Written by Gerald Flores (@ImGeraLd)
Adidas is on the verge of making another talent acquisition. It’s not another music icon like Kanye West or a highly-regarded fashion designer like Yohji Yamamoto, but a basketball player.
In fact, a pretty average basketball player when compared to adidas’ current roster of stars that includes Dwight Howard, Damian Lillard, John Wall, and (2011) Derrick Rose.
Houston Rocket Jeremy Lin is speculated to be the next NBA pro to join the German sportswear brand. You can argue he’s a decent baller, with season averages of 14.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 4.2 assists. But at best, he’s only the third best player on his team behind Dwight Howard and James Harden. Those usually aren’t the type of statistics that get a player to the NBA All-Star Game, let alone signature sneaker deals.
So why would adidas go through the trouble of trying to bring Lin over from Nike? The simple answer is that it’s more than just basketball. Much like how the NBA is becoming more globalized, sneakers are also becoming much more of an international business.
Why would adidas go through the trouble of trying to bring Lin over from Nike?
Lin proved his worldwide appeal in February of 2012, during his short (but memorable) stint with the New York Knicks. The term “Linsanity” became recognized everywhere, as Lin became an improbable sports story that dominated headlines for three weeks. He led the Knicks to a series of unforeseen victories while Carmelo Anthony was out with an injury. Someone even made a documentary about it. More recently, Linsanity struck again in Taiwan when the Rockets played an exhibition game there past October.
What adidas is getting isn’t just another pro athlete to slap its logo on, but an international commodity. And with both Nike and adidas racing to be the top sportswear brand in the China, according to the Wall Street Journal, it also doesn’t hurt to have an endorser that looks the part.
Of course, the elephant in the room when it comes to anything Jeremy Lin-related is his race. Cue the conspiracy theory that Lin is getting this reported sneaker deal because he’s Asian, while dozens of other deserving, talented black, white, and Hispanic ball players don’t get the same opportunity.
First of all, Lin is Asian-American.
Second of all, it’s more than just stats when it comes to brands choosing which personalities to align with.
Third of all, the key word is personality.
Lin isn't your average NBA star who played one year at an ACC or SEC school. He has an economics degree from Harvard University, which he completed with a 3.1 grade-point average. He's also very open and devout with his Christian faith. He's safest bet for a footwear brand as, arguably, anyone in the NBA.
Lin isn't your average NBA star who played one year at an ACC or SEC school. He has an economics degree from Harvard University.
These selling points for adidas are huge. Sheer athleticism on the basketball court or football field doesn’t always translate into creating a global fan base. LeBron James and Kobe Bryant excluded.
Take this for example: Put Jeremy Lin into a Google search browser and you’ll fetch about 30.5 million results, which is about 10 million more than his NBA All-Star teammate, James Harden.
That’s something an athlete can’t earn at the gym or through hours of practice. No one has a definitive explanation for how Jeremy Lin got this following, but it’s probably something adidas wants to be a part of.
And you can’t blame adidas for wanting a piece of Linsanity. But Nike’s already been there with quickstrike “Jeremy Lin” Air Force 1s and “Linsanity” graphic T-shirts a couple years ago. By the way, who's thirsting after that type of merchandise now? Exactly.
No one definitively knows what adidas can accomplish with Jeremy Lin on the roster. (We reached out to the brand who would neither confirm or deny the deal was official). What is known is that over the past couple of years, adidas has built a solid group of players to rock the three stripes on court, from the aforementioned Lillard and Wall, to the likes of Ricky Rubio, Iman Shumpert, Darren Collison, Jrue Holliday, and even seven new rookies this NBA season.
It’s also pretty safe to assume that Jeremy Lin isn’t getting a Derrick Rose-sized deal or his own signature shoe. But just like Lin’s pro-basketball career, you never know. This might turn out to be surprising.