By Bob McGee. New Balance has finally punched its re-entry ticket into the NBA, signing Toronto Raptor and former Brand Jordan endorser Kawhi Leonard to a multi-year endorsement contract reportedly valued at more than $5 million annually. It is unclear at this point when and if Leonard, an NBA All-Star, will have a signature shoe with New Balance. Leonard is the brand’s most high profile NBAer since the 1980s and former Laker James Worthy. According to SB Nation, Leonard, a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, declined to re-sign with Nike’s Jordan Brand earlier this year.
With the contract, Boston-based New Balance ends its months-long quest to establish a new foothold on the NBA hardwood. Earlier this year, NB lost out on its attempts to ink Boston’s Gordon Hayward (Anta), Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid (Under Armour) and Washington small forward Kelly Oubre Jr. (Converse) to endorsement agreements.
New Balance joins a growing number of brands ¬– including Puma, AND1 and Fila –taking aim at the basketball category with a variety of strategies. Read our story on the current state of the basketball footwear market in the latest issue of Footwear Insight.