We go from from Philly to the Philippines, as our panel weighs in on NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s comments on Nike vs. adidas, if Jordan Brand is gaining ground in the performance footwear arena, and wonder where John Wall will sign his next shoe deal.
This week, The Four Corners, is made up of Sole Shift Associate Editor Ray Bala @CanBallReport, SLAM Magazine contributor Anthony Gilbert @axgilbert, Host of SportsDesk on CNN Philippines, Mico Halili @micohalili and Editor at HoopHeadsNorth.com and Sole Shift contributor Sean François @seanfrancois.
What are your thoughts on NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s comments on SLAM Online, that Nike is better for the NBA than adidas, and were you surprised he so candid?
Gilbert: Commissioner Silver is a very smart man with a laid back disposition. Nike has already signed on as a partner, so it’s good business to get ahead of the change and speak freely about the brand and future of the league’s uniforms/apparel. He didn’t make adidas look bad, but he in my opinion stirred the pot just enough. Now he has everyone waiting and wanting the new products. I’m not surprised by him at all. Adam Silver has always been a man of the people, so for him to be very open…it makes people like him that much more…and at the end of the day, he just sold a ton of the new uniforms.
Bala: Personally, I think Adam Silver is hitting the nail on the head. adidas, by and large, has been a little behind on the creative side, and by that I mean just in general. I’m not saying that they didn’t come up with some nice stuff (think Boost and their early aditech lines) but they seemed to stagnate after they release their “latest thing.” It’s cool that they created Boost but the shoe silhouettes are pretty much the same, and lack any real variety (for better or worse). Nike, even though you can say that they have also be reusing technologies/innovations, are at least creating new twists on them creating more varieties and flavors to chose from, and that’s not including their retro or Jordan stuff. As the official NBA supplier of whatever, I think adidas really lost a great opportunity here.
Oh, and I am surprised by Silver’s candid comments about Nike being better for the NBA. There has always been a diplomatic approach to the anything from the commissioner and the NBA front office, but I guess this is just echoing true feelings he has about the soon-to-be finished adidas partnership (which is subtly not so good), and he’s making a subtle statement that he isn’t too concerned about who’s feelings he hurts.
Halili: Silver’s answer was perhaps based on each brand’s comprehensive plans in maximizing league-brand partnership in terms of tech, apparel innovations, cross-platform marketing, as well as feedback from players. Yes, Silver’s candor is surprising. But he could afford to be candid if he studied comparisons extensively. Which he most likely did.
François: Those were definitely surprising comments from Adam Silver, in our age of political correctness and less people willing to truly speak their minds in open forums. That said, Silver referenced Nike’s CEO, Mark Parker, saying that ‘basketball is the soul of Nike’ and it certainly seems to be the type of organic match Silver has for the vision of the NBA, and how they interact with league partners. Especially one as important, integral, and visible as the uniform supplier is to the NBA. Nike’s worldwide marketing reach and the brand’s immersion is essentially represented at every level of basketball and can only be a positive from the NBA’s perspective.
Where do you think John Wall signs, and will he get a signature sneaker?
Gilbert: John Wall has always been a Nike/Jordan guy (he signed with RBK initially because they made a great offer, and he is a big Iverson fan), so I think he will sign there, and he would have to wait his turn to see if the return will be high on the Nike/Jordan investment. It’s highly unlikely that he would get a signature shoe…however he would get some nice player exclusives and probably some nice print/billboard ads.
Bala: I think all roads are pointing at John Wall signing with Nike. He’s been wearing Nike shoes for the most part of the season and unless another company wants to come in and pitch him a $10 million per year deal he was asking Adidas for last year he seems all but locked up. I can’t really see him with any other brand (outside of Under Armour what would really make sense for him financially). But he has to know that if he (ultimately) signs with the Swoosh that he wouldn’t be getting a signature line, particularly with their roster of stars as it is. Outside of that, Wall isn’t a signature guy, he’s not someone I’d look to as the guy to carry a brand on his own. The only way he would be able to have his own pair now, would be to sign with a smaller company like Brand Black or Li-Ning but that would mean a hefty pay cut, which I don’t think he’s looking to do.
François: I suspect that John Wall will sign with either Jordan Brand or Nike. During the NBA All-Star Game in Toronto he wore ‘French Blue 12’s, and he was seen at the the ‘306 Yonge’ Jordan Brand pop-up shop that weekend customizing some J’s. This doesn’t mean he will for certain, but if I had to guess that’s what I would say. I don’t think he’ll get a signature shoe right away if he signs with JB or Nike, just based on other elite NBA players currently endorsing those brands who don’t have a signature shoe of their own. That said, we’ll have to wait and see as the signature shoe may be something he’s currently negotiating with whichever brand he ends up partnering with.
With the release of the Jordan XXX, Ultra Fly, and the Super Fly 4, is Jordan making inroads as a basketball performance brand?
Gilbert: The Jordan Brand has long been known for being the best, and they have over the past couple of years shifted to being the ultimate in training and performance in footwear and apparel. Larry Miller has put an emphasis on training and preparing and I feel that the products speak to his vision. The problem is that in an effort to capture the essence and cool of Michael Jordan the basketball player…a lot of athletes wear his retro models to add the same style and class to their game…and they don’t necessarily wear the new performance shoes. I understand it 100%…yet if I were playing in high school, college, or the NBA…I would want the new and best technology available, but I would also like to have the Jordan XVI because it’s an amazing shoe that I played in back in the day. I think the Jordan Brand should take some of the old silhouettes and update the technology. Could you imagine Zoom Air in the forefoot of a Jordan III or V? That would be crazy good.
Bala: I think yes. Micheal’s retirement, plus the heavy reliance of retros to the overall business has, in my opinion stunted that performance side that was a calling card of the early Jordan Brand releases. The XXX, Ultra Fly and Super Fly IV look to point to a resurgence of the performance side and I think the weight that the name and brand carries should be enough to really get them back on that side of the map.
Halili: It will probably take more time to make consumers look at the Jordan brand as equal parts heritage brand and performance brand. Experts already have tremendous respect for Jordan brand performance tech.
François: I think basketball players who have experienced the unlocked Zoom in their Jordan Brand footwear have really found it to be responsive and comfortable (I know I have). Those are two huge factors when it comes to establishing quality functionality when bringing new footwear to the marketplace, especially when trying to differentiate what the brand offers & represents. Jordan Brand has been using all of the technology at their disposal, and have been taking the aesthetics forward as well.