The Houston Rockets have him locked up for the next three years, but James Harden still managed to score arguably the biggest deal of the summer. The second-place finisher in 2014-15 NBA Most Valuable Player voting — and the top vote-getter among his peers — last month agreed to a reported 13-year, $200 million contract to move from Nike, the brand he'd endorsed since entering the NBA in 2009 (it's remarkable to revisit both how psyched he was by his closet full of Dunks and how much shorter his beard was back then), to Adidas. Harden will get his own "exclusive signature collection," as well as a voice in design and marketing efforts as the Three Stripes attempt to regain the ground they've lost to Nike and Under Armour in recent years.
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While Adidas made its major investment in Harden in August, his contract as an endorser and brand ambassador doesn't begin until Oct. 1, meaning he doesn't need to be fresh-dipped in stripes for another couple of weeks. Still, his choice of footwear following a recent trip to the multiplex to watch "Straight Outta Compton" with girlfriend Khloe Kardashian caught the ever-watchful eye of TMZ Sports:
James Harden -- Still Rocking Air Jordans ... What Adidas Deal? (PHOTO) http://t.co/n7lgnnlRC7— TMZ Sports (@TMZ_Sports) September 14, 2015
... and Harden's Air Jordans evidently raised enough eyebrows that the Rockets star's new partners addressed them in a brief chat with ESPN.com brand enthusiast Darren Rovell:
Asked whether Harden will have to stop wearing his Air Jordan collection in public when the deal officially commences Oct. 1, Adidas' Mark King said, "That's part of the deal."
"The difference between football and basketball is that a guy like [ Green Bay Packers quarterback] Aaron Rodgers [who just inked his own Adidas deal] doesn't have a walk-around shoe," King said. "Harden does, and he will be in our lifestyle stuff."
Harden was spotted wearing the Air Jordans by TMZ on Friday while walking out of a movie theater with girlfriend Khloe Kardashian, who was wearing an Adidas sweatshirt and sweatpants. Kardashian's brother-in-law is Kanye West, the name behind the coveted Adidas Yeezy line.
Having Harden in that "lifestyle stuff" was considered a significant contributing element in the decision-making behind Adidas' mammoth offer, as Brett Pollakoff wrote last month for The Sporting News:
But there was an off-the-court element, too, that made Harden so appealing. He is well known for his fashion sense, and adidas is a match on that side thanks to its wildly successful Originals side of the business. Harden will have the opportunity to create clothing and lifestyle editions of footwear that didn’t exist for him at Nike, and adidas can market those to a more willing target group of consumers.
Even so, though, I tend to agree with the folks who looked at this as much ado about absolutely nothing:
Can someone please tell me what the point of the "Harden will have to stop wearing Jordan" article was? Duh. But can't wear adidas yet— Nate Jones (@JonesOnTheNBA) September 16, 2015
i'm a little lost on the Harden/Jordan outrage. He does not have to wear Adi until 10/1. why do it until you get paid? Seriously?— Matt Powell (@NPDMattPowell) September 16, 2015
Whatever the case, it appears that Harden got the message. TMZ caught up with Harden again, and the bearded baller (who seemed to have had a bit of a long night) made sure to note not only that he had Adidas on, but that big things were coming as a result of his new collaboration:
So there you have it: No more Js for James, and Adidas is "about to crack" and "about to be amazing." Great stuff.
And now, for your viewing enjoyment, here is an infinite and silent loop of what James Harden's face looked like when he yelled "SWAAAAG!" Have fun, y'all.
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