LeBron James and Kevin Durant are putting up stats that rival each other on and off the court. The NBA All-Stars have the top selling signature sneakers, both courtesy of Nike, in the business.
According to Forbes, Durant's shoes (the latest are the Nike KD VI) experienced a huge jump in sales, thanks to his gaudy stats and the OKC Thunder's success, to reach second place to James' (the latest being the Nike LeBron XI).
Sales for Durant's Nike signature sneakers jumped 400% last year from $35 million to $175 million in the U.S., according to research firm SportsOneSource. “The KD VI is an outstanding shoe and did really well last year, particularly at Christmas,” says SportsOneSource analyst Matt Powell. “Durant has really come into his own as a player and a personality.”
Durant signed a seven-year deal, $60 million deal with Nike in 2007. It was the last mega-contract handed out to an NBA rookie by the big shoe companies. Durant's on-court success triggered incentives in his Nike deal that pushed it north of $10 million a year, but the deal was slow to pay off for the $26 billion in sales sports giant. Nike sold only $15 million at retail of KD's shoes in 2011 and some blamed OKC's small market size. But the Thunder made the NBA Finals in 2012 and Durant's Nike sales more than doubled before skyrocketing again in 2013.
King James' shoe is still the best seller. But Durant's kicks are knocking on his door, for a number of reasons.
James remains the NBA's leading shoe salesman. Nike sold $300 million of his signature sneakers last year, as he picked up his fourth MVP trophy and second NBA title. Sales were flat versus the prior year after a 50% jump in 2012. James is the NBA's leading endorser pulling in $42 million a year and Nike represents his biggest paycheck at an estimated $20 million a year.
James caused a stir early in the NBA season when he rarely wore his Nike LeBron 11s during games. In the Heat's first 18 games, James wore his new kicks only two complete games, according to the Wall Street Journal. Nike tweaked the shoes to fit the specifications of the six-foot-eight, 250 pound James and he has been wearing them regularly ever since. Sales for the LeBron 11, which retail for $200, were up early in the season before flattening out over the holidays. Powell doesn't think the James' fit issues had any effect on sales. “These shoes are custom made for athletes,” he says. “Cosmetically the shoe looks the same, but it is not same shoe.”
Another interesting factoid in the story is that Jordan Brand, whose namesake Michael Jordan started the signature sneaker phenomenon, had retail sales of $2.25 billion last year, up 12.5% from the previous year.
Also, Derrick Rose is no. 4 on the signature sneaker list, behind Kobe Bryant, despite basically being on the shelf the past two seasons due to injury. Rose's adidas kicks hit $40 million in sales but the brand's market share still 5.5% compared to Jordan Brand and Nike's 92%.
Read the full story over at Forbes.