Reported adidas Deal With Andrew Wiggins Sets Precedent Very High

Posted by David Harten on October 17th, 2013

According to various media reports on Tuesday, adidas is already stocking up to make a play on current Kansas star Andrew Wiggins, with the shoe giant ready to the throw a 10-year, $140 to $180 million contract at him when he goes pro after this season. Wiggins is widely touted as the top prospect in the 2014 NBA Draft, so let’s move past any issues or claims of amateurism and instead look at the how and why of this supposed deal. Looking at the immediate future, when Wiggins is selected in the first round of the draft next June, he will get the guaranteed four-year contract that comes with selection as a first round pick, per the NBA’s recent collective bargaining agreement. Breaking it down to a simple annual take of salary ($4 million-plus per year) plus endorsements, Wiggins will make a minimum of $18-$22 million per year beginning next summer, assuming of course that he lives up to the overflowing hype while passing through Lawrence.

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For comparison’s sake, let’s look at some of the more lucrative endorsement deals offered to young professional basketball prospects in the last decade. It’s tough to find a good benchmark, but you have to start with LeBron James’ deal with Nike in 2003, which was reportedly worth over $90 million at the time. In terms of one-year collegiate wonders, Kevin Durant signed a seven-year, $60 million deal with Nike when he came out of Texas, and lest we forget, Derrick Rose signed a monster “lifetime” (actual: 14-year) contract with adidas last year worth $260 million.

And yet, none of those deals are as important as the one that Wiggins could reportedly sign. There are certain number of factors that go into it. First, a company being publicly locked and loaded with such a deal (of course, neither adidas nor Wiggins can confirm it) could set off a behind-the-scenes bidding war and set the stage for preemptive moves like this in the future. Everyone around the game knows that the business of basketball begins when top players are still in the AAU ranks. With the shoe companies having such deep and prolific roots in the summer circuits and associations with the major prep schools, it’s easy to understand how and why many players are predestined for adidas, Nike, Reebok, and so forth from the beginning. Kansas is an adidas school. Wouldn’t it make sense for Wiggins to represent the shoe company on the court this season with such a tremendous payoff waiting for him in the wings? Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA, Dream Vision and adidas all say hello.

Perhaps the only thing precedential about this precedent is that it has leaked before Wiggins ever suited up for the Jayhawks. Certainly other phenoms have had deals already in place. But it does set the bar for otherworldly talents in more ways than one. First, it shows the next generation of studs where the benchmark now lies. LeBron set it at $90 million a decade ago; Michael Jordan at $2.5 million a couple of decades before that. Now, it’s $180 million. Don’t think for a second that the next generation of stars — Jahlil Okafor, Myles Turner, Emmanuel Mudiay, and so on — didn’t hear that figure and immediately start thinking, “If that guy Wiggins is worth that much, how much can I get?” The second piece is that it shows a financial commitment to a player commensurate with basketball becoming a more global game. The Canadian-born Wiggins doesn’t speak English as a second language or come from an unknown faraway land (Thornhill, Ontario); but the ‘Maple Jordan‘ has the game and potential marketing chops to make the necessary cultural leap from an American player (like LeBron or Kobe) owning the world marketplace, to a foreign-born player doing so.

The final point is that, as if the presumptive #1 pick wasn’t already in the cross-hairs of every opponent he’ll face this season, the deal, for better or worse, puts a punctuation mark on his Kansas career. What if for some crazy reason Wiggins just doesn’t live up to the hype? Every misstep will be met with the criticism that he isn’t worth anywhere near nine figures; every mistake will be tweeted and YouTubed along with branding the adidas figure around the world within minutes. The deal, in all its promotional glory if he succeeds, therefore adds another level of anticipation to Wiggins’ on-the-court exploits, even if some people are tuning in just to watch him fail.

David Harten (12 Posts)

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