Jay Z's 17-month-old sports agency, Roc Nation Sports, is still fighting for legitimacy.
It only represents nine clients in three sports, and it has "generated more anonymous sniping and scrutinizing" than your typical agency from rivals, according to a recent New York Post report.
Last Saturday Roc Nation pulled off what was perhaps its most significant deal to date, landing its most famous client, Kevin Durant, a 10-year endorsement contract with Nike that could be worth up to $300 million.
It's a monster deal. Durant's last Nike contract was worth $60 million over seven years. LeBron James, the reigning king of the sneaker world among active players, makes an estimated $20 million annually from Nike — less than Durant will make under his new deal — despite his signature shoe raking in a reported $300 million in revenue per year compared to Durant's $175 million.
Roc Nation got Durant so much money by starting a bidding war with a company with little basketball history, Under Armour.
According to ESPN's Darren Rovell, Nike initially offered $20 million per year. Roc Nation then went to Under Armour and got an offer for $26-28 million per year. News of the negotiations leaked, prompting a wave of stories about Under Armour's mission to take down Nike. In early August, it seemed like Durant-to-UA was all but a done deal.
Finally, at the "11th-hour" (as Rovell calls it), Nike exercised its right to match any offer and gave Durant a deal worth up to $30 million per year — 50% more than the company's initial offer.
It was a risky move, especially if Durant didn't want to leave Nike, which is a distinct possibility.
In 2007, Durant turned down a $70 million sneaker deal from Adidas and took less money, $60 million, to sign with Nike.
At the time, his agent told ESPN, "He took the time to give Adidas the opportunity and they're a great company, but he chose the company that he's more familiar with. And we build brands on authenticity and it's more authentic for him to be somewhere where he wants to be and he's comfortable."
After his new Nike deal went through, NBA player and Under Armour endorser Kent Bazemore tweeted at Durant thanking him for considering UA. NBA veteran Andre Iguodala replied to Bazemore and implied that UA was never a real possibility, saying, "I had a better shot at Halle berry!"
Roc Nation has landed big deals before. Last December it got Robinson Cano a 10-year, $240-million contract with the Seattle Mariners.
But considering the stakes involved — this is likely Durant's last sneaker deal as an active player — it's the young agency's biggest move to date.
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