The 2022 top pick has landed a multi-year shoe deal with Jordan, set to make him a headliner of the Air Jordan 37.
It was just 20 seconds before Adam Silver was set to walk on stage at the 2022 NBA Draft and the Orlando Magic’s time on the clock was dwindling.
That’s when Paolo Banchero‘s agent, Mike Miller, got a text. He turned to his right, facing Banchero.
“Congrats,” he said. “You’re the number 1 pick.”
The whirlwind of workouts, meetings, interviews, and obligations was over for a moment, with a purple-suited Paolo ready to pace up to the stage to shake the commissioner’s hand. He was officially an NBA player.
Make no mistake: That whirlwind picked up again shortly after. There was local and national media to deal with. Endorsements. The whole deal. And it’s still going today, basically on the eve of the 2022-23 season.
But before any of that could become official, Banchero had to walk across that stage to greet Silver. First, he gave his father Mario a long hug, then hit his fist-bump-and-hug tradition with his mother, Rhonda. The suit hues honored the University of Washington, where his parents met and played college football and basketball, respectively.
Even though Banchero, a 6’10 do-it-all forward from Seattle, has long been touted as a top prospect, the marketing offers and shoe deal process in particular changed considerably at that point.
“I think it accelerated it a lot,” Banchero said. “Leading up to the Draft, I wasn’t really projected to go No. 1. Once that happened, the interest picked up. The buzz picked up.”
Early on, as he revealed to Boardroom during the week of the Draft, he and his representation at LIFT Sports Management had been in ongoing talks with Adidas, Jordan, and Puma. He tried out a variety of shoes from each brand during his pre-draft workouts, and eventually laced up both Jordan and Adidas during NBA Summer League.
“It was exciting for me, just having all of the shoe companies become more and more interested,” he said. “When Jordan stepped in, that really kind of made me raise my eyebrows. They don’t try and sign everybody.”
Currently, Jordan has around 30 NBA players in the fold as official endorsers. In 2019, the brand signed Zion Williamson, Jayson Tatum, and Luka Doncic, eventually giving all three their own signature sneaker.
Paolo, who counts the Air Jordan 3, 4, and 11 among his favorites, hopes to one day follow in those literal footsteps by receiving his own namesake model. For now, he’s looking forward to working up a batch of player exclusive colorways of the upcoming Air Jordan 37.
“Hopefully telling some of the childhood stories or memories I had growing up, some of the stuff I’m into off the court or on the court,” he said, noting he’d like to create a Seattle-themed PE. “Stuff that people are going to like and stuff that means a lot to me. I’m excited to eventually brainstorm and get that stuff started.”
Back in June, Banchero outlined big goals for what he’d bring to an NBA franchise.
“I want to be the guy who the team counts on, who the fans count on. I like carrying that weight,” he told Boardroom before the Draft. “[I’m a] big time player, versatile and trying to do what’s best for the team.”
Not long after, he went first overall, raising the stakes and placing him among a historic group of players before him. When the Magic were looking to showcase their upcoming Jumpman-branded “Statement Edition” jerseys, they tapped Banchero for the official unveil.
“There’s a certain expectation that people have of you and a standard that they’re going to hold you to, but I like it,” Banchero says now. “I’m more than ready for it.”
He’s mapped out his goals with the Magic, and now, he’s looking forward to building with Jordan Brand as he begins his pro path.
“To elevate them as a brand and myself as a brand and a player,” Banchero said. “Come out with stuff and wear things that the people are going to love, fans are going to love and I’m going to love. Whatever direction it goes, just continue to build on it and make it the best that it can be.”
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