The National Basketball Association (NBA) finds itself at an interesting stage, and not only because it is nearing the conclusion of another riveting season. The business behemoth abounds with performers who, beyond the rewards that their often-exorbitant contracts grant them, are looking for more financial stability acquired through branded merchandise. Given that NBA careers are not exactly paragons of longevity and that, as with all fields, the best players claim a greater share of kudos and cash, their moves make sense—especially among supporting players without the shoe and apparel deals stars typically get.
It doesn't seem apt to label anyone in the NBA as a have-not, because, well, everyone in the league has defied great odds to secure a living shooting hoops. There are, however, those players who, while not needing to worry where their next meal is coming from, will have to wonder sooner than their more talented peers what will happen when they no longer lace up their shoes.
What’s great about the league and business overall is that the lesser-known contributors and the megastars appear on level ground with respect to selling branded merchandise. Much like personalized websites have given hopes to individuals who might not have thought they could compete for business when up against giant corporations, the rise of social media and added television exposure for NBA teams has inspired points pursuers and rebound seekers to take on the roles of entrepreneurs no matter the size of their game checks.
Pregame reading: For Raptors players overlooked by the big apparel companies, a mix of creativity/ambition/access has allowed them to go a different route and own their "brand." On the NBA's most DIY logo team https://t.co/ZvWHu9DjVh
— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) May 23, 2019
The LA Times offered a pretty thorough look at this taking-matters-in-their-own-hands approach, looking mainly at the Toronto Raptors, who stand one win away from a spot in the NBA Finals. Fortunate to be blessed with the talent of Kawhi Leonard, the Canadian club has another performer whose initials are “KL,” Kyle Lowry, and he—while certainly not one who will suffer for cash when leaving the league—knows that a personal logo can go a long way toward putting a few more bucks in his bank account.
In looking at fellow Raptors players Norman Powell, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, the LA Times shows that no matter how skilled that players are on the court, they will always likely have their own set of fans who will admire them and entertain the idea of buying branded merchandise bearing their names. We've likely all been to a sporting event where fans have donned not only the jerseys of the stars and studs but also those of the role players and journeymen. In other words, fan support goes beyond the franchise and extends to individual players. So why wouldn't those players look to cash in on their personal brands?
A FVV-branded jacket pic.twitter.com/RRkUFFMZRN
— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) May 24, 2019
The NBA Players Association, according to the LA Times, has given players the go-ahead to market themselves, a commendable economic move in this era of colossal contracts and friendly shoe deals that also included branded designs. Since the league, and those that oversee the other three major sports, suffer from parity, we find it safe to say that not every clothing line or shoe product from an NBA-employed baller will be amazing. But, just like with our earlier assessment of the players’ ability to beat the odds and land on a team, we are going to applaud players like VanVleet who may not be stars but still resonate with fans.
Returning to our mention of fans who don the jerseys of once-in-a-lifetime players and here-today-gone-tomorrow guys, we are well-versed in also seeing folks who wear the shirts of players who are long gone from their respective teams. The interest in branded merchandise could come to be a companion to that habit of wearing said jerseys. VanVleet, for example, will move on from the Raptors one day, but his signature gear could be just as tempting to buy and hold on to as his jersey is among Toronto fans.
With the NBA Draft set to occur next month, the league will soon have five dozen more potential performers who will be looking for on-court distinction. That many of them could also come to covet off-the-floor distinction should suit the league just fine.