Expected No. 1 overall draft pick Markelle Fultz agreed to a multiyear shoe deal with Nike on Friday, opting to sign with the company after years of playing in the brand’s sneakers through high school and college.
“Growing up, I always wore Nike shoes,” Fultz told The Vertical on Friday over the phone. “I always wanted the newest Jordans and the newest Nikes that came out.”
For Fultz, who starred at Nike-sponsored DeMatha High School in Maryland and then at the Nike-sponsored University of Washington, there was a comfort level with the brand.
“Nike has always been one of my favorite brands,” Fultz said. “I went through the process with all of the companies. All of the brands did a great job. When I went to Nike with my mom and sister, they had a lot of pictures of me around campus, which was pretty cool. Nike is one of the brands that I’ve been with for a long time, so I had some favoritism going that way. It was something that I felt was best for me and my family.”
With aggressive interest from adidas and Under Armour, each athletic brand keyed on Fultz’s explosive on-court play and relentless work ethic. Offers from each brand topped $1.5 million annually, industry sources told The Vertical, with additional incentives for earning NBA Rookie of the Year honors. Some brands even offered a $500,000 signing bonus. From Fultz’s perspective, it’s his all-around appeal that warranted the bidding war.
“Off the court, how humble I am, and how I can impact people,” he said. “I think I relate to a lot of people through the game of basketball. From going through failure and not making JV and turning into what I did. My ability to do what I did on the court shows the results of what I can do.”
Between his familiarity with the brand’s sneakers on the court and his love for wearing a variety of Nikes and Jordans casually off the court, Fultz was focused on Nike from the start.
“With the things I have planned for my future and my brand, seeing how they can help me build my brand in the right way [was important],” Fultz said.
During his lone season at the University of Washington, the 6-foot-4 guard ranked second in school history with a scoring average of 23.3, which also led the Pac-12. Fultz donned a mix of sneakers throughout the season, ranging from purple-accented LeBron Soldier X’s to the “OVO” themed Air Jordan XII, a collaboration with rapper Drake.
“I like mixing it up on the court. I like having comfort, ankle support and then making sure the bottom of my feet won’t hurt,” Fultz said. “I like to have some style on the court, too, and changing colorways or different shoes.”
With his Nike deal locked in, Fultz is looking forward to tracking down old and new sneakers. A longtime fan of wearing everything from the latest technology to retro classics, Fultz, an avid collector, will now be doing so as an official endorser.
“Off court, I wear everything,” Fultz said. “I’ve got a lot of shoes, and I’ve been collecting since I was young. Growing up, I collected all different kinds of shoes. It depends on what my outfit is, and I always start my outfit with my shoes. I wear a lot of old stuff, from Air Force 1s to Jordans, and I just love sneakers.”
It’s worth noting that his shoe deal with Nike doesn’t include a signature shoe just yet, as the brand will look for Fultz to lead its newest statement-level team sneakers and establish himself in the league.
“I haven’t really thought about what that could look like,” Fultz said of the possibility of a signature shoe. “But I have thought about how much love it would get.”
As it stands, there remains some uncertainty leading into Thursday’s NBA draft. With the Boston Celtics currently in talks to send the No. 1 pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, Fultz could potentially land in Philadelphia. Being the No. 1 pick is certainly on Fultz’s mind and has fueled his predraft training.
“It’s a blessing for people to think that I might be the No. 1 pick,” Fultz said. “It fires me up to keep working hard so that I can live up to my expectations and other people’s.”
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