Russell Westbrook, the NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player, will look to continue to establish himself as one of the league’s top global superstars, inking a 10-year extension with Nike’s Jordan Brand that will be the most lucrative total endorsement deal for a Jordan athlete to date, according to industry sources.
After first signing on with the brand to an initial five-year endorsement deal in 2013, Westbrook has been positioned as the face of the brand and led the annual Air Jordan model each subsequent season. During that stretch, he also elevated his game on a year-by-year basis as the franchise point guard of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The new shoe deal extension, negotiated by the Wasserman Media Group and Westbrook’s longtime agent, Thad Foucher, is in advance of the initial deal’s expiration next fall. The increased pay rate will also retroactively apply towards his 2016-17 MVP season, according to sources. He wore Nike sneakers during his first four years in the NBA, before the company aligned him with Jordan, in order to have a dual-brand presence alongside Nike signature athlete and then-teammate Kevin Durant.
This past season, the 6-foot-3 star not only led a retooled OKC roster to the postseason after Durant’s departure, but did so while averaging a triple double — 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists — a first in the NBA since Oscar Robertson’s feat in 1962.
The long-term extension will link the 28-year-old Westbrook with Jordan Brand through as long as the 2025-2026 NBA season. The deal will also include both on- and off-court signature sneakers, new territory for Westbrook. As he’s continued to lead the Air Jordan game shoe each season, the brand launched two off-court geared silhouettes, dubbed the Westbrook 0.1 and 0.2, but had held off on designing a performance signature shoe for the hardwood.
Now that the decade-long deal has been locked in, the process is underway to begin developing an on-court Westbrook signature. The shoe is expected to undoubtedly highlight his flashy and unpredictable fashion lens — “unlike anything that Jordan Brand has done before” — according to an industry source. There’s also been a distinct separation in his tastes for games and lifestyle sneakers, as he prefers deconstructed and simplified casual shoes off the court, versus highly sculpted, molded and responsive basketball shoes.
As for the delay in creating a signature model for the league MVP during the rise of his prime, there’s a bit of a case study in place from the brand’s recent history. After adding Dwyane Wade to the Jordan roster of endorsers before the 2009-2010 season, the then-Miami Heat star led the Air Jordan 2010 and 2011 models, before debuting his own Fly Wade signature series. As Wade’s endorsement deal was set to expire in 2012, he left the brand for equity in Chinese company Li-Ning, making his Jordan signature series short-lived, with just two models releasing in stores.
Rather than invest resources into designing, developing and marketing another possibly short-lived signature line, Jordan Brand wanted to first ensure that Westbrook would be with the company for the long haul. Just after agreeing to the extension, Westbrook and Jordan embarked on a multi-city, rapid-fire tour of China, with Westbrook again supporting the newest Air Jordan model. He’s expected to lead the XXXII for this upcoming NBA season.
While he’s looking forward to accelerated creative control on his upcoming signature footwear and clothing in the near term, there’s an additional quirk in the deal that he’s equally proud of — Jordan Brand will contribute an annual donation to Westbrook’s “Why Not?” Foundation, which aims to launch even more “reading rooms” and other educational and athletic initiatives for kids in Westbrook’s two home bases of Oklahoma City and Southern California. As the two sides look to continue their partnership beyond the prime of his career, the deal also includes a rare “ambassador clause,” providing Westbrook with appearance opportunities and additional Jordan Brand legacy potential, even after he’s retired from the NBA.