Four years ago, Nike swooped up a promising Latvian 17-year old with a shoe contract. Kristaps Porzingis was in the process of becoming of the best prospects in basketball at the time and Nike wanted him to wear their shoes when he was on the court. On Oct. 1, Nike's deal with Porzingis expired and the New York Knicks' second year big man went out looking for a new deal. Immediately, Adidas swooped in and kept trying to sign up as many young NBA players as they possibly can.
Shoe guru Nick DePaula of the Vertical is reporting that Adidas and Porzingis have agreed on a multiyear deal for footwear and apparel that will pay Porzingis in the neighborhood of $3 million and $6 million annually. It's the biggest shoe contract for a European player ever. Nike has the right to match the deal but DePaula is also reporting they are not expected to match. From The Vertical:
New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis has signed a multiyear footwear and apparel endorsement deal with adidas, sources told The Vertical.
The deal will pay Porzingis, 21, between $3 million and $6 million annually, depending on incentive bonuses met. It's the most lucrative shoe deal signed by a European player to date.
Nike, his previous sponsor, has until mid-October to match the exact terms of the adidas contract because of the brand's standard "right to match" clause, but Nike is not expected to match the deal, sources said.
Nike isn't expected to match because Porzingis just isn't high up on their list of NBA players they're looking to market. There is a tipping point of the players they can really throw enough attention toward, and with LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kobe Bryant (even though he's retired), and rookie Ben Simmons (among others) all above what they'd likely put behind Porzingis from a marketing standpoint, it makes sense to just let him go to Adidas and focus on the players they have heavily invested in already.
Immediately, people may wonder if this could be the start of a flub by Nike along the same lines of when they let Stephen Curry get away. They reportedly bumbled through their error-filled meeting with Curry years ago and he decided to sign with Under Armour. Since then, he's added unbelievable value to Under Armour's venture in basketball shoes, and is one of the top-selling shoes over the past couple years despite being the face of a company that isn't know for being on the court. However, the likelihood of that happening with Porzingis is pretty low.
Big men selling shoes, especially signature shoes, is often a losing battle. For whatever reason, big men struggle to connect with the shoe buying world. We've seen Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, Patrick Ewing, Kevin Garnett, and others over the years as the face of marketing campaigns, but it rarely leads to sustained success in the basketball shoe market. But even if Porzingis doesn't get a signature shoe or doesn't have a signature shoe that does great business, having him in the stable of NBA athletes with such a bright NBA career ahead of them is a big time move for them. And if he can get the Knicks back to not only respectability but also contention someday, his value as a face of the basketball division of Adidas goes up.
At worst, we should get some amazing Kanye West-Kristaps Porzingis events.