I honestly believe we have reached a point where we don’t need another signature sneaker athlete. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Donovan Mitchell are the latest players to hold the honor but I think we are at a good spot at the moment. Zion will be the closest, but he is going to be the face of the Air Jordan 34 this season.
In October, I wrote that the sneaker industry reached a breaking point with signature sneaker stars, but I have to admit that I was wrong. There might be room for just one more star out of the lucky few that holds the honor. Dallas Mavericks phenom Luka Doncic has emerged as a serious MVP candidate and his sneaker free agency couldn’t have come at a better time.
Doncic who was recently named SI’s Breakout Player of the Year is in position to capitalize on a new sneaker deal after his two-year deal with Nike expired before the season. He is currently flirting with averaging a triple-double with 30.0 points, 9.8 rebounds and 9.2 assists per game. He ran away with last year’s Rookie of the Year award and at just 20 years old his marketability provides a ton of upside for brands. The European product finished second in All-Star voting among Western Conference forwards to LeBron James last season and has 3.4 million followers on Instagram.
His production has exceeded expectations and after a year where we saw Giannis Antetokounmpo and Zion Williamson receive big pay days from Nike and Jordan Brand respectively, Luka is definitely next in line to capitalize on a lucrative deal.
The Nike signature roster is already stacked with LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George. The Swoosh doesn’t need another signature athlete but having a young MVP-caliber player like Doncic walk away would be tough. The brand should enter negotiations with the ghost of Stephen Curry in mind. Nike infamously blew negotiations with Curry and he left for Under Armour where he ascended into a future Hall of Famer and a two-time MVP in a short span.
Doncic has already proven that he is a mega star in the league and at only 20 years old, he is going to be around for a very long time. He is also a Nike fanboy who was signed to the brand during his time in Real Madrid (the team has strong ties with Adidas which is saying something about Doncic’s loyalty). He has been rocking Kobe IV’s throughout the 2019-20 season and wore a bunch of Nike flagship models last season such as Kobes, Kyries, PGs and Hyperdunks. He also helped introduce the Nike Adapt BB—the autolacing sneaker. While it is not clear whether he would instantly be named on the signature roster, he could develop into one of Nike’s main guys in the not too distance future.
If any brand NEEDS Luka Doncic, it is Under Armour. The brand is looking to regain some strength after a tough year in the business. CEO Kevin Plank announced he was stepping down at the beginning of 2020 and the brand is in desperate need of a star to pair alongside Stephen Curry. Curry hasn’t been shy about his support for Doncic to join the brand. Doncic has flirted with a potential UA partnership by wearing the Curry 7 in multiple games this season. It is also worth noting that Seth Curry plays on the Mavericks and could be driving force in Doncic's recruitment. A trio of Curry, Doncic and Joel Embiid is a great recipe for some great campaigns down the road.
Adidas makes perfect sense for Doncic who could join James Harden, Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell and teammate Kristaps Porzingis on the roster. The brand could opt to use Doncic as a signature athlete while also providing him with the opportunity to wear a bunch of the Three Stripe’s latest products from Yeezys to Ultra Boost and more.
It kind of reminds me of the Harry Potter sorting hat scene when the hat tells Harry he would do great things at the Slytherin house but Harry ultimately wanted to be with Gryffindor.
Signing Luka would come with some complications. Adidas is already grooming Trae Young to be a signature athlete down the line and both players will be connected to each other forever due to their NBA draft history. How will a potential Luka signing impact Young’s ranking within the brand?
Second: Doncic has been a Nike loyalist until recently and didn’t even wear Adidas while playing for Real Madrid. While it is a great fit, I will be shocked if it happens.
Not sure if there is a brand having a better start to the 2019-20 NBA season than the Jordan Brand. They shocked the world and signed Zion Williamson. The Air Jordan 34 is already considered one of the best basketball shoes out. The brand also signed Celtics’ star Jayson Tatum and rookie Rui Hachimura, who became the first player born in Japan to be drafted. The brand has also been on a hot streak with Travis Scott, the Air Jordan 1 “Dior” announcement and various other collabs.
If you can’t tell by this picture, Luka is a huge MJ fan.
Doubt this signing happens after splurging on Zion but the possibilities would be endless if they landed Doncic to the team.
This would be a major win for Puma who lack a bonafide star to carry the basketball division. They have been aggresive when it comes to seeking out young talent such as RJ Barrett and Marvin Bagley III but they just need their version of Michael Jordan or what Curry did for Under Armour. Who could step in and help the brand reach new heights? Puma would have to come up with a Godfather offer along with the rights to Jay-Z’s masters to get this deal done but if they are serious about this basketball thing, you can't go wrong with adding Luka.
Doubt this happens but you have to give credit to New Balance for marketing around an unmarketable star in Kawhi Leonard and actually making it work.
Anta, Li-Ning, Peak
Can never count out the Chinese market. Li-Ning has been aggressive in pursuing NBA stars with D’Angelo Russell the latest to join the brand under the Way of Wade line.