With Durant sidelined, non-Nike brands have big Finals opportunity

9

The Golden State Warriors aren’t the only team feeling the hurt of Kevin Durant’s calf-induced absence from the 2019 NBA Finals.

Without Durant on the court — and with LeBron James home for the postseason for the first time since 2005 — Nike is facing its first Finals since 2006 without one of its active signature stars playing.

Even that Finals matchup between the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks included former Nike signature players Gary Payton and Alonzo Mourning wearing black-and-red, Heat-themed editions of their respective late-’90s signature shoes, the Zoom Glove and Air Alonzo.

In the 13 seasons since, Nike has been able to count on signature stars such as James, Durant, Kobe Bryant and Kyrie Irving playing deep into June every year, giving the company the ability to introduce new technology, Finals-themed colorways and elaborate marketing campaigns.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Nike, the league’s official uniform and apparel outfitter, does boast Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam in this series, but none of them has their own shoe. In fact, Siakam’s 32-point performance in Game 1 came in Durant’s KD10, which was released two years ago.

For Under Armour, Anta, Puma, New Balance and Adidas, there’s an opening this spring for the first time in more than a decade, as Nike’s superstar roster had continued to dominate the landscape. The last Finals MVP who wore a non-Nike Inc. sneaker was Tim Duncan, who sported Adidas in the 2005 Finals, two years after Nike declined to re-sign him.9

A similar story could be unfolding in 2019 with Kawhi Leonard, who chose not to re-sign with the Nike-owned Jordan Brand and instead inked a deal with New Balance, immediately becoming the face of the company’s re-entry into the basketball market.

Leonard debuted the OMN1S model during All-Star Weekend in Charlotte and has worn a rotation of 27 different colorways in the months since. With an expected wide release not coming until October, the brand has released only a few hundred pairs of the sneaker to date. Dubbed the “2-Way Pack,” drafting from his status as perhaps the league’s best two-way player, a pair of the OMN1S and a similarly styled pair of the 997 Sport lifestyle sneaker was released online, selling out in mere seconds.

Luckily for New Balance, the sole launch to date featured the same colorway Leonard was wearing when he nailed his instant classic, Game 7 buzzer-beater over the outstretched arms of Joel Embiid, advancing the Raptors past the second round and toward their first trip to the NBA Finals in franchise history.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Both models were designed by Leonard himself, featuring regal hues of gold and purple, along with a faux crocodile, textured collar. The instant sell-out gave New Balance confidence and hope as it heads toward additional moment-driven, surprise releases should Leonard win the NBA championship.

In the week leading up to the Finals, New Balance digital banners flanked the streets of Toronto, declaring Leonard the “King of the North.” The morning after the Raptors’ convincing Game 1 win, the brand launched yet another billboard campaign, this time just off Oakland’s 880 highway heading toward Oracle Arena.