Ahead of the 2021 NBA draft, projected top overall pick Cade Cunningham has signed a multiyear footwear and apparel endorsement deal with Nike. After a COVID-19-impacted market found a majority of last season’s rookies playing out the 2020-21 season without a sneaker deal, brands are now returning to aggressively sign top players heading into this week’s draft. Nike had its eyes set on Cunningham, who starred at Nike-sponsored Oklahoma State University and has long had an affinity for the brand. “More than anything, they show that athletes are more than just athletes,” Cunningham told ESPN. “They really put the right message out for people to see. That was important to me. … I felt like it was a perfect match for me.”
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Cunningham has also already agreed to endorsement deals in the plant-based food, energy drink, cryptocurrency, trading card, memorabilia and photo-sharing-app silos as well, which are expected to be announced in the weeks ahead. “I definitely have been putting thought into it. I’m not playing basketball just for fun anymore,” he said. “It’s a business now, and that’s the blessing of it. I’m happy that I’ve gotten to get to this point to where I can make money doing what I’m doing. Marketing myself, I want to be fully authentic with who I am. I don’t want to take any marketing deals that don’t match who I am.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: Cade Cunningham — the expected No. 1 overall pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft — has agreed to an endorsement deal with Nike, sources tell ESPN. It’s believed to be the highest-earning shoe deal among players in his draft class.
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September 17, 2021 | 3:28 pm EDT Update
After securing the arrival of Mario Hezonja, Russian team UNICS Kazan will announce soon the signing of former NBA guard OJ Mayo.
UNICS Kazan is adding one more marquee name to its roster with O.J.Mayo having a one-year deal with the Russian club. While there’s no signed contract yet, that seems to be more a formality delayed by bureaucratic reasons.
Ramona Shelburne: For those who like fun real estate details. The Sterlings still own the Clippers current practice facility in Playa Vista. Ballmer said he has an option to buy it in 2024, but he’s not sure yet what he’ll do because their new complex in Inglewood is scheduled to open same year.
The Austin Spurs today announced that the team has named Petar Božić head coach, making him the eighth head coach in franchise history. In addition, David Pilipovich, Nick Saenz and Jesse Childs have been named assistant coaches on his staff, joining Kenny Trevino who enters his second season as an assistant.
September 17, 2021 | 2:45 pm EDT Update
What’s the message the veterans are giving you about the last two years? Rick Carlisle: They were disappointed with how things have gone. We’ve got to work at developing a style of play so we can maximize what we have here. Exactly what that means as far as number of wins or the playoffs, I don’t know. I’m reluctant to get into that kind of stuff, because sometimes you can set goals that are too low.
How have you evolved as a coach since you were here before? Rick Carlisle: Going from Detroit to here, they were different types of teams, and going to Dallas—the Dallas team was way different than any team I had coached before. It was much more of an outside-shooting team … so it was an amazing experience and education how to work with that kind of group. And then the game has changed an awful lot in the last 13 years, particularly in the last five. Because of the pace, the skill level, the 3-point shot, everything. In two years there, we set offensive records on points per possessions, and then this last year Brooklyn beat both. These records are going to keep falling because of the skill level.