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Welcome to “The Sneaker Game”

Last Updated: July 21, 2021
Boardroom’s newest show is here to discuss from every angle what makes the sneaker industry move.

In connection with the release of “The Sneaker Game,” Boardroom is giving away a signed pair of game-worn KD 14s, a 2007 Topps Kevin Durant rookie card, and a signed copy of NBA2K15 with Kevin on the cover.  Sign up below for a chance to win!*

On a late Friday evening at the Thirty Five Ventures office in New York, Kevin Durant begins to discuss the whirlwind process of deciding between signing with Nike or Adidas for his very first sneaker deal way back in 2007 – and it hits him.

He was just 18 years old at the time, weeks removed from wrapping up his lone season at the University of Texas, when his path into the business side of basketball all began.

“I’m like, ‘Oh, shit.’ I’m coming from the dorm room, getting on this private jet to go to Portland to do these meetings,” he recalls. “Then, I’m coming back. I’m sitting down thinking, ‘Is it really about just the money? Or should it be about where can I build a nice brand?’”

Even though he took a reported $10 million less on that first shoe deal compared to the biggest offer on the table, Durant says he felt at home with Nike, that he could be most creative with the Swoosh and able to build out a signature sneaker business that would last him throughout his NBA career.

Boardroom’s newest show, “The Sneaker Game,” will be diving into the deals that move the industry, the thinking behind some of the biggest brand signings, and how the convergence of sports business, technology, product design, and hoops has all led up to the current frenzy around the footwear industry as a whole. Episode 1 featuring KD himself is available now.

From the athletes at the top of their sports, to the musicians and artists shaping style, to the fashion designers now emerging at the forefront of brands, each episode will feature a special guest diving into their imprint in the game.

And yes – we’ll be uncovering the untold stories of the industry’s biggest sneaker deals highlighted in the premiere episode by KD’s 2014 negotiations with both Nike and Under Armour, and the skyrocketing numbers that his 10-year deal ultimately landed.

“They reported it like it was a real free agency,” he now jokes.

Before then, the term “sneaker free agency” barely existed. Ever since, we’ve seen huge shifts across the industry and growing interest in offseason sneaker deals year by year.

James Harden dominated headlines in 2015 with an Adidas deal worth up to $200 Million. Ben Simmons’ rookie shoe deal in 2016 was featured in his own One & Done documentary. In 2017, Lonzo Ball ditched traditional talks altogether to launch his own brand, while Giannis Antetokounmpo re-upped with Nike after heavy courting from both Adidas and Li-Ning.

The following year, Kawhi Leonard fled to New Balance to re-launch their basketball line and his first signature shoe.

Then came Zion Williamson, making for the most anticipated rookie shoe deal since KD and LeBron.

On the second episode of “The Sneaker Game,” slated to premiere on May 18th, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry discusses his new approach with Under Armour at length, as the two recently launched his very own Curry Brand at the start of the season.

“This is not an easy business to be in, we all know that,” Curry said. “But I think being in a position where I can do something unique and special under Curry Brand and make this something that’ll live hopefully beyond my playing days and be a huge success.”

From his plans to expand into specific additional categories outside of basketball to the Curry Brand’s “Change the Game for Good” tagline and push to make an impact on the next generation, the two-time MVP shares a roadmap of what’s to come ahead as his namesake brand gets out of “the starting blocks.”

Nick DePaula of "The Sneaker Game"

In the big picture, the NBA marketing sphere now features 18 signature shoes spread across seven brands. At the start of next season, that number is expected to balloon to 22, with the additions of signature editions looming for Jimmy Butler, LaMelo Ball, CJ McCollum, and Trae Young.

Looking ahead, we’ll also explore in the show how over the last decade, sneakers have become more colorful, more graphic-driven, and more nuanced. The billion-dollar footwear industry has become a portal into the personalities of the world’s biggest stars, offering up a snapshot of the causes they care about, the communities they’re from and the inspirations and stories that drive them today.

“To know that shoes can help change people in different ways, it all goes back to playing the game of basketball,” says Durant. “It’s just a beautiful sport that branches off in so many different areas. It’s special.”

About The Author
Nick DePaula
Nick DePaula
Nick DePaula covers the footwear industry and endorsement deals surrounding the sporting landscape, with an emphasis on athlete and executive interviews. The Sacramento, California, native has been based in Portland, Oregon, for the last decade, a main hub of sneaker company headquarters. He’ll often argue that How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days is actually an underrated movie, largely because it’s the only time his Sacramento Kings have made the NBA Finals.