We recently covered how Nike will become more cautious about signing rookies to shoe deals, since they let the two-time MVP Steph Curry walk for virtually nothing. After Ben Simmons, the presumptive #1 overall pick in this month's NBA Draft, announced he was going with Nike, we saw this new strategy unfold.
Granted, it certainly helped that Simmons played at a Nike school (LSU), wore LeBron's sneakers during his lone collegiate season, and even appeared on the cover of Slam Magazine in a pose similar to one LeBron did several years ago.
On top of all that, Simmons is represented by Rich Paul of Klutch Sports Group, which also represents James. Perhaps it's no surprise then, that Simmons took to James' Uninterrupted platform to announce the deal.
— UNINTERRUPTED (@uninterrupted) June 7, 2016
As clear cut as the Nike decision seems, it wasn't always obvious. Adidas also made Simmons a strong offer, in a contract full of incentives that could have had Simmons making $5 million a year within his first two seasons in the league. That's big endorsement money for a rookie.
Take away the incentives, though, and Nike actually outbid Adidas for the rights to Simmons, a rarity in the former's history. Initially, Nike offered $7.5 million over five years, but by the time Simmons signed, his deal was worth $12 million over five seasons, with incentives that aren't as high as the ones offered by Adidas.
By comparison, Adidas would have given Simmons a five-year, $10 million deal, with a $2 million signing bonus, a $1 million bonus if he won Rookie of the Year, and a "rollover clause." That clause is the key difference in potentially millions that Simmons could be making. If he won rookie of the year, that million dollars would be rolled over into his base endorsement salary the following season. And anytime he hit an incentive, he'd receive an extra bonus of whatever the incentive was worth, effectively doubling his money.
In the end, the tour of Nike's facilities, and getting to join a list of great players as Nike ambassadors was too much for Simmons to pass up. But Nike did have to offer more money than they initially wanted to, suggesting that even if they don't want to admit it, the company is still looking over its shoulder at the competition.