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What Do You Think?: The Next Signature Basketball Athlete

March 28, 2013 BY / 16

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Take a look at the NBA players that have signature shoes today and it’s clear that being a signature athlete requires the perfect alignment of skill, charisma, sheer location of employment, and a few other things that make a human into a superstar. LeBron, Kobe, Melo, CP3, Wade, and D-Rose all play in major markets where the opportunity for extensive media coverage is all but guaranteed, with Kevin Durant being the one industry anomaly of being a highly successful signature athlete playing in a small-market city; this seems like a healthy list that should hold us down for a few years, but being content only means one thing –  there is room for more.

The landscape of sneaker brands is unique in that some of these labels have become flexible with who they choose to represent their brands on that “face of the brand” tier. Take up-and-coming Under Armour for example; their lone signature athlete is Brandon Jennings, but with DeAndre Jordan playing in a huge market and his insane dunk placing some added spice to his shoes, the neophytic UA label has experienced some added exposure as the prime “indie” brand. While the responsbility that comes with being a signature athlete is something that can be compromised, Nike, Jordan Brand, adidas, Li-Ning, and Under Armour – the major brands in the basketball category – all have the room to fit in a new guy on the team.

But is it even time to welcome a new name to the sneaker industry? There’s no doubt that player names play a large part in shaping consumer tendencies, and with Kobe Bryant nearing retirement every passing year, LeBron well on his way to signature shoe history for Nike, KD well-ingrained in the Nike’s historical fibers, and D-Rose sitting prettily with a life-time contract, it’s a ripe-enough time for a fresh name to be thrown into the mix. Each brand across the board has a select group of athletes to represent their non-signature models, but is anyone ready to step up? We’ve narrowed down a list of the top candidates that may be worthy of sig-shoe distinction, so check out our list below and chime in with your opinions on this latest installment of What Do You Think?.

Kyrie Irving – Cleveland Cavaliers
Current affiliation: Nike

The case for: Kyrie is probably the #1 candidate to have a signature shoe for Nike. On the court, he’s shown flashes of greatness and looks to be a perennial All-Star type player – with potential to join Team USA in future adventures in the Olympic Games. In the point-guard position, Kyrie Irving is undoubtedly the future, and his recent showboating in the 2013 BBVA Rising Stars game proves that the spotlight is something he’s comfortable with. Off the court, Kyrie is slowly elbowing his way into the group of the most marketable NBA athletes today; his Uncle Drew campaign with Pepsi Max has made him a nationwide commercial star – even though he plays for one of the smallest markets in the NBA in Cleveland. His participation with Foot Locker also put his name at the forefront of the marketing campaign by the nationwide footwear retailer. Skill, marketability, charisma – the kid seems to be the whole package that just needs a few loose ends tied in.

The case against: As we mentioned earlier, Kyrie Irving plays for a small market team. Even though LeBron James had a signature line of shoes during his Cleveland days, the popularity of Nike LeBrons didn’t take off until he flew to Miami. In addition, Kyrie is prone to injury, missing a chunk of games in both years as professional baller and in his one season at Duke. He also doesn’t have that on-court bravado and intimidating presence as a LeBron or a Derrick Rose – but that should come with time. Can Nike strike gold again and bring in the next name in their legendary signature shoe history with Irving, who plays for a bottom-of-the-barrel team?

Filed under: Adidas Air Jordans Basketball Dwyane Wade Kevin Durant Kobe LeBron Nike Air Penny Reebok

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16 comments
youngkay60
youngkay60

it'll be James harden I think he's recognizable off the court and everyone start loving okc during the 2011-2012 season n the moment he leaves he has a breakout season come on its between him n kyrie

BackWearinthe45
BackWearinthe45

Game+Marketability+Personality is the key formula to carrying a signature line , that said its obvious Uncle Drew is primed to be a big star with the ability to carry a brand ...... a lil bias but wit the crazed Boston fan base imthinkmRondo been ready for his own Nike show since 2010/11 season , the many green custom PEs and early exclusives he gets tells me the ppl in Oregon are on the cusp of making it happen

kicks67
kicks67

Kyrie most def, if nike can steal Uncle Drew from pepsi its a wrap. Idk about rondo though because his personality seems kind of meh. I dont think I would walk up to Rondo and expect much of a response. Out of all these dudes BG and Harden would be most effective because of their easy marketing gimmicks. Blake has proven to be pretty good in commercials for Kia all he need is the marketing geniuses @ nike to add him plus his ridiculous ability to put a ball in the rim while in the air and its a rap. Harden would be easy because he wears his gimmick on his chin and every body is familiar (not to mention the influx of beard  popularity recently) with it. Its big it prominent and its pretty definitive all he needs to do is get his teeth fixed imo. His open mouth looks like vagina dentata. IDK about Anthony Davis uni-brow though, that shit is not a good look and people are all bout looks and his brow is a lil taboo in the us. Maybe in a foreign country like where frida is from or something. 

Da_Real_Big_Infinite
Da_Real_Big_Infinite

Rondo 1st & foremost... Is that's jus he's a beast & probably da best all around player in da group... And I can see Russell Westbrooke & Blake Griffen havin their own shoe wit JB... And kyrie needs his own shoe... Mayb James harden too

aintnojoke1
aintnojoke1

Not to be a downer, but I don't think it's any of them.  Just because you're a top 10 player in the league doesn't mean you get a sig.  It takes talent but also marketability, being recognized by people that don't follow basketball.  These are the guys, who are not just on the Olympic team, but the stars of the Olympic teams. It's not just enough to be an All-Star or Olympian, but to be the best of the All-Stars and Olympians. Those guys already have their signatures. The clostest to that is Blake Griffin because of the Kia ads, but big men don't sell shoes.  Kyrie, although the best future point guard is not really that recognizable, plays in a small market on a mediocre team, and in his pepsi comercials you don't see him. 

When I think signature shoe, I think game changers: Jordan, Lebron, Kobe, Penny, KD, Barkley, Iverson.   Even guys that got signatures that are great haven't had success: T-mac, Melo, Wade, Howard, CP3.  If I were a shoe company I'd sign these guys, have them wear their top shoes, make sick PE's and wait for the next game changer (who isn't here yet).

newsouth912
newsouth912

Can you really say John Wall? He's already had a signature line. I believe it will be Westbrook. He's been wearing the flagship JB shoe this year and some retros for the entire year ala D.Wade before he got his sig shoe in his 2nd year with JB

ayochaser
ayochaser

Kyrie definitely deserves one. I think Adidas needs another signature athlete. Only college teams really rock crazy lights, half of the adidas sponsored NBA players wear Roses and crazy shadows and no one but Dwight rocks his shoes. Any of the 3 guys up here would be good candidates. And if I were Westbrook & BG too I'd just want retro PE's like Ray. Either JB athletes have no say in their shoe designs or they just have bad ideas. 

mr_ball210
mr_ball210

Kylie is a beast. He has the best game of the options here, but he's gotta stay healthy. I think we don't even know the name of the next sig athlete.

TheKid
TheKid

definitely irving. so much potential. Could easily become the best guard in the nba in the next few years. nike doesn't give signature shoes to good players like harden or westbrook, nike gives signature shoes to the best players (kd lebron kobe). The only player who has that kind of potential in the above group is irving. 

JeRz
JeRz

Its gonna come down to Kyrie and J Harden in my opinion just because they're prolly the best marketable out of the bunch next to Blake Griffin who's shoe prolly wouldn't sell cuz JB shoes have been type ugly as of late

Gusto
Gusto

The popularity of LeBron's shoe took off with the 7, not when he went to Mia. Would have been sooner if all the sheos weren't trash. After the 8, the shoes have been garbage but it's to late now. The ship is moving.

S09442
S09442

Kyrie Muthalovin Irving!!! Been wanting him to get a sig for a year. He's definitely marketable (Uncle Drew), he's got incredible skill (6th youngest All Star ever), and he's going nowhere but up (potential best PG in the NBA in next 3-4 years). Only thing holding him back is injury.

youngkay60
youngkay60

@aintnojoke1 are you saying kyrie isnt a game changer you havent seen his highlights have you i assume not

newsouth912
newsouth912

@S09442 injury and the Cavs record. He was the #1 out of college but he didn't kill the college game like Melo or KD. He wasn't a super beast in H.S. where everything he did was on  Sportscenter (LBJ) and to a lesser extent (KG). Uncle Drew is Pepsi's brain child and doubt they'd let Nike borrow it. Although a great player, nobody on this list has the "it" factor to carry a successful signature shoe line



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