ending May 2016, up 18% over the previous 12 months. Jordan’s net worth is $1.3 billion. Thanks Nike.

LeBron James: $32 million, Nike King James has talked about wanting to be a billionaire. Nike should help him get there someday. James entered the NBA in 2003 armed with the biggest shoe deal ever handed out to a rookie. The seven-year deal eventually paid out more than $100 million. Interestingly, James’ agent at the time, Aaron Goodwin, also negotiated the second-biggest rookie shoe deal ever with Kevin Durant’s 2007 pact.
4 months ago via ESPN

Those stars waited until they were stars to cut out the middleman. But already LaVar’s called out: the shoe companies, the NCAA, AAU basketball teams run by shoe companies, retail stores taking a cut of shoe and merchandise sales — basically all the gatekeepers of the world he’s trying (to conquer. Is he trying to change the system or work it? That might not matter, as long as at least one of his sons lives up to the hype he’s created for them. “People don’t understand the movement,” he says. “This is a power play to show everybody, ‘Yo, we don’t need you to make this s — .'”

Former two-time NBA All-Star Stephon Marbury is still selling his Starbury shoes in stores in China and online in America starting at $14.98 after originally joining forces with the now-defunct Steve & Barry’s sporting goods store in 2006. If LaVar Ball, father of NBA prospect Lonzo Ball, hopes to get his Big Baller Brand going without the help of the major shoe companies, Marbury could offer some advice. “I would listen to what [LaVar Ball] had to say, definitely, if he called,” Marbury told The Undefeated from China. “It’s the delivery, that’s all. Sometimes people can’t accept the delivery. But I understand, because it’s his own feelings. I don’t agree with everything that he is saying, but I understand what he is saying.”

Ball has said that he would reach out to Chinese brands. What advice would you give to him? Marbury: Come rock with us. We know the structure that is needed. We don’t have the capital, but with my brand we have the resources for what is needed from the manufacturing side in China. He doesn’t have to do something with Starbury. We could work together where we can help put them into the position to speak to all the people who have that access to do what they want in China. I’m not saying I want him to come under my umbrella and be with Starbury, but I can position them by setting them up with the people that they need to speak to in order to create their infrastructure if they want to infuse capital into themselves.

One of the players expected to be drafted at the very top of the board is UCLA star freshman point guard Lonzo Ball. He is represented by Harrison Gaines as part of the newly formed Ball Sports Group. Gaines is a former employee at Impact Sports, where he worked alongside primary agents on contracts for NBA players Kawhi Leonard and Will Barton. Ball is also being represented in brand negotiations by Ball Sports Group’s founder – his outspoken father, LaVar – sources told The Vertical.
5 months ago via ESPN

In his meetings with the three, LaVar insisted that the company license his upstart Big Baller Brand from him. He also showed the companies a shoe prototype that he hoped would be Lonzo’s first shoe. “We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” LaVar told ESPN. “We’re looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either.”

As his second season with the Houston Rockets was getting underway in 2013, Lin was set to become a sneaker free agent for the first time in his career. His deal with Nike was slated to expire, offering the chance to sign his most lucrative endorsement deal. China-based brand Li-Ning desperately wanted to sign him, and Nike was looking to utilize its contract “match rights” to a certain threshold. But it was adidas that made the strongest play, landing Lin with the highest investment and a platform to create. Adidas offered a footwear and apparel endorsement deal worth $2 million annually for five years, sources told The Vertical, which was on par with several of the game’s top non-signature All-Stars. It would also guarantee Lin international marketing, product input, basketball camps, appearance tours and special releases in Asia.

Part of what makes Wall so good is his edge. It manifests in competitive ways like how Wall — one of the most the refreshingly honest players you’ll find — will never wear the shoes of an opposing point guard. He’s a sneaker free agent, banking on himself to have a great season and letting that dictate his next step, and so this year he’s been rocking colorful Kobe 11s. But you won’t catch him in the new Kyrie 3s. “I don’t wear nobody else’s, that’s just me . . . nothing against them because I’m cool with Kyrie,” Wall said. “I congratulated Kyrie on the new shoe he has that’s about to drop. We have a good relationship. We’re pretty cool, pretty tight but it’s just [wearing the shoe] — nah.”

Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson is under contract with Chinese brand Anta through the end of the 2019-2020 NBA season, and the brand has made him a new multi-year shoe deal extension offer that would place him among the highest earning footwear endorsers in the league, sources tell Nice Kicks. As Thompson’s profile in the league has risen each of the past two seasons, his representatives at BDA Sports Management and Anta had opened endorsement renegotiation talks earlier this fall, which would drastically amplify the value of his current shoe deal. The multi-year renegotiation is similar to the structure that his fellow Splash Brother Stephen Curry agreed to with Under Armour after his MVP season.

You made big news in the sneaker world by deciding to sign with adidas. Why did you decide to sign with them? What was their pitch to you like? Kristaps Porzingis: What I loved about adidas the most is they give their athletes freedom; they let them create, they let them have a voice. In the meeting I had with them, everything I wanted to hear, I heard. It wasn’t about the money, I really felt that this was the brand for me, it felt right. I knew what I wanted at that point.

Adidas though had been routinely circling, looking to expand its roster of NBA athletes and add more wing scorers and forwards after years of mostly focusing on point guards. Ingram, with his wiry 6-foot-9 frame and explosive scoring potential, was right at the top of the brand’s list. The interest was mutual. “I was looking for loyalty. That’s something that I’ve gotten throughout my high school career, through my AAU career and even through college, always talking to adidas people, even though I was at a Nike school,” Ingram, 19, told The Vertical.

Can Klay Thompson’s signature sneaker line ever overcome that unfortunate viral moment of him looking unenthusiastic about his first model? Anta, the brand behind Thompson’s footwear line, claims to have already done so: the brand said this summer that it had sold 650,000 pairs of the shoes. It will look to build on that success with this, the Anta KT2, its second signature model for the Golden State Warriors three-point specialist. The shoe makes its debut this week in two colorways—the “Whitehawk” and “Blackhawk”—that both wear Warriors colors.

Former NBA player Stephon Marbury, who now plays in China, has released Starbury Elite sneakers with soles that light up at the touch of an iPhone app and flash as they detect the beats to music. “It took me a lot of time and a lot of work,” Marbury said in a video of the seven months spent to complete the project. “We put the work in. We did everything that we needed to do for the technology before we brought it to America so that everyone would be able to use their phone to control the lights and play music.”

For the better part of the past week, Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas has been seeing tweets from fans who have encountered the “Pick Me Last Again” signage that Nike has pasted all over Boston’s transit stations as part of the company’s “Come Out of Nowhere” campaign. Thomas, the 60th pick in the 2011 draft who has elevated to All-Star status in Boston, is one of 10 players spotlighted in Nike’s NBA promotion. Told there were some signs at North Station, the railway that sits beneath TD Garden, Thomas had his wife, Kayla, snap some pictures during Wednesday’s home game against the Chicago Bulls.

Thomas knew Nike was putting together a commercial spot featuring himself, Golden State Warriors big man Draymond Green and Indiana Pacers forward Paul George, but he didn’t know the scope of Nike’s transit campaign. “Nike said they had something special for me, but I didn’t know it was going to be that,” Thomas said. “When people sent me pictures on social media, it was of like North Station, and then my wife had taken a picture of it last game. But the next day someone said South Station had bigger ones. I’m like, ‘I gotta go by this.’ So that was my first time ever even at South Station. The posters are like everywhere. It’s unbelievable. “When I went last night, me and my wife, we had a moment.”

Yi Jianlian just returned to the Chinese Basketball Association’s Guangdong Southern Tigers following a short-lived NBA comeback. Unfortunately, he doesn’t appear to be much happier back home than he was on the end of the Lakers’ bench. In the middle of a game that was played earlier today, Jianlian stopped playing, removed his Li-Ning sneakers, left them on the court and subbed himself out. According to reports, the long-time Nike endorser cited discomfort as the reason for his actions, along with continued frustration over the CBA’s mandatory Li-Ning sneaker policy — a result of its official partnership with the brand.

Adidas threw a huge sum of money at Houston Rockets point guard James Harden when it signed him away from Nike in 2015, giving him a reported $200 million contract. But, in an interview with Sole Collector at the release event for his new signature shoe over the weekend, Harden said that wasn’t what motivated him to make the switch. “It’s not about the money, it’s about the voice,” Harden said. “It’s about creating. It’s about the things I have in my hand, designing and wanting it to get out so people around the world can get it and get a taste for it.”

Porzingis' sneaker deal is quite rich

The deal, negotiated by agent Andy Miller of ASM Sports, pays the New York Knicks power forward between $3 million and $6 million annually. That starting range could escalate each year based on several performance incentives such as point-average thresholds, playoff appearances and All-NBA or All-Star team selections. His previous brand, Nike, held a “right to match” clause and waited until the very end to decline to match adidas’ offer.

The fact Porzingis was a sneaker free agent was a mostly unprecedented case. Typically, rookies drafted at the top of the first round sign a four-year sneaker deal, but Porzingis signed a four-year contract with Nike for $25,000 when he began his pro career in Spain at 17. “What made it unique was that [the deal] wasn’t over by the time he was drafted,” Chris Brantley, vice president of marketing at ASM Sports, told The Vertical before Porzingis entered into negotiations with other brands. “He still had one year to go, and we had him play out the year and bet on him. We bet that he would have a good season and put himself in position to get a nice contract when it expired.”

New York Knicks emerging star Kristaps Porzingis was the biggest sneaker free agent of this year — and adidas just officially signed him to a mammoth 7-year footwear and apparel endorsement deal. It’s the richest shoe deal ever given to a European player, expected to pay Porzingis between $3- and $6 million annually, depending on a variety of on-court performance incentives that he can meet. “I’m happy to be here and it just felt right to be with adidas,” beams Porzingis. “There’s a lot of excitement right now, and I feel like it’s the right fit for me.”

For tonight’s NBA season opener, Porzingis and the Knicks will take on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the league’s marquee kickoff game at 7:30 PM EST on TNT. You can expect to see the rising phenom in one of the below player exclusive editions of the adidas Crazy Explosive. Each pair features a variety of Knicks hues, along with a custom “KP6” script wordmark on the right tongue tab. Along the insoles, you’ll notice some added personal details, as the right sockliner features a depiction of Latvia and its flag, with “KP-6” text below. On the left insole, the brand has incorporated the Coat of Arms of the city of Liepaja, his hometown.

Simply making it to the league is no guarantee of a lucrative sneaker deal. NBA players are discovering it’s harder to score the big contracts that some of their predecessors landed. “The biggest misnomer is that everyone is getting a lot of money and everyone is getting paid,” Octagon agent Alex Saratsis tells Sole Collector. “Now, these shoe companies are very methodical in whom they go after. If they can add an extra million to KD’s compensation or LeBron’s comp over adding a bunch of guys that won’t push product, they will. Very few guys are getting paid good money to endorse shoes.”

At the very top, the deals get more nuanced when a signature shoe gets thrown into the mix. At that point, companies and players have it spelled out in the contract how many signature shoes they will get and each comes with royalty compensation. These upper-tier guys will also have two separate merch deals, a personal compensation and then another for camps or programs they sponsor, allowing the player to outfit an AAU program with gear without dipping into their personal merch allotment.

The next tier, guys six through 10, have a shot at getting some money along with their merch, but it will likely be numbers such as $10,000, $20,000, or even $40,000—with bonus options. Travis King, independent sports & entertainment agent, tells Sole Collector he’s seen deals with players earning an average of eight points per game rewarding them $20,000, while 12 points per game may be $30,000, and 16 points per game could bump all the way to $50,000. Then expect bonuses for participating in any of the All-Star weekend events and winning any of the league’s awards. “There is all kinds of stuff they put in,” King says.

Kristaps Porzingis has proven to be a marketable phenomenon in the biggest market, and he was rewarded with the biggest shoe endorsement offer of any European player in NBA history – including former MVP and champion Dirk Nowitzki. Still, the 21-year-old told the Daily News that the contract from Adidas – which was reported by Yahoo! as between $3 million and $6 million per year – is not finalized. He said his current sneaker endorser, Nike, still has a chance to match.

How did Adidas miss out on such a lucrative opportunity? According to Sonny Vaccaro, a former sports marketing executive who was working with Adidas at the time, Adidas had a chance to land James with a 10-year, $100 million contract. Adidas could afford it, too — the company still had Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady selling shoes for it. But Adidas lowered its offer to $70 million at the last minute, allowing Nike to swoop in with a $90 million deal to land the future superstar. Vaccaro explained how it all went down to Chris Vernon on the latest Ringer NBA Show.

Sonny Vaccaro: It wasn’t so much the number, $70 million or $100 million, because $70 million was a hell of a lot of money, right? But you have to understand what it was to me. The reason I was, and I still am respected, I believe, in that world, is [that] if I said something to you, you [would] believe me. If we had a deal, we had a deal. [Adidas] changed the number on me. I’ll never forget that as long as I live. We went to a little corner of this mansion. Gloria, me, LeBron … and I apologized. I’ll never forget what they did. They put their arms around me and they said, “Sonny, we understand. We know what you did. We’re going to be fine.”

Nike, his previous sponsor, has until mid-October to match the exact terms of the adidas contract because of the brand’s standard “right to match” clause, but Nike is not expected to match the deal, sources said. Porzingis became a shoe free agent Oct. 1. As an emerging 17-year-old professional playing in Spain, Porzingis signed a four-year deal with Nike in 2012 that paid him $25,000 per year.

Simply making it to the league is no guarantee of a lucrative sneaker deal. NBA players are discovering it’s harder to score the big contracts that some of their predecessors landed. “The biggest misnomer is that everyone is getting a lot of money and everyone is getting paid,” Octagon agent Alex Saratsis tells Sole Collector. “Now, these shoe companies are very methodical in whom they go after. If they can add an extra million to KD’s compensation or LeBron’s comp over adding a bunch of guys that won’t push product, they will. Very few guys are getting paid good money to endorse shoes.”
More HoopsHype Rumors
September 26, 2017 | 8:57 am EDT Update

Kevin Love shrugs off trade rumors

It wasn’t hypothetical swaps for Carmelo Anthony — trades that the Cavs never seriously considered, according to sources. This time, Love’s name was floated out there in blockbuster deals for Paul George, who eventually went to Oklahoma City. “I don’t know if numb is the word,” Love said. “Some of the things are laughable. I know this is our job and this is our business and this is what we do for a living. But at the end of the day it’s a business. We’ve seen guys on several teams and throughout the course of history of the game, maybe a coach or a GM or a certain player has sworn that either they’re going to keep him or they’re going to sign this player, free agency and they get a better deal. It’s the better offer theory.
This rumor is part of a storyline: 110 more rumors
Speculation says LeBron James leaves Cleveland after this season. Former Post columnist Peter Vecsey wrote James “unequivocally” will bolt for the Lakers. “I think he leaves and he goes somewhere and he can always point back to, ‘Guys, I came back and gave you everything I have. We won a title but now I have to move on. You traded one of our top players …’” said one rival executive. “And if they have success, it’s a whole other story.”
While general manager Scott Perry said the starting center job will be one of the most important battles of camp, he admitted something could happen in terms of a trade. Who knows if Kanter, 25, becomes more of a two-way player after his 33-pound weight loss and renders Hernangomez a trade chip down the road. Or if Kanter is flipped for draft picks at the trade deadline to a team desperate for inside scoring? “Part of my job is to daily assess our roster, take phone calls and figure out ways to keep getting this basketball team better,’’ Perry said during media day Monday. “So I will continue to do that.’’
Storyline: Knicks Front Office