In 1984, a young basketball player from North Carolina who was about to go pro wanted a shoe deal from Adidas, his dream company. Due to family problems, Adidas fumbled negotiations with the young guard, who eventually signed with a less established company, Nike.
That player was Michael Jordan. And his first pair of sneakers from Nike, the Air Jordan, changed the industry and helped propel Nike to the top.
Since then, Adidas and Nike have been locked in many battles, from creating smartwatches to vying for the endorsements of Kanye West and Andrew Wiggins. Damian Lillard will be next.
Lillard is with Adidas now, but due to a clever contract clause, the young Trailblazer will be able to opt-out of his deal at the end of this season (just his second), according to a report by Chris Haynes of Comcast Sportsnet.
Fresh off making the All-Star team, Lillard will no doubt be chased hard this offseason by all the major shoe companies, with Nike and Adidas expected to be in the lead.
Adidas really can’t afford to lose Lillard after its run of bad luck with NBA players. Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard, Adidas’ two biggest NBA stars, have suffered marketability hits, due to serious injuries and unprofessional handling of free agency, respectively.
It’s rare for an NBA player to switch shoe companies so early in his career, but for Lillard, the second best player on one of the best teams in the league, his star may never shine brighter.