Photos by Getty Images // Spark Sports Illustration
The final buzzer had sound. The confetti already covering the floor of the Oracle Arena as the Larry O’Brien trophy was held up by the new NBA champions for all the world to see. Following more than 2,500 games that took place over the course of the 2016-17 NBA season, the Golden State Warriors reigned supreme once again, winning their second NBA championship in three seasons.
However, the Warriors weren’t the biggest winners of the 2017 NBA playoffs.
In the battle between athletic apparel giants, Nike has been the most dominant since the first round of the NBA playoffs. Looking at the rosters of the teams who played in the playoffs, it’s easy to see why Nike has been the clear winner based on NBA player’s sneaker preferences:
|NBA TEAM||Nike||Jordan||Adidas||Under Armour||Peak/Anta/Reebok/Li-Ning/And1|
|Golden State Warriors|
|San Antonio Spurs|
|Los Angeles Clippers|
|Oklahoma City Thunder|
|Portland Trail Blazers|
Although most players such as John Wall, DeAndre Jordan and J.R. Smith are not reported to have deals with a sneaker brand, they have been seen wearing Nike shoes over other brands.
According to NPD Group, as of March 2017, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant’s signature lines of Nike basketball sneakers were the among the best-selling NBA styles, with Stephen Curry’s Under Armour ranking third and James Harden’s Adidas line rounding out the list at number five.
- LeBron James (Nike)
- Kyrie Irving (Nike)
- Stephen Curry (Under Armour)
- Kevin Durant (Nike)
- James Harden (Adidas)
Looking solely at the NBA Finals, it was once again a prominent face-off between two of the sneaker world’s biggest stars: Nike’s LeBron James and Under Armour’s Stephen Curry.
James signed with Nike out of high school back in 2003 to a seven-year, $90 million deal and hasn’t switched since. More than a decade later, Nike rewarded the four-time MVP with a lifetime deal reportedly worth more than $1 billion, the largest single athlete guarantee in the company’s history.
For Curry, he spent his first four years in the NBA with Nike before signing with Under Armour in 2013 before signing a contract extension that will run through 2024 and includes an equity stake.
Between the two stars’ endorsement companies, much has changed since Cleveland and Golden State first squared off in 2015. According to SportScanInfo per Forbes, just before Curry’s first NBA Finals appearance, Nike (along with its Jordan Brand subsidiary) dominated the sneaker market holding a commanding 95.5% of the $4.2 billion market while Adidas was second at 2.6% with Under Armour right behind at 1%.
Following the Warriors’s won the franchise’s first NBA championship in 40 years behind Curry’s stellar MVP season, Under Armour’s stock rose 64 percent from $161 million in the prior year’s period to $264 million in the first quarter of 2016, according to Under Armour’s Form 8-K report. However, the company’s stock declined following the Warrior’s loss in the 2016 NBA Finals and continued to fall 30% in 2017, including the company reporting its first ever quarterly loss.
On the other hand, Nike has also experienced struggled over the past two years, with the company reporting missed revenue expectations with it’s stock falling nearly 19% in 2016. Adidas saw the biggest growth after posting a 16% revenue growth in the first quarter, an 18% increase in brand sales and a 21% stock increase in 2017.
Source: Yahoo Finance
The reason? Consumers have been more concerned with fashion or “street wear,” which Adidas has thrived upon since the 1980s. Design collaborations with well-known music artists such as Kanye West and Pharrell Williams have boosted Adidas’s performance over the past year, seeing a 31 percent growth in North America in its most recent quarter.
Despite the rise of Adidas, Nike continues to dominate the market share in United States athletic footwear, owning more than 50% of the market with its two subsidiaries, Jordan Brand and Converse.
Source: Yahoo Finance
Although Nike and Under Armour each have one of the biggest NBA stars, there simply is no balance of brand reputation in the 2017 NBA Finals. Nike also endorses Kevin Durant and Draymond Green of the Warriors as well as Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson of the Cavaliers, with Durant and Irving releasing a signature shoe over the last few months. Nike’s NBA depth chart is certainly a deep one, with the entire Cavaliers roster wearing Nikes with nine on the Warriors. Immediately following the Warriors’s victory in Game Five on Monday night, Nike dropped an advertisement featuring Finals MVP Kevin Durant.
While Adidas has been on fire in 2017 without a large presence on basketball’s biggest stage, Under Armour has capitalized on its opportunity to mount a comeback in the sneaker market. However, Nike remains the most dominant force in basketball sneaker sales and looks to dominate the entire basketball apparel market by replacing Adidas as the new official uniform and apparel outfitter for the NBA in 2017. Nike paid a hefty $1 billion paycheck for the rights over the next eight seasons, but it’s expected to be a huge gain for the athletic apparel company after Adidas did not even bid to renew its contract with the league.
So with all the buzz about Nike, Adidas and Under Armour surrounding the 2017 NBA playoffs, it brings up a big question: does the average fan pay attention to the performance of an athletic apparel brand’s marquee stars? The answer is simply yes, and that has allowed Nike to be the most popular athletic apparel brand in the NBA community for many years. Yet, it’s continued dominance is just the beginning of a new era for the company.
Follow Arthur Puu on Twitter: @arthurpuu