Mo Bamba Talks Shoe Deals, Marketing Strategy and the Harlem to Harvard Narrative


NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 16:  Mohamed Bamba #4 of the Texas Longhorns looks on against the Nevada Wolf Pack during the game in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 16, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 16: Mohamed Bamba #4 of the Texas Longhorns looks on against the Nevada Wolf Pack during the game in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 16, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

On Tuesday evening, sports collectibles leader and exclusive trading partner of the NBA/NBPA, Panini America (@PaniniAmerica) held a pre-draft event at the NBA Players Association offices for VIP collectors and hobby stores. Donte DiVincenzo (Villanova), Chandler Hutchinson (Boise State), Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri), Trae Young (Oklahoma) and Mo Bamba (Texas) were in attendance to take pictures, sign autographs, participate in a basketball clinic, and talk about the excitement of seeing their first Panini trading cards. JohnWallStreet had a chance to talk with Mo Bamba about his official visit to Harvard, attending the Darrel Morrey Sloan sports analytics conference (2x) and the impact playing for a Nike school (Texas) will have on who he decides to sign a shoe deal with.

JWS: You took official visits to Texas, Duke, Kentucky, Michigan and Harvard. How serious was your interest in attending the Ivy League school?

Mo: Harvard was very much a real thing for me simply because it’s one of the best schools in the world. If I could use basketball as a platform to get in there, it would turn some heads and maybe someday I could be (looked at as) one of the top influencers in the world. As the recruiting process went along, eventually I realized that it wasn’t a viable landing spot for me, but someday there will be a 5-star prospect who will be the first to go to Harvard and do things the right way as far as being an academic all-star. I wanted to be that guy. I fell in love with the Harlem to Harvard narrative.

JWS: You’ve attended the Darrel Morrey Sloan sports analytics conference twice. Was there a single message that’s resonated with you?

Mo: There was one panel with David Falk (agent) on it and he was talking about how there was this tennis player whose parents were asking him to market their son, to maximize his earning potential. He told them that there wasn’t much he could do for them, that winning was the best thing an athlete could do to market themselves.

JWS: That’s interesting because one would assume you would have had a better chance to win a college basketball championship had you gone to Duke or Kentucky. Do you have any regrets about going to Texas?

Mo: The only thing I regret about the recruiting process is not committing earlier. I bet on myself. I didn’t need an institution to back me up.

JWS: You have yet to sign a sneaker/apparel deal. Does the fact you played for a Nike school have any impact on who you will end up with?

Mo: No, not necessarily. I went to Under Armour camps, I went to Adidas camps and I got the feel for different shoes. I’ve also considered Puma. Ultimately it just comes down to who I feel closest to and who will put the best plan in motion for me as a professional basketball player.

Howie Long-Short: Earlier this week, we wrote that Puma (PMMAF) had announced its re-entry into the $1.131 billion U.S. basketball market with the signing of Marvin Bagley III (5 years). That was just the start of things — the company has since announced the hiring of Jay-Z as Creative Director, locked up DeAndre Ayton (plus Michael Porter Jr. & Zhaire Smith) and signed Walt Frazier (1st basketball player to endorse brand) to a life-time deal. While the company made has made headlines bringing in 2 top rookies and the rap icon, their choices are puzzling. Big men traditionally do not move shoes and celebrity ambassadorships rarely result in increased sales (save Rihanna/Puma). Jay-Z may not help the company sell any sneakers, but he should be able to help them land stars that are signed to his Roc Nation Sports agency.

Trae Young is another guy who Puma had been targeting. Young ultimately selected Adidas over Puma and Nike. It’s worth pointing out that neither Bagley, Ayton, Porter Jr., Smith nor Young signed with the company that outfitted their collegiate team.

Fan Marino: With a 7 foot 10 inch wingspan, Mo Bamba is set to become the “longest” player in NBA history (or at least the 19 year history of the NBA draft combine – Manute Bol reportedly had a 8 foot 6 inch wingspan); for comparison purposes, that .5 inch wider than Rudy Gobert’s and 2 inches wider than Shaq’s.

However, unlike those traditional bigs, Bamba can run. At May’s combine, the time he posted sprinting ¾ of the length of the court beat the times put up by Russell Westbook and John Wall at their respective combines. With a skill-set like that, it’s no surprise experts have Bamba projected to go as high as 3rd in this evening’s draft. DeAndre Ayton is expected to go first to Phoenix. The Sacramento Kings are expected to pick between Marvin Bagley and Luka Doncic at #2.

Moments after being drafted tonight, Mo Bamba’s first Panini NBA trading card will be made available on the Panini Instant (#PaniniInstant) online platform ( along with other NBA Draft Picks.

Speaking of DeAndre Ayton, he signed an exclusive autograph/collectibles deal with Panini America on Wednesday afternoon. Panini plans to feature the Arizona center on packaging for 2018-2019 products and his autograph can be found in packs of NBA and collegiate licensed packs. Suns fans will have the chance to buy his first card shortly after he shakes the commissioners hand.

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