Kevin Durant is not one to hold his tongue for others when it comes to questions that demand real answers.
He supported Colin Kaepernick last year, reinforcing the fact that athletes have a huge platform which should be utilized to support worthy causes.
Im behind anyone who stands up for what they believe in, Durant said last year. Colin Kaepernick is standing up for what he believes in. Thats what makes our country so great, right? You have the luxury to do so. He was unapologetic about it and, in his defense, I dont think he was trying to disrespect anyone. I think he was trying to get his point across. Im all for anyone who wants to do that. As athletes, we have this huge platform. A lot of people are watching at all times. Sometimes it may not be what you do, they like. But if you feel like its gonna be impactful, thats on you. I feel like everyone should stand up for what they believe.
The Discussion on Colin Kaepernick Continues
He doesn’t hesitate to speak his mind, nor does he back down from those who come for him, demonstrated through the war of words he and ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith have had over the last few years.
This all remained true when he appeared on The Bill Simmons Podcast this week, where the NBA Finals MVP spoke on the current political and social climate as it relates to sports and athletes.
I understand what goes on with that, as far as being reluctant. You have a family to take care of and that might affect your job, KD said. Once it gets real like that, youve got to make some decisions, and I understand that. But if you feel like you need to speak out, be confident in it a lot of people are going to have your back. And its cool to have a conversation about how we can help this thing get better. So if we disagree, lets try to come together and come to an agreement at some point somewhere. So its good that these players are talking out.
Durant elaborated on athlete activism and praised fellow athletes such as Colin Kaepernick, Michael Bennett, LeBron James and teammate Draymond Green. While the issue of activism in sports has been much discussed, especially after Kap took a knee last season, it was Durant’s comments regarding sneaker companies that might be the most interesting.
When discussing the recruiting process, Durant did not mince words when it came to the long-standing sneaker wars, going right at Under Armour, the company which tried to recruit him in August of 2014 when his Nike deal was on the verge of expiring.
The rapidly expanding company from Baltimore reportedly offered him a ten-year deal worth between $265 million and $285 million. Sneaker heads and those in the footwear business almost lost their minds when the news surfaced, wondering if this was going to be the moment when David finally wounded Goliath; not mortally, but enough to shake up the industry.
But in the eleventh hour, Nike came through with a deal rumored to be around $300 million, keeping Durant with the company he had basically worn since his days at the University of Texas, and most likely before that.
Excited and humbled to sign back with the swoosh!
“I think a lot of kids, to be honest, they don’t choose Maryland unless they play in like an Under Armour system coming up,” Durant said to Simmons. “Shoe companies have a real big influence on where these kids go. Nobody wants to play in Under Armours, I’m sorry. The top kids don’t because they all play Nike.”
Did Durant just shade Under Armour, the company who sponsors his teammate and one of the most popular players on the planet, Steph Curry? Yes, he did. Is it fair? Let’s take a look at the Terps record.
The Terps became an Under Armour school in 2008, and since that time they have made five NCAA Tournament appearances, had five seasons with 24 or more wins and made it to an NCAA Tournament Regional Semifinal. The nine years before that, when they were a Nike school, they made the Tournament six times, won 25 or more games four times and won the National Title in 2002 after losing in the semifinals the year before.
Outside of the Championship, the records were pretty close.
But shade aside, Durant’s statement is most interesting and should be contemplated.
Everyone knows that Nike dominates the sports apparel and footwear categories. That’s not surprising. What is eyebrow raising is the question which Durant invokes. Do kids really choose their school based upon the sneaker sponsor?
If you look back at the Men’s NCAA Basketball Champions between 2007 and 2017, only two non-Nike/Brand Jordan teams have won the title: Kansas in 2008 (Adidas) and Louisville in 2013 (Adidas).
Does this mean that the sneakers helped them win the title? Not directly, but they could be the reason why those student athletes selected those schools. During this period of time, the top basketball programs in the country, such as UNC, Kentucky, Duke, UConn and Villanova, all won titles, and it’s no random coincidence that they are all Nike schools. So it’s justifiable to infer that that sneakers play a part in winning programs.
While Nike’s power and influence over the sneaker industry is obvious, hearing Durant voice this fact while also going at Under Armour shines a bright spotlight on the competitive, and oftentimes shady, world of recruiting.
To Under Armour’s credit, they do have sponsorship deals with some good basketball programs. Unfortunately for the brand, their deal with UCLA didn’t commence until a week after Lonzo Ball entered the NBA Draft. Good news for them is that LaMelo and LiAngelo are supposedly up next for the Bruins, so we’ll see if more talent follows them, and Under Armour, to Los Angeles.
While the debate over choosing a school because of their sneaker affiliation is a question best posed to all college recruits for validation, there is no doubting that it does play a role in the overall decision making process.
But instead of posing the question, just check out the footwear on the blacktop and you’ll probably have your answer.