NBA Draft 2018: Puma reportedly targeting Trae Young to be the face of its returning basketball brand

Rickie Fowler, one of the most popular golfers in the world, has been a Puma athlete for just short of a decade after inking an endorsement deal with the apparel company in 2010 at the ripe age of 21. That investment has paid off, as he has risen not only in stature as a top-10 golfer, but also in fame as one of the more relatable and beloved athletes in the country.  

The apparel company is reportedly preparing to make a similar investment in 19-year-old point guard Trae Young, a one-and-done prospect from Oklahoma who is expected to be a top-10 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.

According to a report from ESPN, Puma, which hasn't made a basketball shoe since 1998 when they signed Vince Carter (a deal that fell through two years into a 10-year deal), is the wild card to sign one of the most marketable prospects in the 2018 NBA Draft class.

When Trae Young and his family met with Roc Nation Sports during the process of vetting potential agents, there was an added twist to the presentation. A representative from sportswear company Puma was in the room as part of a big-picture pitch: The brand believes so strongly in Young's star potential that it wants to make him the face of Puma basketball as the company looks to re-enter the basketball sneaker landscape for the first time in nearly two decades…

Puma, the wild card in the mix, plans to present Young with a prototype of its upcoming fall basketball sneaker this week in advance of its official pitch. Then the Puma team will showcase its marketing plans, future product concepts, growth strategy and an overview of how the brand plans to re-engage in basketball. (ESPN)

Young is also drawing interest from Nike, Under Armour and Adidas, but his agent, Omar Wilkes, isn't ruling out Puma as a suitor given its pitch to make him the face of a new basketball brand.

"The possibility to be the seminal piece to re-establish that category for Puma is what's enticing," Wilkes told ESPN.

Young and his team will reportedly hear a number of sneaker endorsement pitches beginning next week in L.A., where it seems he will have a full menu of options to choose from. And while he's not projected to be a contender for the No. 1 pick, his marketability – coupled with his on-court game that has drawn comparisons to Stephen Curry – makes him one of the most sought after free agents in the endorsement business this offseason.

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