When taking a look at the 2020 NBA rookie draft class you notice an unusual occurrence. Except for LaMelo Ball, the rest of this year’s draft class has not signed a sneaker endorsement or sponsorship contract with a brand within the past year before entering the league. This has never happened before in today’s NBA, where tunnel pics and multi-million dollar sponsorship deals for a panacea of different products happen daily.
Sponsors usually jump at opportunities to sponsor top young NBA talent, and usually do so before the draft. The top ten is typically always under contract with Nike or Adidas or other top names in the industry, as companies like to find the next big stars at a young age and ‘play a bunch of lottery tickets’ usually from the first round. Maybe the delayed pandemic draft played an impact but this is still unheard of in the sneaker industry.
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The No.1 overall pick, Anthony Edwards, of the Timberwolves is even unsigned. Lamelo signed a monster deal with Puma after pushing away Big Baller brand. LaMelo seemed to be the prize of this draft for sneaker and apparel companies and made the most noise with his signing but there hasn’t been anything else to talk about. The only other rookie with a sneaker deal worth noting is Nuggets, RJ Hampton, who signed a multi-year deal with Li-Ning in 2019 when he was playing overseas in Australia, so that doesn’t count.
No doubt that the global pandemic is playing a huge role here but maybe companies are not taking as much of a risk now on untrusted rookies with huge deals. According to Nick DePaula of THE UNDEFEATED, most brands have stated that they will begin discussing new contracts after the new fiscal year starts on January 1. Some brands have stated that they are waiting until as long as July 1 before they can offer players new contracts.