CBS Sports college basketball writers Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander spent July on the road talking to college coaches at multiple major NCAA-sanctioned recruiting events. In the weeks since, they've followed up with more than 110 coaches at all levels of Division I for our annual Candid Coaches series. As always, the series features a fun array of questions about college basketball, but also touches on broader issues in society. Throughout August we'll be posting the results of the poll questions posed to coaches.

The mega influence of shoe companies on the world of basketball is undeniable. From the NBA on down, there is an everlasting battle between brands in order to gain relevance in an effort to attain dominance. Nike has essentially owned hoops since Michael Jordan changed that company forever in the late 1980s. But in college hoops and in recruiting, who is second? For years and years, there was no doubt. Adidas was a clear-cut No. 2.

Over the past half-decade, the standard has changed and Under Armour has become prevalent in a way no one outside of that company saw coming. UA has made huge strides thanks in part to landing big-time endorsement deals with then-fledgling athletes who've since become superstars in their sports: Steph Curry, Jordan Spieth, Bryce Harper and Cam Newton. You throw in guys like Tom Brady and Michael Phelps, and now Under Armour is seen across the landscape as the chic brand and a legitimate competitor.

This has an undeniable impact on the grassroots basketball level. Young athletes can be influenced by pros and what company's gear they were. Among coaches, influence plays a part as well in terms of how a shoe company endorses, promotes and lifts a school through affiliation. On the prep level, Under Armour is hosting multiple, high-profile amateur basketball events. Adidas has one of the best events of the summer, too, with its championship in Las Vegas. NBA stars continually show up to that event to support their AAU teams and Adidas in general.

But it's become a real competition between the two. So with that in mind, we asked coaches:

If Nike is still No. 1, who is No. 2 on the shoe-company totem pole now: Adidas or Under Armour?

UNDER ARMOUR 76 percent
ADIDAS 24 percent


Coaches who responded with Under Armour said ...

  • "To me, Nike is running away with the No. 1 spot. Not even close. The No. 2 spot, I think, is Under Armour -- and they're leaving Adidas behind. Adidas consistently puts out bad-looking gear and uniforms. The best thing they have going for them is the Yeezy shoe line, but I hear that it's still almost impossible for some of the big-name Adidas sponsored schools to get the shoes. I'd be pissed if we were sponsored by Adidas."
  • "I would say Under Armour. I think July is a big reason. The camp in the first week of July is really good and has a lot of talent. Then, their tournaments are solid. I think the Under Armour events are better and overall I think the Under Armour teams have better talent."
  • "Not even close: Under Armour! They are actually nipping on the heels of Nike. When you look at which way prospects are trending AAU-wise, the popularity of Steph Curry and the number of universities that are switching to Under Armour, it's hard to say anyone else is second."
  • "Under Armour. They have stolen most of Adidas' schools and Adidas isn't putting up a fight."
  • "Under Armour. Not even close. Run a big-time event in a big-time facility in Atlanta during July. AAU programs and high school programs all over the country wearing Under Armour. They are locking up major football and basketball programs and in many cases entire athletic programs. The Steph Curry factor helps as well. I think Adidas is a distant third now."
  • "Under Armour is No. 2. They have a buzz in youth basketball circles. But nobody is remotely close to Nike."
  • "The answer is Under Armour. Really organized. Invested in their teams and kids. Have a lot of pop right now. Doing a great job with getting high-profile colleges and they have Steph. Their momentum is tremendous and popularity at an all time high from grass roots, to college to the NBA."
  • "Under Armour. They care more and are trying so much harder than Adidas."

  • underarmouradidas.jpg
    We polled more than 110 coaches. Under Armour was the big winner vs. Adidas.

    Coaches who responded with Adidas said ...

  • "Under Armour has made great strides in the past five years, however I think Adidas (especially with signing the NBA rookies they have) will remain number two for a while. Outside of Curry's influence (which is great), UA just doesn't have the appeal that the other two do with kids".
  • "Adidas. Proof is in the signing of six of the top 10 picks in the NBA Draft this year. Brand is still a lot stronger/more respected in the states even though Under Armour has covered ground."
  • "Adidas. Investing at the NBA level and a more experienced brand company."
  • "Still Adidas in my opinion, but Under Armour is close to taking over the No. 2 spot. Adidas still rolls with Kansas and Louisville, I believe, so that gives them the edge. Under Armor is adding the schools, but has also made a huge impact on the AAU circuit. Could take the No. 2 slot soon."
  • "Adidas remains number two in my book. Under Armour makes a tremendous effort to involve themselves in grassroots, and have successfully latched on to some of the top prospects in the country. However, Adidas still carries a brand-name legitimacy that Under Armour cannot touch."

    You should know that, in regard to coaches I polled, some who are coaching at schools with an Adidas deal gave me Under Armour as their answer. Only one coach working at an Under Armour school told me Adidas was the bigger shoe company in college basketball as of today.

    Under Armour is also considered to be the most fervently loyal to its affiliates, even when including Nike. There is a sense that Under Armour is at once an inner circle, us-against-the-world company but also a brand that's used its inner momentum to punch up and sway a lot of schools away from Adidas and/or Nike. You see coaches at Under Armour schools consistently citing their UA sponsorship as a major inspiration for success.

    What was interesting was to see how many coaches at Nike schools saw the race unfolding. They see Nike as streets ahead of both -- most of them, anyway -- but realize that Under Armour has done so much in such a little amount of time. The belief is Under Armour is more fully invested in their schools, and that Under Armour has more presence right now, and will soon have more national prospects -- than Adidas.

    Nike is still absolutely No. 1, though. It still has no true rival in youth and college basketball.

    Remember, all of these companies are invested in sports across the globe. College and AAU basketball is only a small fraction of their holdings. But investing at these levels can pay off on a huge scale down the road. Look at Steph Curry, who is a global sensation already and has done so much to boost Under Armour's name. Three coaches mentioned to me how often they see everyday people wearing Under Armour gear all over the place now. It simply wasn't like that five years ago. That speaks to the company's massive growth.

    In college hoops, Adidas is still powerful enough to fight with Under Armour thanks to its longevity, the amount of stars it still endorses (the biggest names being James Harden, Derrick Rose, Damian Lillard, Andrew Wiggins, Serge Ibaka, Kyle Lowry and Harrison Barnes) and how prevalent it still is with college program affiliation. Plus, a couple of coaches mentioned Kanye West's ties to Adidas, and how something like that still carries social currency.

    Nike sponsors more schools than anyone, but Adidas still outpaces Under Armour by a good amount. That gap is closing fast, though, and many coaches I spoke with believe we're on the precipice -- say, the next one to three years -- of seeing the shoe wars get as interesting, competitive and aggressive as they've been a long time.