Nike and Adidas have controlled the sneaker market in the NBA for decades–sneakerheads won’t even try other brands. But newcomer Anta, a small sneaker brand based in China, is breaking into the league by signing a 10-year, $80-million-dollar deal with superstar Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors, who recently broke the record for most 3-pointers in a single game. Anta also has endorsement deals with athletes in pro boxing, tennis, and running. Thompson is one of the best shooters in the NBA and has endorsed Anta since 2014, signing the 10-year deal in July of 2017. He has put this small brand on the map and people are starting to hear about them but what are the benefits over signing with a big brand like Nike?
“I knew with the other brands in the States, whether it was Nike or Adidas, it was going to be tough for me to get a signature shoe,” Thompson said. “I knew with Anta, I would have so much input creatively. I was going to hopefully be the Michael Jordan one day of Anta. That really resonated with me, and knowing that I could be really big in China, that was really cool to me. The shoe market sometimes is overflooded in the States, and I thought, well, why not branch out and be global?”
Thompson is not the first player to go this route. In the 1980s, Nike was a different brand. Converse and Adidas dominated the market. Then a rookie named Michael Jordan was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 1984 and in the same year signed a shoe contract with what was then a small brand.
“I’d grown up playing in Adidas sneakers and wanted an endorsement deal with Adidas,” Jordan said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. Nike offered him an annual $5,000 payment for five years which was the most expensive contract at the time. Adidas offered him a contract nowhere close to that amount. He didn’t like the shoe that Nike showed as examples but the executives said they would let him have creative input about how his shoe would be made. At the time this was out of the ordinary, brands would commonly make shoes and give them to players to wear. Even after being offered this big of a contract, he still wanted to go to Adidas. Jordan gave the brand time to match Nike’s offer but the executives in Germany decided shoppers would favour taller players over the, apparently “short,” six-foot-six shooting guard.
The Anta KT4 is the fourth iteration of Klay’s signature shoe. It retails at $149.99 USD but there are many sales available. It features a knit upper with Anta’s A Flash Foam in the midsole.
Back in 2011, nobody knew that Klay Thompson would be such a prominent player in today’s NBA. Now, with Thompson’s stock on the rise, Anta has got to be feeling great about their investment.