One billion dollars! *Dr. Evil voice* LeBron James’ recent lifetime deal with Nike has generated much discussion, The Four Corners would be hard pressed not to weigh in. Tackling the aforementioned and more, TFC literally go coast to coast with voices from Portland, Oregon, to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and of course home base of Toronto, Ontario. The panel is comprised of Noah Koné @el_kone, NBA player marketing and brand manager, and President of K-One Media, writer and Sole Shift contributor, Ryan Gonzalez @ryn_gnzlz, Nathan Clarke @crtsdsnkrs, kicks czar of the East Coast, Owner & Operator of Courtside Sneakers and Sole Shift editor-in-chief Duane Watson. @duanewatson

With LeBron James has done a rumoured lifetime deal valued north of a billion dollars, do you feel Nike will get their value?

Koné: I do think that Nike will get their value, I’m sure if Nike had the opportunity to set up a deal with MJ that paid him a sum over the course of his life as opposed to allowing him to have control over his own brand, they would do it. Wouldn’t surprise me of LeBron has already made Nike a billion or more, and players legacies only get stronger over time. So this deal will be beneficial for both sides. Hopefully it serves as a model to future athletes that make a huge brand impact. Think of it like this, in order for LeBron to get paid a billion, Nike has to have made and anticipates making much much much more…

Gonzalez: Nike made upwards of $7 billion in revenue in 2015. Give LeBron a billie to make sure he doesn’t jump ship and join Under Armour? A drop in the bucket.
Clarke: A billion jumps off the page. Jordan is selling 2.5 billion a year, can LeBron do that? In my opinion it’s hard to imagine. MJ was MJ, LeBron is the best of this generation but he isn’t as universally loved. But Nike is the best in the world, I trust they know what they’re doing from a business standpoint.
Watson: Think of it as long-term planning, and keep in mind Nike is really paying for the association more than anything. Michael Jordan is still a top endorser, years after he stepped off the court. With a collection of new sneakers bearing his name and a retro catalogue that earns significantly more. LeBron is the new generation MJ, and while he didn’t create the genre, kids will talk about the LeBron Zoom Generation, LeBron 6 or the LeBron 9 South Beach in a similar way years from now.
The Philadelphia 76ers were the first team to sell ad space on their jersey’s. How long before the majority of the league hops on board?

Koné: I think the rest of the league will be fully on board with jersey ads by the 2018-2019 season. It’s going to be an eyesore for fans, but the league has to continue to find ways to generate revenue, the jerseys are exposed as much as the player’s faces are, so the addition of ads seems natural in the progression of the NBA’s marketing plan. I personally don’t mind them, so long as the players find a way to get a percentage of the additional advertising revenue, (yes the salary cap is going up, but this could be a whole new revenue stream depending on how the NBA packages it) or is there is an added benefit to the fan experience based on whichever brand is the title jersey sponsor. Would be a shame if McDonalds added a patch to the Pistons’ unis and didn’t giveaway free McDoubles at the game, just saying…

Gonzalez: This is gonna be interesting. What will happen if KIA sponsors say, the Pacers, and Ty Lawson, God forbid, has a relapse and gets booked for another DUI? Do they have the right to pull their sponsorship midway? Would they have to change the uniforms, thus creating a collector’s market for uniform variants???
Clarke: Money makes the world go round. I think every team will jump on ads quickly.  People need to remember these ads will only be on player/game worn jerseys and not retail jerseys.
Watson: The first domino has dropped, the worst team in the league for the last two seasons has secured a $5 million dollar a season deal!?! If I’m an elite squad what can I get? Even if I’m a lower level team, this is found free money. I would be surprised if every single team didn’t have an ad/deal in place by the end of next season.
The KD8 Elite is Kevin Durant’s signature playoff sneaker. Yet Durant switched back to the standard KD8 after the first round. Does it say something when an athlete is not pushing a product they are “supposed” to?
Koné: Well, the shoe companies typically get very upset when players don’t wear the shoes their supposed to, but at the end of the day it’s about health, comfort and performance. If KD felt like the other shoe was better broken in, it makes sense why he switched.I think the fans take notice of the shoe choices players make very closely, but I don’t think it’s a major issue that he switched shoes, because he still switched to his own shoe. Nike probably will encourage him to wear the 8’s or see if their are adjustments that need to be made to the shoe.
Gonzalez: I think it depends on the reason he did it. If it’s because the shoe is uncomfortable and affecting his play, then that might be a problem. But if it’s because KD is a superstitious nut like most professional athletes, then that’s fine. And KD is on fire right now. As long as he keeps killing Golden State, wear any shoe you want, Kevin. So long as they’re KD’s hahaha
Clarke: LeBron not wearing the 11 was a problem, but I don’t think this KD move should be an issue. It’s playoff time, a lot of athletes are superstitious, ball players especially. You have a couple good games in one model, you keep riding it out.

Watson: This isn’t the first time. KD gave up the KD7 at one point and reverted back to the KD6, which wasn’t a ringing endorsement. Now he pushes the sockliner KD8 and even doubles down with the knee-high version, but just when the playoffs get interesting, he goes to the old KD8. Not necessarily an incentive to get consumers to purchase something new that they may not be ready for.