Would it have been weird to see LeBron James wearing Reeboks?
That’s almost what happened according it a new excerpt from a book by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, titled “LeBron Inc.”
On the precipice of Zion Williamson becoming a pro and potentially signing a massive shoe contract, this new tidbit of information from James’ career seems pertinent. According to Windhorst, James was going to sign with Reebok thanks to the size of their offer, but didn’t want to because he didn’t like their shoes.
By the time the signing bonus and other factors were included, Reebok’s offer to LeBron was around $115 million, according to those who were familiar with the final numbers … staggering.
But LeBron had something else on his mind. He knew the numbers. He’d been sitting with the reality that he might be going with Reebok for a couple of weeks at that point. But he didn’t want to do it. He didn’t like their shoes that much. A couple of years earlier, one of Reebok’s endorsers, Shawn Kemp, had said the shoes Reebok gave him failed during games, calling them “throwaways” in an interview with a newspaper reporter. Reebok sued Kemp for saying it, but he said it just the same. LeBron had always envisioned himself wearing Nike and wanted to be a part of their great ad campaigns and work with their designers.
After all that, LeBron agreed to a seven-year, $77 million guaranteed contract with Nike plus a $10 million signing bonus that would get the deal to $87 million.
With incentives, LeBron’s first deal with Nike pushed him over the $100 million mark. According to Windhorst, Reebok’s stock price dipped the day after it was announced that LeBron signed with Nike.
Kobe Bryant once was with Adidas, and as we’ve seen with other players before, a lot of the time guys start out with one company simply because they pay them the most money.
It’s not as though LeBron’s first shoes were exactly iconic from a design perspective. His first sneaker was modeled after the Hummer he had in high school, and were about as mid-2000s as you could get.
LeBron has a lifetime contract with Nike now, and it’s hard to imagine him being anywhere else given the ubiquity of Nike in the NBA sphere today.