With his rookie shoe deal nearing an end in late 2014, the oft-reserved Klay Thompson took a chance by signing with Anta. Boardroom dives into the sneakers and the signature logo that stemmed from his bold move.
Klay Thompson is an easygoing dude.
But as his rookie shoe deal with Nike was coming to a close, the Warriors‘ sharpshooter took a leap of faith. Rather than re-upping with the Swoosh, he became one of the first NBA players to sign with Chinese brand Anta.
By that point, in 2014, the company had already signed Celtics stars Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, along with Houston Rockets forward (and Yao Ming teammate) Luis Scola. Still, the low-maintenance and oft-comfortable Klay was taking a big step, landing a five-year deal with a company he admits he wasn’t too familiar with.
As a result of the deal, he received his own signature shoe for the following season.
“They believe in me, and they gave me one,” Thompson said at the launch event for the KT 1 in San Francisco back in late 2015. “It’s really cool and I’m proud to wear it.”
Early on, Thompson realized the 18-month process of creating a shoe was no joke.
“I didn’t know how hard it was to design a shoe until I tried to give input,” he added. “There’s a lot of creative minds out there – I wasn’t one of ’em.”
Now eight iterations in, his sneakers have typically followed a proven formula: collar support, ample cushioning, and squeaky grip. They have also highlighted the Klay Thompson signature logo, either atop the tongue top or in full view along the heel.
When Anta created the logo and presented it to him, he loved it at first sight, not needing to add much more input. In the constraints of a capital K, the logo also holds a slanted T, with two tilted dash marks representing his #11 Warriors jersey number.
“I love the logo,” he said after an early Asia tour, where the “KT” mark was spotlighted at events and sneaker launches across eight cities in nine days.
“The logo is so unique,” he added. “You’ve got my initials and my number, and it’s so subtle. Some people might just think it’s a K. They really did a great job with the logo, and I’m so proud of it.”
In many ways, it’s one of the better executions of the industry’s fallback ‘Initials + Number’ formula for player logos. Like Thompson himself, it’s smooth and understated, with a bit of a discovery element along the way, thanks to the double slash marks along the top stem.
Since his early days with the brand, Thompson’s signature “KT” series has evolved and expanded well beyond just his basketball shoe. After landing a new long-term endorsement extension with Anta in 2017, the scope of his series now incorporates everything from his annual KT signature hoop shoe to off-court lifestyle sneakers, training models, sandals, and outdoor-specific summer sneakers for the blacktop. That’s all in addition to a full signature apparel line.
While he may have taken a “bet on myself” approach back in 2014 before ever appearing in an NBA All-Star Game, the now four-time champion has enjoyed a series of summer tours throughout China, where Anta has its products featured in nearly 10,000 stores.
Just as he was signing that landmark 10-year extension in 2017, Klay delivered an all-time quote, demonstrating his awareness level about the potential for growth and expansion that his signature deal with Anta could entail.
“I knew with the other brands in the States, whether it was Nike or Adidas, it was going to be tough for me to get a signature shoe,” he said. “I knew with Anta, I would have so much input creatively. I was going to hopefully be the Michael Jordan one day of Anta.”
The moniker ‘The Michael Jordan of…’ has long been used to embody greatness in one’s craft. It also demonstrates transcendence. It’s an aspirational tier that Thompson has found himself on pace with, as he’s gone on to become the face of Anta during his title-touting tenure in the league.
Just this week, Thompson dropped 54 points in the “Koi Fish” edition of his KT 8 – his highest scoring output since his long-awaited return from his duo of devastating injuries. His signature logo has served as the pillar of connectivity all along with Anta, as his brand and business have continually grown, nearly a decade after he first signed on.
“That logo is sick man,” Thompson said. “People don’t even notice the 11 in it. They see the KT, and then I have to point out the 11 in it. There’s a lot of subtlety to it, and it’s a sweet logo.”
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