#WWS 43: Andrew Wiggins and Sneakers

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Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning, and Andrew Wiggins 

Although the college basketball season is still over a month away, Andrew Wiggins, uber-uber-uber prospect of the Kansas Jayhawks, found his way into the spotlight in a big way. Getting a Sports Illustrated cover before playing one collegiate game is a sign of game changing expectations. Rumors of a $180 million sneaker contract when you’re 18 speaks of worldwide, pop culture relevance – the type of impact Lebron James shared to become the world’s first billionaire athlete.

The Sports Illustrated cover, and resulting piece was framed by Wilt Chamberlain and Danny Manning’s journey to Kansas Jayhawk glory. It focused on how much recruiting, and the country changed since Chamberlain was not served in Kansas area diners on his trip in the mid 1950s. Fast forward to today where fans have been following Wiggins’ online recruiting battle, and watching his YouTube compilations since his freshman year at Huntington Prep.

Nike or Adidas?

Perhaps the biggest symbol of Wiggins’ potential impact is the $180 million sneaker endorsement number for a player without one minute of college experience. That is double the figure Nike signed Lebron James after getting drafted by the Cleveland Cavs in 2003 (James also was on the SI cover as a high school prospect). $180 million is getting your own shoe line money, which only the top stars from James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, and Derrick Rose claim. Even Kyrie Irving had to wait three seasons before getting his own Nike player edition – and perhaps another year before he receives his own lucrative line. I repeat again: Wiggins hasn’t played one minute of college basketball.

Is Wiggins worth $180 million? Is any player worth that much in a sneaker deal? As the article points out, it takes years before shoe companies make money back from these deals, provided the player pans out. The top dog of the basketball industry, Nike is the most obvious front runner for Wiggins’ eventual signature. But with James, Durant, and Bryant already with their own line, and Irving supposedly on deck, where would Wiggins find a role amongst the group? Adidas has an in with Wiggins through their sponsorship of Kansas, but they put their eggs in the Derrick Rose basket by signing him to a 13 year, $185 million contract. Yes, that contract is more than Wiggins but Rose was the youngest MVP in NBA history at 22 years old, and Adidas had to pay a “Nike tax” to prevent him from jumping brands. Wiggins and Rose, along with Damion Lillard, would certainly be a strong lineup for Adidas. But at what price – literally, and figuratively?

First, before the franchise tags and sneaker endorsements, Wiggins must play a game. Then play a season, then the NCAA tournament, then enter the draft. For now, chemistry class.


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