NBA Rumor: Sneaker Deals

584 rumors in this storyline

LBJ wanted to start his own Nike brand with Luka Doncic

During an appearance on Uninterrupted’s Road Trippin Podcast, James revealed that he wanted to sign Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Dončić to the would-be LeBron Brand, apparently running the idea by Nike during Dončić’s sneaker free agency last season. “I don’t even know if Luka knows this, but he will know it now,” said James. “I wanted Luka to be the first signee of Team LeBron when he was going through his situation.”

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Stephen Curry to have his own brand?

I’ve been told by a “sneakerhead” source in China that Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry will soon have his own brand under the umbrella of Under Armour, just like how Michael Jordan has his Jordan Brand at Nike. His new “Curry8 Flow” is supposed to drop sometime in the Fall. I have heard both August and September as possible release time frames, so I don’t have strong intel on that.

On May 18, the Oregon federal court emphasized its prior decision that upheld the validity and enforceability of the Nike contract that Leonard previously signed. It highlighted the portion of the contract where Leonard acknowledged that Nike exclusively owns all right, title and interest in intellectual property created by Nike or Leonard in connection with the contract. Leonard] acknowledges that NIKE exclusively owns all rights, title and interest in and to the NIKE Marks and that NIKE shall exclusively own all rights, title and interest in and to any logos, trademarks, service marks, characters, personas, copyrights, shoe or other product designs, patents, trade secrets or other forms of intellectual property created by NIKE . . . or [Leonard] in connection with this Contract[

Ultimately, it appears that Leonard’s case against Nike will end up backfiring against the NBA superstar. He filed his action in the wrong jurisdiction, attempting to play offense, and now finds himself in a very weak defensive position, with Nike already prevailing in certain respects. Unless Leonard is able to provide the court with some strong evidence to the contrary, it seems that Leonard may also end up being on the hook for damages related to copyright infringement and multiple breaches of contract.

UNINTERRUPTED: “MJ stepped up and said … I’ll take Melo, y’all got LeBron.” Hear the story of how MJ chose @carmeloanthony to be the first @Jumpman23 signature athlete on a new #WRTS After Party.

Meanwhile, O.J. Simpson, who was a spokesman for Spot-Bilt, a casual shoe brand, vouched for Jordan and insisted the brand match Nike’s offer to lure him into signing with the company. “The Last Dance” executive director Jason Hehir told the story to “Jalen & Jacoby,” explaining how Michael Jordan nearly signed with an otherwise long-forgotten company: “Spot-Bilt, you remember them?” asked Hehir in a recent interview. “They matched [Nike’s] offer. Michael Jordan came this close to being with Spot-Bilt because the spokesman at the time was another athlete who had broken, transcended some racial bounds, it’s a guy by the name of O.J. Simpson. “He said to the guys at Spot-Bilt: ‘The kid out of Carolina is the next me. Go get him.’ So they matched Nike’s offer, but they couldn’t match the marketing. They couldn’t promise [agent] David Falk that they could market Michael the way that Nike would. And that ultimately is what put that deal over the top, financially, for them.”

After Converse told Jordan that it had too many big-name players — including Magic Johnson and Larry Bird — to make Jordan a front man for the company, the choice came down to Adidas or Nike. Adidas wasn’t willing to give Jordan his own shoe, but Nike was. There was just one problem: Jordan didn’t want to meet with the shoe company to discuss it. “I couldn’t even get him to get on the damn plane and go visit the campus,” Jordan’s agent, David Falk, said.

Jordan became a pitchman unlike any other before him, and to some degree, it turns out that was the plan all along. Agent David Falk explains in Episode 5 how he wanted to treat Jordan like a boxer or tennis player – an individual star – instead of how stars in team sports were typically marketed. But Nike, the company that landed Jordan, never would’ve gotten a meeting if it weren’t for MJ’s mom, who convinced him to take the meeting. “I go into that meeting not wanting to be there,” Jordan says in Episode 5. “Nike made this big pitch. And Falk was like, ‘You gotta be a fool if you’re not taking this deal. This is the best deal.’”

Sabrina Ionescu always has considered Steph Curry to be her “big brother.” So, is there about to be a rift in the family? In the days leading up to the 2020 WNBA Draft, Ionescu finds herself in a new reality. Expected to be the No. 1 overall pick by the New York Liberty, she potentially could sign a lucrative sneaker deal, with Under Armour, Nike and Puma all in the mix. As she mulls a decision, the influence of Curry, her NBA superstar mentor and the face of Under Armour, is obvious. “I think he texts me almost every day,” Ionescu revealed this week on NBC Sports Bay Area’s Runnin’ Plays Podcast. “He’s working hard.”

But as she decides on a deal, Ionescu says she hopes a signature sneaker is in the works. “I think before this all happened, I never thought about it because I didn’t think it was even a possibility because women don’t usually have signature shoes,” Ionescu said. “And then I think listening to a lot of these companies and the goals and visions that they had to have a signature shoe down the line, I was like, ‘Oh, actually that would be pretty cool.’

For many years, sneaker companies primarily went after guards. In recent years, unicorns like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant have emerged, so now brands target “perimeter players.” However, with Joel Embiid getting his first signature shoe later this year and Zion Williamson just signing the richest rookie deal since LeBron James, could this be the year that big men prove that they can sell shoes and force companies to update their approach? “Joel Embiid’s signature sneaker is going to be a really interesting case study because there’s no current center that has a signature shoe, so we’ll see how that does,” DePaula added. “What Joel brings is his ability to go viral on social media whenever he wants. I think there’s some validity to the phrase, ‘Big men can’t sell shoes.’ It is fairly true. We’ll see if Joel can break the mold because, historically, it’s been challenging for them.”

Interestingly, some companies include a small-market reduction as well. Just as brands give players a bonus for being in a large market (such as Los Angeles or New York), they’ll significantly dock their pay if they land in certain small markets. Players are essentially being fined for ending up in a small-market city, even if it’s not the player’s choice. “I’ve seen some brands include a 20-percent reduction for landing in certain small markets,” DePaula said. “I know for a fact that one brand had Sacramento and Orlando among others on that list of markets.” “Yes, that’s definitely a clause that exists in contracts,” one shoe-companyexecutive confirmed on the condition of anonymity. “There are bonuses or reductions based on the player’s market. If the player goes to a major market like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or Miami, the brand is going to get more exposure. They’ll be playing in more nationally televised games and get more media coverage.”

Keep in mind, this is all up for negotiation, so an agent can push back against a small-market reduction if they don’t want it in the contract. “It’s a give-and-take,” one NBA agent said. “If you’re going to allow a reduction like that to be put in place, what are you getting in return that makes it worth it to include that? The main reduction incentives that you see in sneaker contracts (and all endorsement contracts) are related to injuries. If a guy isn’t playing, there are opportunities for brands to roll back their pay. There are also moral clauses, where the player’s contract could be affected if the player does something of moral turpitude.”

“You try to find what the market is and while it’s not definitive like it is when you’re negotiating an NBA contract, you hearrumors and dig for information to find out what other players were paid,” said a top NBA agent. “You also have to talk to every company. By having conversations with every company as opposed to just one or two, you get a valuation and understand what the market will bear for that particular client.” “Larger agencies have a clear-cut advantage when determining market values for players,” former NBA agent Matt Babcock said. “They will naturally have a better grip on the marketplace, as they engage in more negotiations with each shoe company due to representing more clients.”

The biggest difference between rookie deals and veteran deals is that the former is all about projecting a prospect’s upside and marketability (like NBA teams do in the draft) and the latter is about evaluating a proven commodity (like NBA teams do in free agency). And unless a top pick develops into a star, they will likely earn less money on their second sneaker contract. “I think the second deal is often more of a rude awakening for guys rather than a raise,” DePaula said. “Top prospects get paid a lot and then some of those deals look bad very quickly. There’s one rookie who was a top pick in recent years and he got $2 million per year, but months into his NBA career, the company was realizing, ‘This deal isn’t going to work out.’ That player will most likely get a merch deal when his deal is up. Rookie deals are kind of a crapshoot.”

New Balance will continue to expand in the sport of basketball by announcing a new multi-year partnership with the NBA. As part of the new agreement, the sportswear brand will be able to create authentic broadcast, digital and retail content featuring New Balance-sponsored athletes wearing their respective NBA uniforms and team logos. The partnership will officially start with New Balance’s upcoming “We Got Now” campaign that features the reigning NBA All-Star MVP, Kawhi Leonard inspired by his journey of becoming the best in the game. The campaign will air during the Denver Nuggets v.s. Los Angeles Clippers game on Feb. 28 at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

By 2018, concurrent with the R&D team, New Balance began pitching potential endorsees with the goal of bringing a shoe to market in October 2019. Remember, the typical turnaround is a year and a half. These early pitches didn’t have prototypes or samples. It was all theoretical, just hope and hunger waiting for a chance to come to life. During this time, the design team received word that Kawhi Leonard was on the radar. Usually a player of this caliber doesn’t ever hit the free agency market, but he had turned down a four-year, $22 million extension with Jordan Brand in March 2018 and the company announced that it would let him walk in October 2018.

“We went from the world not knowing about New Balance Basketball in October (2018) to ‘Can we get him in a New Balance shoe by the All-Star game in February (2019)?’ ” Grondin said. “I’ve been enjoying it. One of the reasons that I came is I wanted to build and start something of my own,” Leonard explained in late January, after being asked why he chose to sign a multiyear contract with New Balance in the neighborhood of $5 million annually. “Start with this new company in basketball and they’ve been great. And we’re going to keep building this relationship from here.”

“We’re not going to turn Kawhi into an Instagram comedian,” Cassidy said when asked about the brand’s conscious decision to heavily lean into Leonard’s eccentricities. New Balance followed that up with another billboard, this one reading “Board Man Gets Titles,” a reference to a story by The Athletic that went viral last season. Merchandise followed in the form of plain black t-shirts with “Fun Guy” in the most ho-hum box lettering imaginable.

Not even now that he’s a slam-dunk champion. Not even after signing a new endorsement deal over the weekend with Puma, which also inked a deal with Heat rookie Kendrick Nunn. The only things Jones Jr. is changing are people’s perceptions that dunking is all there is in his game. Jones Jr., the Heat’s high-flying forward who turned 23 on the night he soared over teammate Bam Adebayo and others on his way to his first dunk title, something he longed to win ever since coming up short in the competition in 2017, isn’t preoccupied with what the critics say.

What does that player need to be to earn a signature sneaker? Harden: The whole package. Westbrook: You can’t just be one-dimensional. I didn’t deserve a signature shoe for a while, because I didn’t earn it. But I’ve earned my way, and now I have my own. I’m realistic when it pertains to that. Some players just get a shoe. Like James said: You gotta have the package. The fan base. Your play gotta speak, obviously. Outside of basketball, whatever else you got going on. You gotta be “that guy” to be able to have a shoe. Because nowadays everybody got a shoe. [laughs]

Derrick Jones signs deal with Puma

With nearly 6.5 million viewers tuned in to an epic dunk-off between Aaron Gordon and Derrick Jones Jr., the 2020 slam dunk contest helped launch each player not only to new heights on the hardwood, but also in the marketing world. In the aftermath of his narrowly claimed slam dunk contest win, Jones signed a multiyear footwear and apparel endorsement deal with Puma, adding the 6-foot-6 high-flyer to a select group of NBA and WNBA athlete partners with the company.

Gordon will be putting on that show in a customized “Kung Fu Dunk” colorway of 361’s latest “Big3” sneaker, featuring a support panel styled after the opening number of its name. The tongue icon incorporates his new “AG” circle logo with subtle yin and yang nuances, while the vivid purple and orange colors serve as a nod to his home state. “It’s a California sunset,” Gordon said. “I’m a California kid from the West Coast, bringing a little flavor to the East Coast.”

Gordon met with 361 in September and the two sides began targeting this weekend for finalizing a deal, allowing Gordon to debut his new shoe in the dunk contest. Next season, Gordon will become the 18th player with his own signature shoe. The forthcoming “Zen-AG” sneaker incorporates his Orlando Magic colors through a swooping and flowing design, with an ice-blue bottom and pinstripe accents. “It’s unreal,” Gordon said. “As a kid growing up, that’s what I wanted and what everyone wants — a signature shoe deal.”

Coming off of a breakout season as a member of the Raptors’ vaunted Bench Mob, VanVleet had just signed a new two-year contract and was hanging out-slash-celebrating in Las Vegas during Summer League. Among other young players who might fit the company’s new vision for the brand, they had eyes for VanVleet. Garnett remained a powerful tool for getting the ball rolling. “K.G. was just getting back in the picture. They had K.G. running, like, the head of brand direction, so I got to sit through a meeting with him, which was cool. At Summer League, up in the concourse, while the games were going on,” VanVleet said. “They offered a nice deal, and I liked the direction.”

“Whereas if I was signing with a big company, I would probably have to forfeit my own personal brand, or at least sell the rights to the logo. We’ve seen that a couple times in the last few years and it’s something that I’m not really that interested in. It all just made sense and it was an easy decision. They were very supportive of me and my personal brand and empowering me and giving me resources that I needed to do what I need to do on the side. It didn’t interfere at all, so that was that was a big selling point for me.”

In the summer of 2018, two top Under Armour executives traveled to the West Coast on a critical mission. Kevin Plank, the sports apparel company’s founder and chief executive, and Patrik Frisk, its president and chief operating officer, needed to persuade Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors star and the company’s highest-profile endorser, not to leave the brand. The two sides had grown increasingly frustrated with the relationship, said two former Under Armour executives familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the previously undisclosed meeting. In 2017, Mr. Curry took public exception to a comment by Mr. Plank calling President Trump “a real asset” to the country, prompting the executive to take out a full-page newspaper ad to explain what he said about Mr. Trump “did not accurately reflect my intent.”

At the meeting, participants found a solution that would showcase just how much Mr. Curry meant to the company. Mr. Plank and Mr. Frisk agreed to build a separate business around him, one reminiscent of what Nike had done for Michael Jordan two decades before. The company brought on the former executive who had overseen the creation of the Jordan brand at Nike to run the Curry brand and promised Mr. Curry much more involvement in the development of his shoes. Mr. Curry decided to remain, and a crisis was averted.

Jimmy Butler a sneaker free agent

Miami Heat small forward Jimmy Butler and the Jordan Brand have mutually agreed to part ways, bringing his multi-year footwear and apparel endorsement deal with the company to an end 10 months before its original September 30, 2020 expiration date, industry sources have confirmed. The split would make the four-time All-Star and four-time All-Defensive wing the highest profile sneaker free agent across the league. Butler is expected to now begin discussions with multiple brands towards negotiating a new multi-year endorsement deal that would begin this season, potentially in advance of All-Star Weekend.

That’s a big number for a player that yet to play a game in the NBA, but the $100 million would likely be over a 10-year period. That means Ball would get paid $10 million annually over the next 10 years from his shoe deal alone. While that wouldn’t be the richest rookie shoe deal in NBA history, it would be up there. Plus, the number of years would be unprecedented. This could ultimately just be a leak from Ball’s camp to rev up the bidding war for the youngest and arguably most famous Ball brother’s signature, but one thing’s for certain: Ball will have no shortage of options by the time draft night rolls around.

Before the Mavericks traveled to Toronto on Saturday, Luka Doncic emerged from the team’s hotel in Philadelphia wearing a Jordan-brand winter coat. Doncic also on Saturday posted a photo on his Instagram account of himself wearing blue Jordan shoes. It certainly seems like more than a coincidence and, indeed, a source close to Doncic told The News that negotiations with Jordan Brand on a multi-year contract have heated up and soon could reach fruition.

Although Nike retained a few players, most of its marketing dollars were allocated to Jordan, and it paid off. The Air Jordan Is debuted in March 1985, and by the end of that year, according to Darren Rovell, the Jordan franchise had generated more than $100 million in revenue. “We were sad, but we saw the potential for Michael when he was coming out of college and playing for Team USA in ’84, and he was an exciting new player on the market, so we couldn’t blame Nike for putting all their eggs in that basket,” says Thompson, who later signed with LA Gear. “I used to tell him, ‘Man, you’re the reason why Nike cut me.’ I would tell him, ‘They choose the wrong Michael.’ ”

New Balance Basketball announced today the endorsement deal with San Antonio Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray. To officially welcome him to the New Balance family, Murray is featured in a new commercial spot where he “inspires us with a little motivation” and reveals the black and white OMN1S colorway “Lights Out” launching globally December 4th. The commercial’s tone is tongue-in-cheek, set by Murray naming himself a “hair icon” – but his message is from the heart. He dispenses motivational tidbits like “success isn’t a straight line” and “find your own path”, but these truisms find real meaning for a player like Murray, whose road to starting point guard has been anything but conventional. Before Murray earned a reputation as a rising star in the league and an endorsement deal with global athletic leader New Balance, he had to first put in the work.


Every sneaker blog has covered your sneaker free agency. ‘Where is PJ going?’ ‘Did you see PJ rock Puma’s?’ What made the free agencies of Gilbert Arenas and Kobe Bryant so legendary? Do you remember anything about them? PJ Tucker: Gilbert wearing those Dolce & Gabbanas was legendary. I will never get that aggressive in my life. That was crazy. What’s funny ever since I became a free agent, everyone has been like, ‘why you don’t wear Gucci’s’ and all this craziness. I can wear a lot of different stuff, but I don’t know if I can do that. That was big. Even Kobe when he left Adidas and before Nike that was huge. Kobe came with the A.I. Reebok Questions in a Lakers’ colorway and even the Jordan III’s that was crazy.

Why should a brand invest in PJ Tucker? PJ Tucker: Honestly with me, I don’t know if anybody else is a bigger brand ambassador than I am. When I am with somebody, I roll with them. I believe this wholeheartedly, when I believe in something, I rock with it, and I think people see that. I think that is the biggest thing people see. For me, it’s not like a LeBron situation where it’s like monumental. He’s this one-of-a-kind athlete that is the face of the brand—I am like an everyday dude. I am like the dude walking down the street, it just so happens that I can guard people and make threes.

A lot of kids growing up who want to play in the NBA mention they want their own signature sneaker. Why is that something you don’t want? PJ Tucker: I don’t want my own shoe. That is something I have never wanted. If anybody is pitching that, I would say no. I feel like that is the only thing that limits me, being a signature athlete, because you have to wear your signature shoe all of the time. I don’t want no parts of that. What makes me standout is the versatility to be able to do everything.

However, one thing Tucker hasn’t been able to do is wear anything other than shoes made by Nike and its subsidiaries. That changed on Oct. 1, when his previous endorsement deal with Nike expired. And while he remains one of the most sought-after free agents among sneaker brands, Tucker is taking a different approach, planning to enjoy his sneaker free agency over the coming months before finalizing his next deal. “I just really like being free,” Tucker said. “I have to catch myself sometimes, like, ‘Oh, I could wear these now if I want to.'”

As it happened, Looney was in the practice facility last year and Thompson wasn’t. Looney was eyeing the pile of Anta shoes at Klay’s locker. Looney, who previously wore Adidas, was a sneaker free-agent-to-be and on the market for a shoe deal. He said his camp had already made preliminary contact with Anta about a potential relationship. So his curiosity was especially triggered. Plus, Klay wears the same size as Looney — 15. So Looney went shopping at Klay’s locker. “I’m about to steal all his stuff,” Looney said, recalling his thoughts. “So I took about four or five pairs of shoes.” Looney called Klay and snitched on himself. Klay, of course, said he didn’t care. However, Looney confessed to taking one pair of shoes. It was actually closer to five. He took several pairs of the KT4 shoes. He also nabbed a pair of the KT2 “Splash Brothers.”

Kevon Looney signs with Anta

Looney’s search for a shoe contract took a bit longer, but he’ll be wearing Anta for at least the next two seasons. “The most important thing about a shoe is comfortability, and also being able to last throughout the game and take care of your feet,” Looney told NBC Sports Bay Area. “I feel Anta does the best job of that. “Also, I like to wear crazy colorways. And Anta has been doing a great job with new colors and creating funky designs. That’s something I was looking for. I saw all the design options they had, and I was ready to sign up.”
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December 3, 2020 | 8:35 pm EST Update

James Harden yet to arrive in Houston

Marc Stein: Rockets star James Harden was not yet in Houston for the team’s individual workouts Thursday, league sources say … New Rockets coach Stephen Silas said this afternoon of Harden that he’s “confident that he’ll be here when we get started” Houston’s first practice is Sunday
This rumor is part of a storyline: 125 more rumors
Anthony Davis: “I just wanted to take the process one day at a time. Obviously winning the championship with L.A. was very great. The team Rob (Pelinka) put together, and Jeanie (Buss) put together, and Linda (Rambis) and all the people in the front office was amazing, and we did something special. Especially with everything going on in 2020. I don’t think there was a doubt that I was gonna come back, it was just trying to figure out the logistics and what was best for me and my family, and I was able to get a deal done today.”
Anthony Davis: “L.A. is the place I wanted to be. They do a great job… of just putting the team together. It’s the place I wanted to be, where I love to be. I’m out here during the summers and now living out here full-time for the next five years. So I thought it was just a great thing to go five years and be here in the place that I love, and (I) don’t plan on going anywhere. So why not maximize it the most at this opportunity?”
Storyline: Anthony Davis Free Agency
The Brisbane Bullets have completed their roster for the 2020-21 NBL season, signing former Orlando Magic two-way player Vic Law, the team announced on Friday. Law, 24, will be the Bullets’ second and final import for the new season, filling the open roster spot left by Will Magnay, who signed a two-way contract with the New Orleans Pelicans.
December 3, 2020 | 7:13 pm EST Update