For players in the NBA and fans alike, tuning in to see the next major shoe deals from top athletes is exciting. With Nike accounting for nearly 70% of all shoes worn in the league, the company’s signature shoe deals create major hype throughout the sports industry and lend credibility to a player’s star power.
Beyond Nike’s multi-million-dollar signature shoe deals, which includes individualized styles from the likes of LeBron James, Paul George, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving, brands like Puma, Adidas, and Under Armour are changing the world of NBA shoe deals.
However, Nike still owns the lion’s share of attention and revenue when it comes to global athletic shoe sales. Aside from their signature shoe deals, they also provide cash and merch deals. Cash deals with players like Anthony Davis see the athlete rep Nike shoes without a specific style dedicated to him, typically worth upward of $200,000 per year.
Recently, Luka Dončić and Zion Williamson roused interest with their first signings with the major shoe brand. Neither has earned a signature shoe deal… yet.
Nike’s Jordan Brand Partners with Zion Williamson
Most recently, Zion Williamson earned a seven-year deal with Jordan Brand, a subsidiary brand group of Nike. The deal comes after the athlete signed to the New Orleans Pelicans in 2019. Though it’s not a signature shoe deal, the early start for Williamson shows a bright future in the shoe biz.
Though LeBron takes the cake for the most lucrative rookie shoe deal, Williamson’s deal is worth more in the long run. However, with a $15 million payout over five years, Williamson will need to continue his stellar performance as a power forward for the New Orleans Pelicans.
As the first overall draft pick in 2019, Williamson is no stranger when it comes to featuring on pundit breakdowns and NBA betting tips from experts who keep an eye on the explosive athlete. However, ample pressure comes with a shoe deal—especially one that puts LeBron’s paycheck to shame.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: The Greek Freak
Compared to the shoe deal signed by Giannis Antetokounmpo back in 2013, Williamson’s paycheck is unbelievable. Back when the Greek Freak first entered the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks, his Nike sneaker deal ran for a low $20,000 per year.
However, as the athlete began to attract acclaim and attention, Nike upped their cash deal with Antetokounmpo to a signature shoe deal. By 2017, the deal was worth $10 million per year—but his signature shoe, the Nike Air Zoom Freak, didn’t hit shelves until June 2019.
Antetokounmpo’s Zoom Freak shoes became the largest signature launch in Nike’s history—and the numbers didn’t disappoint. Not only did the shoes sell out quickly, but they outperformed other signature styles abroad thanks to Antetokounmpo’s popularity in Greece and Nigeria. Sales in 2019 from the release contributed to Nike’s $10.66 billion in shoe sales revenue.
Luka Dončić Could Be Up Next for a Signature Shoe Deal
In mid-2020, Nike announced a special Nike Air Jordan 1 Mid dedicated to the Slovenian superstar making waves with the Dallas Mavericks. At only 21 years old, Luke Dončić represents the exact candidate that Nike looks for: young and with a clearly illustrious career ahead of them.
Though the Nike Air Jordan deal is a great start, similar to Antetokounmpo’s early cash deals with Nike, it isn’t a signature line yet. The shoes feature the player’s famous ‘breathe and center’ pre-game ritual, reflecting the personalization of a signature shoe.
Like Williamson, Dončić recently signed to Jordan Brand, Nike’s sub-brand. His first Air Jordan look is coupled with a ‘Pregame’ pack from the brand, which includes other designs inspired by players like De’Aaron Fox and Brittney Griner.
Signed to the Dallas Mavericks in 2018, it seems Nike may be interested in piggy-backing on the international reputation that helped catapult Antetokounmpo’s deal to meteoric heights in terms of revenue. Much like the Bucks star’s reputation has lent to international sales, Dončić would likely also see high sales throughout Europe.