Many expected Dennis Smith Jr. to sign with adidas after an impressive NBA Summer League performance. Instead, he inked with Under Armour.
Smith played in college at North Carolina State, which is a school affiliated with adidas. Josh Jackson, who attended adidas-branded Kansas Jayhawks, also signed with Under Armour. In the past, players who went to college at Kansas typically signed with adidas.
Sneaker writer Nick DePaula wrote about the competition between Nike and adidas last year (via The Vertical):
As the longtime dominant brand in the sport over the last two decades, Nike is currently being worn by 68 percent of the league, or 305 players. Adidas has been ramping up its efforts to sign even more players, as its roster currently sits at 70 players, or 15.6 percent. Nike’s own Jordan Brand subsidiary has a 6.5 percent representation, while emerging Under Armour has just 3.8 percent. Curry, though, has single-handedly changed the trajectory of Under Armour’s hoops category. Another 5 percent of players are split between China-based brands Anta, Peak and Li-Ning.
This was an “off year” for adidas after they were unable to land key endorsement deals while also losing the jersey sponsorship deal to Nike. However, the future still looks bright for recruiting basketball talent.
For example, another way to attract players is for them to participate in their branded basketball camps.
DeAndre Ayton (who has also played at Nike Peach Jam and Under Armour Elite 24) competed in the 2016 adidas Nations Global Championship. Wendell Carter, Mohamed Bamba, Hamidou Diallo, Trevon Duval and Troy Brown all played as well.
Players who participated last week include possible 2018 No. 1 pick Michael Porter Jr. Other potential lottery picks include Robert Williams (who attended Under Armour’s camp as well), Bruce Brown, Justin Jackson, Mikal Bridges, Jaylen Adams and Tyus Battle. Williams attends Texas A&M, which is an adidas-branded school. This should help eliminate rival suitors.
If they decide to throw in all of their chips next season, they could possibly land Porter as well as Williams and another top player or two.
But Porter will not be easy to sign, nor will he be cheap. They will have to compete with Nike and others to bring him to the team. If they miss out on another class next season, it can be damaging to their overall basketball brand – especially if Under Armour continues to sign players away and join the arms race.
2017 adidas prospects
Smith looked like a lock to join three stripes for a professional endorsement (via SB Nation):
“adidas has been there every step of the way for Smith, and it was expected that they’d have a bit of pull on him because of their past together. That obviously turned out not to be the case. Smith’s lottery position didn’t exactly help his cause, but Adidas missed out on an opportunity to sign one of the better talents in the draft class.”
This year, the brand did not make a deal with any of the players who were selected in the lottery besides Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz. The No. 13 overall pick is the only major player who has a public endorsement from the company.
Mitchell went to Louisville, which is an adidas-affiliated basketball program. The Louisville product also shined at the adidas Nations tournament in 2016.
2016 adidas prospects
Last season, adidas inked a deal with No. 2 overall pick Brandon Ingram as well as Jaylen Brown, Dragan Bender, Kris Dunn, Jamal Murray, Thon Maker and Taurean Prince. This means they had five of the Top 7 picks, six of the Top 10 picks and seven lottery picks.
This is an arguably more impressive roster than what Nike had, even though Nike landed the first overall pick (Ben Simmons).
Ingram, Brown and Maker all played on adidas Nations squads in 2014.
2015 adidas prospects
Kristaps Porzingis reportedly makes between $3 million and $6 million per season thanks to his contract with adidas, which was signed in October 2016. But he came into the league with a Nike deal.
Considering he was signed to the swoosh when he was drafted, they missed out on every lottery pick except for No. 10 overall pick Justise Winslow.
However, players from their 2015 class have played well. Kelly Oubre, Terry Rozier and Larry Nance Jr. have made an impact for their respective teams. It’s a relatively small class – also including UCLA’s Kevon Looney – but one that has not disappointed.
Winslow previously played on the 2013 adidas Nations basketball team.
2014 adidas prospects
Andrew Wiggins, another former college basketball star at Kansas, made a splash as the No. 1 overall pick by signing with adidas after the 2014 NBA Draft. His deal was among the biggest for an adidas rookie since Derrick Rose in 2008.
Other players signed to the three stripes in this class include Marcus Smart, Dante Exum and Joel Embiid, who also played at Kansas.
For adidas, it was huge to have multiple lottery picks ink endorsement deals.
Other recent adidas prospects
Ben McLemore (another Kansas college basketball player), Steven Adams and Shabazz Muhammad were the adidas headliners in a relatively weak class.
Harrison Barnes was the original marquee player for adidas, but Damian Lillard has since taken over the spotlight. Austin Rivers has spoken favorably about his on-court and “off the floor” sneakers. Otherwise, it was a light year for adidas.
Brandon Knight, Alec Burks, Iman Shumpert and Kenneth Faried were the biggest signings for adidas in 2011.
adidas inked an endorsement with Derrick Favors and Avery Bradley. Favors was the No. 3 pick and Bradley has become one of the most feared defenders in the NBA.
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