Sneaker Deals Rumors
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.”
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.”
Also, social media allows sneakerheads to be more informed than ever. Not only can fans follow their favorite brands and players, top NBA reporters treat sneaker-deal terms as breaking news and it’s in their feed alongside other scoops (like trades and free-agent signings). Most people initially learned of Zion Williamson’s record-breaking rookie deal with Jordan Brand when Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted it to his four million followers. However, there are still quite a few misconceptions about sneaker deals and the industry as a whole, according to various NBA agents and shoe-company executives who spoke to HoopsHype.
“Fans think that every player is making millions of dollars and that every superstar player is making crazy money from their sneaker deal and that’s not the case,” one NBA agent said. “A lot of guys are in six-figure-and-below deals and when you’re looking at what a typical NBA player makes, that’s not anything to them. The guys who are in the millions are in a very rare class. There are the guys who have signature shoes, but the number of guys who make royalties or have minimum-guaranteed royalties from their signature shoe is even smaller. “There aren’t many guys who make $10 million per year or more from their sneaker deal and that’s around the average NBA salary now, so the impact that the sneaker deals have on these guys and how they operate isn’t as significant as people think. It’s good money, but it’s not crazy (in most cases).”
But it’s not just the fans who do this. Sometimes, players believe they’re going to get a ton of money from their sneaker contract only to be disappointed when that’s not the case. “I think there’s this expectation that everybody gets a big shoe deal, but not everybody can get that kind of contract,” NBA agent Roger Montgomery said. “I think that misconception hurts agents sometimes because every player thinks they can get a huge sneaker deal because they’ve heard about some of these big deals that other players got. They may just get a merch deal that only gives them free product. It’s still a shoe deal, but it’s not the piece of the pie that they expected.”
Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma has signed a multiyear extension of his footwear and apparel endorsement partnership with the GOAT app as he continues to expand his personal brand on and off the court. Short for “Greatest Of All Time,” the app was founded in 2015 and is now the world’s largest digital sneaker marketplace, with over 20 million users and 1 million listings across 164 countries.
Kuzma will also showcase GOAT’s newly launched apparel and streetwear selections through his pregame arena entry outfits. The GOAT app will feature a selection of more than 50 streetwear and luxury brands during its pilot apparel offering. “I’m really excited to continue my partnership with GOAT,” said Kuzma. “It’s been great working together and getting to show off a bit of my style through my favorite shoes and gear.”