With Luka Doncic the latest young star to sign a multi-year multi-million dollar deal with Jordan Brand, Emmet Ryan on why we can expect two words to come to the Jumpman label that will make a world of difference
The pursuit of Luka Doncic was always Nike’s to lose, be it with the Swoosh or Jordan Brand, but the nature of his deal with the latter points to a big series of changes coming for the shoe line named for Number 23.
Doncic joins Jayson Tatum and Zion Williamson as young stars with potential or likelihood to get signature shoes to sign with the brand that just doesn’t do them in the conventional sense. At least it didn’t but the Doncic deal all but guarantees that is changing.
Williamson’s signing with Jordan Brand raised a few eyebrows given the expectation that he’d be in line for a signature shoe deal were he to live up to his potential, both on the floor and in moving interest amongst fans.
Tatum doesn’t quite have the same upside, purely when it comes to the end game of a shoe deal before people talk about basketball skills, but Doncic is such a slam dunk for a signature deal that it is all but inevitable Jordan Brand is making a qualified jump.
Part of this is down to the bevy of athletes Nike has deals with under its core brand. With LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Paul George, and, most recently, Giannis Antetokounmpo getting lines amongst active players. That doesn’t just take up a lot of cash, it also eats into the time and focus of marketing teams.
Contrast that with Jordan Brand where signatures have been the exception. Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul both had signatures with the brand but Wade hasn’t been with Jordan Brand since 2012 and CP3 is very much on the backside of his career.
The other ballers signed to Jordan Brand over the obviously youthful trio listed above either haven’t got signature shoes or aren’t likely to anytime in the future with the brand.
That creates an opening for what is a still growing part of Nike as Jordan Brand can focus more on the young crop coming through, building off them, which in turn can reinvigorate its look with the younger buyers.
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That brings us to Luka. Whatever doubts about a European star being able to shift sneakers were put to rest by the tremendous success of Antetokounmpo’s first line of shoes. Doncic was on a Nike deal through his rookie year but it famously ran out at the start of the season.
That’s because he was on a two year deal he signed while still with Real Madrid in Europe, where you might recall he won Euroleague and ACB MVP along with the championships of both and the finals MVP of the former.
Luka’s brand in Europe was built but that wasn’t enough, understandably, for Nike to make a big push right away. Instead it got the type of deal it would kill to be able to do with more top prospects.
Nike would have, leave no doubt, looked to have done a similar deal with Zion Williamson in college if it could have. Adidas probably would have looked to have locked him down the same way. Neither could because NCAA rules prevent it.
Doncic wasn’t a college player and was thus in a unique position to sign a shoe deal before going to the NBA surrounded by chatter. Even people who hadn’t watched him wanted to know about him.
That’s the type of athlete you want on your books on a brand friendly deal in order to be in the right spot to make a move when it’s time to go for the real big deal. It’s essentially a home court advantage.
Don’t expect to be wearing Jordan Doncics, Tatums, or Zions, all at once. The brand is almost certainly going to look to build out signature lines for all three if possible but we have seen the risks of rushing.
A bad first shoe is just not worth the risk. The first shoe under an athlete’s name doesn’t need to be fire but it has to get people liking it all the same. Meh or no are bad results for the long term durability of a line.
Still, it’s extremely likely that we will see Jordan Doncics announced inside of two years and on the shelves within a year of that. There was a thirst when the Freak’s first shoes were hinted at and a surge when they were released. Nike knows how to make you drink your fill and it’s highly likely Jordan Brand will take a similarly patient approach.