One of the most interesting, and underreported, aspects of Andrew Wiggins’ decision to enroll at Kansas instead of Florida State, North Carolina and Kentucky had little to do with basketball and everything to do with shoes.
Wiggins came up as a Nike kid. He played for the CIA Bounce, which is affiliated with Nike. Huntington Prep, Wiggins’ high school, was sponsored by the swoosh as well. But Kansas is an Adidas school, which more or less goes against everything that we’ve ever been told about shoe companies and recruiting.
How could Nike let the most hyped prospect in years end up at an Adidas school?
Perhaps more interesting: Who will Wiggins sign with when he gets out of college, and how much will that contract guarantee him?
Well, according to this story from Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report, Wiggins could be looking at a 10-year deal worth somewhere between $140 million and $180 million. That’s a lot of money.
Zwerling’s story is a fascinating look at certain aspects of the shoe industry. For example, if Nike shelled out that kind of money for Wiggins and made a push to turn him into one of the bigger names in the company, would that anger their two biggest stars, Lebron and Kevin Durant? What about Kobe? Would he take kindly to the swoosh making a bid to bring his defacto replacement under the company’s wing? How would Kyrie Irving feel, seeing as he may be passed over as the next big thing?
Zwerling also points out that something that I never realized about the shoe business: the companies don’t profit off of these massive contracts. Lebron didn’t become profitable under his ninth season with Nike. That’s not exactly a great business model.
More than anything, however, here’s the takeaway you should have when reading those numbers: it’s a joke to say that college athletes are getting a fair deal with a scholarship when Nike would be willing to pay Wiggins somewhere around $15 million a year to wear their shoes. Granted, Wiggins is an exception, not a rule; his value is rooted in how unique he is as a prospect.
But what about a guy like Marcus Smart? He’s an all-american that returned to school and he has a future in the NBA. You don’t think there’s significant value there? Or what about a guy like Alex Len? He played at Maryland, where Under Armour founder Kevin Plank went to school. Under Armour is trying to break into the basketball shoe market. You don’t think they would have been willing to spend some money to get him under the UA umbrella once they realized he had a shot to make the league?
This is an argument that takes a lot more than just a 400 word blog post to make, but it is worth pointing out just how much value some of these “amateurs” and “student-athletes” actually have.