Growing up in Illinois, a little south of Chicago, I was directly affected by the virtuosic ways of hoopers such as Dwyane Wade, Antoine Walker (don’t argue), and, of course, Michael Jordan. Over the last half-decade, the Midwest has produced players like Derrick Rose, who now carries the torch on the hardwood for the region.
But with the announcement that Chicago native and new Milwaukee Buck, Jabari Parker joining the Jordan Brand: a new generation has begun. With Parker’s roots being from the home that Michael Jordan built, he could bring something to Jordan Brand that no other athlete can.
Endorsement deals and pop star cosigns being a major aspect of the sneaker industry, it was no surprise that Jabari Parker joining Jordan Brand made major news. The young star made his name by dominating the hardwood from Simeon Career Academy’s courts in Chicago, all the way to Cameron Indoor Stadium as a member of Coach K’s Duke Blue Devils. Parker’s game resembles that of a savvy veteran trapped inside a 19-year-old’s body (a very big body).
The Chicago connection is something that no other basketball athlete under the Jordan Brand umbrella has.
With the Jordan Brand already stacked with charisma, talent and marketability, the addition of Parker could be a significant step forward for them. He may not boast the flamboyant steez as the typical superstar, but he is still considered to be among the top players in this year's draft. The self-effacing baller fits the Jordan Brand mold perfectly with his selfless approach both on and off the court.
Similar to Foot Locker’s “Not Nice” Kevin Durant campaign, Jordan Brand has the potential to utilize Parker’s unpretentious personality to increase his likability across a wider demographic, which in turn would generate more exposure for brand. In a time where leaving your “hometown” team, overly exaggerating a foul, or speaking your mind on social media can immediately make you the most hated athlete, Parker's principles can be the foundation of any successful marketing campaign.
But the biggest asset that Parker can offer to Jordan Brand is his disposition: his natural self. The Chicago connection is something that no other basketball athlete under the Jordan Brand umbrella has had ever since Dwyane Wade left the brand for Li-Ning. Parker is well known for putting on for his city.
Throughout many interviews, he’s expressed his interest in coming back home and playing an vital role in the community as a leader. I mean his twitter profile picture is of him and Derrick Rose when they were younger. Now being associated with Michael Jordan will be yet another breath of fresh air for Chicago. Yes— if he would have signed a shoe deal with adidas or Reebok, I am almost positive he would have been extremely grateful. Now, when Parker goes back home he will be representing the same player that he and his entire city idolized for almost two decades. Signing to Jordan Brand is a match made in heaven for both parties.
Parker provided a little foreshadowing last year when he was named the Jordan Brand Classic MVP in a pair of the special edition Air Jordan XX8s. Though the terms of Parker’s deal were not disclosed, you can be sure that we're in store for a heavy dose of PE Air Jordan XX9 sneakers for his first season with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Rookies receiving shoe deals before playing a game isn’t as rare as some may think. We’ve seen players like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Grant Hill, and John Wall receive signature shoe deals as first year players. Measuring the success of these types of deals has been a major topic of discussion as of late. To the avid fan or member of the sneaker culture, the importance of celebrities or favorable athletes is a important part of a company's success. But on the business side, these contracts don't always lead to revenue for the company. It will be interesting to see how Jordan Brand decides to gauge their return on investment with Parker's deal.
Parker is poised to be the next young star, due to his humble attitude and incredible skills on the court. It might not take long to see flashes of greatness from the kid with the backing and resources that Jordan Brand has to offer. It's funny to think that Parker was born just weeks before the Air Jordan XI originally released - now he may have is own player exclusives of the iconic sneaker. Sounds so soulful. Don’t you agree?
Joe Sherman is a contributing writer to Complex. You can follow him on Twitter here