Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler is now the face of Chinese sneaker company Li-Ning. Fresh off an NBA Finals trip, Butler had been with Jordan Brand since 2014.
Earlier this week, Li-Ning signed free agent Fred VanVleet, adding to an NBA roster that includes:
- CJ McCollum
- D’Angelo Russell
- Udonis Haslem
- A lifetime deal with Dwyane Wade
Li-Ning isn’t the only Chinese sneaker company signing players:
— Anta: Klay Thompson, Rajon Rondo and Gordon Hayward are all signed with the brand.
— Peak: Rumored to be connected to Andrew Wiggins. In the past, Peak has worked with Lou Willams, Dwight Howard and Tony Parker.
Rookie shoe deals are scarce right now: A normal year will often see roughly half of the top 10 picks sign shoe deals prior to the NBA draft. LaMelo Ball — who went No. 3 to the Charlotte Hornets — was the only top prospect with a deal in place after signing with Puma.
Why? Performance basketball shoe sales are down 20% year-to-date. Adidas and Nike have been relatively quiet this year; Nike’s fiscal 2020 revenue was down 38% year-over-year, while Adidas’ revenue is down 18% year-over-year through its third quarter.