Starting with Martin Luther King Day and coinciding with Black History Month, players and companies honor the past and create dialogue about the future through footwear. “I just think it’s more of a paying homage to people that paved the way before me,” Warriors forward Kevin Durant said. “It’s much more than just shoes. It’s more so of a memorial more than anything.”
Nike isn’t the only apparel company celebrating Black History Month. Last year, Adidas honored Arthur Ashe on the James Harden, Damian Lillard and Derrick Rose models. A 2018 collection wasn’t created, but Lillard’s “Dame 4” has an edition that honors the Harlem Renaissance with nods to the Apollo Theater and Savoy Ballroom. “When I can have something like the Black History shoe that’s close to home, close to my heart,” Lillard said, “it’s always good to be able to tell that story through the shoe.”
Erik Horne: Paul George on Russell Westbrook Court: “It’s cool other than Under Armour. Other than Under Armour, it’s pretty nice.” George is a Nike guy. UCLA has an apparel deal with Under Armour.
No active player sells more of his signature shoes than LeBron James, who has been in the Nike stable since he entered the NBA in 2003. King James’ earns more than $30 million annually from Nike, and his lifetime deal with the Beaverton, Oregon shoe giant could eventually net him more than $1 billion, according to his business manager Maverick Carter. James is the NBA’s highest-paid player for the fourth straight year at $85.3 million, including $52 million off the court from endorsements and royalties (Kobe Bryant was the last player to out-earn James).
Stephen Curry ranks second with earnings of $76.7 million. The two-time MVP signed the NBA’s first $200 million contract last summer. The five-year deal guarantees $201 million from the Warriors. Curry’s salary nearly tripled this season and is tops in the NBA for the first time. His endorsement partners include Under Armour, Chase, Vivo, eHi, Nissan/Infiniti, Brita, Bubble and JBL and will generate an estimated $42 million in off-court income for Curry.