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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Blake Griffin Is Severely Underpaid by Nike in His Shoe Deal

When Blake Griffin was drafted number one overall in the 2009 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers, he signed a reported 2-year shoe endorsement deal with Nike for $400,000/year.

To the average person, that’s nearly 10 years worth of salary or one year’s worth of free Nike products. To us fans, that seems like an incredible deal, one that we would sign in a heartbeat. But in the world of NBA mega-endorsements and multi-million dollar deals, Blake Griffin is severely underpaid. With his hype and fame skyrocketing higher and higher with each and every dunk, Blake’s value-to-cost ratio is growing.

Looking at the last few draft classes, here are a few examples of shoe endorsement deals for top flight rookies:

Player, Company, Draft year, Position, Contract

Kevin Durant/Nike – 2007, #2 pick, 7-years, $60 million
O.J. Mayo/Nike - 2008, #3 pick, $400,000 per year
Derrick Rose/Adidas – 2008, #1 pick,  $1 million per year
Michael Beasley/Adidas – 2008, #2 pick, $650,000 per year
Blake Griffin/Nike – 2009, #1 pick, $400,000 per year
Brandon Jennings/UnderArmor – 2009, #10 pick, 2-years $2 million
John Wall/Reebok – 2009, #1 pick, 5-years, $25 million

Some estimates said that Blake Griffin’s All-Star Game exposure alone for Nike was worth over $400,000. Blake was a prominent fixture all weekend long, playing in the Rookie Challenge, winning the Slam Dunk Contest, and playing in the All-Star Game. Think of the millions upon millions of viewers worldwide that tuned in to see Blake jump over that car. And now you can see that clip in endless Kia commercials worldwide.

Overall, Blake hysteria has taken over the NBA world. He makes a nightly appearance on EPSN’s SportsCenter Top 10. His YouTube videos have totaled over 10 million views. He’s given birth to countless Blake-centric blogs. He even got MySpace.com to dedicate their entire homepage to him during All-Star Weekend. According to Google Trends, there are more “Blake Griffin” search queries than “Kobe Bryant” or “LeBron James”. Needless to say, Griffin has become an internet sensation and his stardom has turned into super-stardom.

The one constant throughout all these events has been Blake’s shiny red Nikes. Every time you search for Blake on YouTube, see a picture of him destroying Mozgov, or catch a highlight on TV, you are getting a glimpse of his shoes — Nikes to be exact. That’s free advertisement for Nike that can quickly add up to millions of dollars in value. Yet it only cost Nike $400,000 per year. To put that in perspective, O.J. Mayo, who is now a bench player for the small-market Memphis Grizzlies, makes the same amount from his shoe deal as Blake Griffin. Nike essentially hit the lottery when they signed the former Oklahoma All-American. Will Nike get a bargain again when they have to re-sign him this off-season or will they shell out millions to keep from losing him to a competitor?

Recently, Blake was spotted during a Nike/Jordan photoshoot dressed as what appears to be a homage to Spike Lee’s “Mars Blackmon” character. Not sure what the introduction of the “Blakeman” character means. Perhaps Griffin is going to sign a new deal with Jordan Brand. Blake doesn’t currently have a signature shoe with Nike but he does wear a pair of Player’s Eddition Nike Air Max Flys.

So, what is Blake Griffin worth? According to SportsMediaWorld.com, Blake could be looking at a maximum of $2 to $2.5 million dollars per year but he would have to land a signature shoe to go along with that contract. The real question is with whom would he sign? Many players do tend to side with Nike for a number of reasons outside of money — nostalgia, brand recognition, look and feel of the brand are also key factors. It was reported that Kevin Durant took $10 million less when he chose to sign with Nike over Adidas.

The biggest stars in the league make upwards of $100 million per shoe contract. With the current CBA talks lingering and the uncertainty of what the new max-contract might be, players might end up making more from their shoe endorsement than from their NBA contract.  For icons in the business, shoe deals extend far beyond their playing days. Players like Michael Jordan, Andre Agassi or David Beckham (who signed a lifetime deal with Adidas) continue to make millions per year even in retirement. Surely Griffin is worth much more than he’s currently making in his prime.

Shane is a new contributor to Larry Brown Sports. You can find him babbling about basketball all over the net or tune in as he tweets nonsense on twitter; @Suga_Shane.



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