Kawhi Leonard is at weird place in his NBA career.
He’s easily a top 5 player when playing but he’s only appeared in 9 games this season with a mysterious tendinopathy in his right quad.
On top of that, he’s medically cleared to play but he’s not returning to the Spurs. And despite it being pure speculation, the rampant rumors are he wants out of San Antonio.
Kawhi has said 0 about that so at this point everything is valueless but at the same time, the superstar small forward has let the rumors swell by not saying anything.
And with that storyline leading the way, more news has come out that he and Jordan Brand haven’t come to an agreement.
But the news doesn’t make sense. Per everybody, probably starting with ESPN, the story goes:
Jordan Brand, which is a division of Nike, and Leonard’s representatives came “very close” to completion on a new four-year extension worth more than $20 million. But discussions broke down abruptly because representatives for Leonard didn’t feel that the new deal reflected the forward’s accomplishments and standing within the league, sources said.
So let me get this straight, they were “very close” but then they weren’t.
That’s an asinine leak but there’s bound to be truth in the two main components of this leak.
First, it’s a great time for Jordan to offer The Claw an extension. He’s got a lot of shaky energy surrounding him and his career has hit a standstill.
Perfect opportunity to buy low and lock up a steal superstar who gets a ton of respect from fans everywhere.
Second, Leonard would reject that paltry deal.
Similar NBA Superstar Shoe Deals
In the fall of 2015, Steph Curry got an extension from Under Armor that ran through 2024 and included an equity stake in the company. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were worth 2.5x of Kawhi’s latest offer.
A month prior to Steph’s deal, James Harden wrapped up an all-inclusive (social and basketball) $200 million deal with Adidas over 13 seasons.
In 2014, Kevin Durant apparently got about $285 million from Nike but the details are hazy. The article does say the annual money exceeds $20m annually.
And Forbes says Lebron James gets about $20m annually from Nike in what is called a lifetime deal.
These are Kawhi’s NBA peers. While #2 isn’t in the same arena as far as social engagement (online or otherwise), he is a quiet, dark superstar fans are attracted to.
In fact, despite his injury ravaged 2017-2018 season, he still ranks #9 on NBA.com’s best selling jerseys, ahead of MVP lock James Harden.
— NBA Store (@NBASTORE) January 16, 2018
Jersey sales aren’t dispositive by any means but they do show that Kawhi has fan appeal outside of his superstar level talent.
With his VIP status in the elite player’s club, the numbers above, and given Kawhi’s current in-limbo status, I think he’s in the $9.5-11m total annual endorsement salary range (rolling in royalties, any stock options, signature shoe possibilities, and performance bonuses.)
Also, keep in mind that one of the supposed landing spots should KL leave the Spurs is the Lakers where Kawhi would get a huge push from the national media coverage.
If I was Jordan/Nike, of course you’re trying to mitigate the Derrick Rose albatross Adidas contract risk I’d definitely pay attention to the upside that a full recovery brings.