When GOAT announced it had signed Kyle Kuzma, the deal looked groundbreaking for all parties involved. The press release for the deal said he would be wearing some of the most hyped sneakers in history throughout the season, with Kuzma offering the following quote: “People assume that, as an NBA athlete, you can get access to any kind of sneaker you want. When in reality, it’s hard to get the exclusive releases or shoes from the past, and feel confident they’re authentic.”
But there was one wrinkle — he’d be wearing solely
— kuz (@kylekuzma) July 20, 2017
But while the deal isn’t the groundbreaking move it was originally advertised as, it does represent a shift in the relationship between reselling platforms and sneaker companies. Brands have long used hype sneakers as a testing ground for new shoes and, judging from the amount of basketball players wearing Off-White™ during last season, the results have been so successful that athletes now want in on the hype train. In addition to this, the deal also makes Nike’s work with the athlete that much easier in a number of ways.
The first reason is being relieved of the task of finding rare sneakers for Kuzma — a much harder task than is assumed. Hype affects everyone — even the likes of legendary athletes such as Roger Federer, who told us in an interview last year the troubles he has of getting hold of some of the rarer sneakers. And if the tennis legend can’t get a pair, then it’s likely to be even harder for an NBA upstart.
This solution also avoids the sticky subject of players having to wear their rivals shoes. The Kyrie is one of the most popular shoes in terms of sales, ranking second behind LeBron James’s shoes when it came to sales. Kuzma is fine with wearing James’ signature shoe now they’re teammates – He’s already been seen wearing the LeBron “Birthday” 4’s and, thanks to GOAT, was last seen wearing the actual Nike Zoom 2K3’s that James wore in his first NBA practice, although he merely wore those as part of his pre-game outfit.
But it’s unlikely he’d wear a pair of Irving’s alongside players such as Luka Doncic, who created a custom pair of Kyrie Low’s for NikeiD. Over the last year Kuzma avoided this conundrum by mostly wearing Kobe Bryant’s range and is wearing the NikeiD A.D’s for NBA’s opening week. Now it appears he’s taken a step further away from the current model of shoes.
It’s no secret that basketball shoes are on an overall downturn, with NPD reporting the market peaked at $1.3 billion USD in 2015 and falling by 13.6% since then. In contrast, the retro market is worth more than three times that amount, worth $3 billion USD. This move could be the start of Nike attempting a new strategy with basketball, utilizing some of its most watched athletes solely in throwback models in order to help boost the already burgeoning retro market.
It’s also a way for Nike to give a player something unique to wear without having to go through the expensive process of creating a signature shoe, something that’s increasingly becoming not financially wise for the sports giant given the decreasing size of the basketball market.
? Hook for Hook ? pic.twitter.com/hQSWgevbR0
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 15, 2018
Of course there’s a number of potential pitfalls here — namely if GOAT accidentally kit him out in a pair of fake sneakers, but as the companies reputation depends on it, it’s safe to assume they’ll be working overtime to avoid this. Another question that needs asking is what it’d look like if sneaker reselling platforms ever do have the financial ability to fully sponsor an NBA player?
Increasingly more loyal to hype than a specific brand, the upsides of signing to a reseller or retailer are obvious — freedom to choose. The downside of this would mainly be for the reselling platforms themselves, who depend on co-operation from the sneaker giants. Any move that takes the platform from complementary secondary market to competitor would likely see the full weight of Nike coming down on them in ways that could affect their bottom line significantly.
The key thing to take away from this deal may be less so that athletes are signing with reselling platforms and more that players are searching for individuality in the newly relaxed NBA world. And, as it turns out, using official reselling platforms as a fixer might just be the best way to achieve it.