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Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant's rising popularity and extreme marketability made his sky-high price tag worth it for Nike

Under Armour made a strong push, offering up a deal reportedly in the $265 million to $285 million range, plus incentives, over 10 years. But on Sunday morning, ESPN reported that Nike decided to match it. Durant is now under control through the start of the 2024 season.
by Anthony Slater Modified: August 31, 2014 at 7:47 pm •  Published: August 31, 2014
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Stephen Curry bolted for Under Armour last September. Damian Lillard chose Adidas in a $100 million-plus bidding war that concluded in April.

Historically, Nike has allowed some of the NBA’s rising stars to trickle down to other apparel companies.

But the league’s transcendent figures? Some of the world’s most marketable athletes? Those don’t typically escape Nike’s grasp. And that’s why Kevin Durant will remain an endorser of the company that controls more than 90 percent of the basketball apparel market.

Under Armour made a strong push, offering up a deal reportedly in the $265 million to $285 million range, plus incentives, over 10 years. But on Sunday morning, ESPN reported that Nike decided to match it. Durant is now under control through the start of the 2024 season.

“Excited and humbled to sign back with the Swoosh,” Durant tweeted late Sunday night.

The base salary is more than Nike planned to pay for Durant. ESPN reported its original offer was in the $20 million per year range.

But Durant’s rising popularity and extreme marketability – his MVP season was only topped by his legendary acceptance speech, cementing his reputation as a wholesome and humble family oriented star – made him worth the spiked price tag.

“I think at the end of the day for Nike, Kevin is not just a substitute type of guy,” ESPN business insider Darren Rovell said. “He’s different from LeBron and he’s different from Kobe. And that way he can really provide incremental revenue to them.”

Durant made around $175 million in shoe sales for Nike last year. His other apparel brings in an extra wad of cash. And, as Rovell sees it, Durant’s brand and Nike’s utilization of it can only grow.

“They could open up the channels so much more in the Foot Lockers of the world, give them more shoes, make the shoe go from $125 to $160,” Rovell said, noting its growing popularity. “I can’t believe how many KD’s I see. There are already KD’s all over New York City and every major city.”

So despite the hard-line negotiation by Jay-Z and Roc Nation Sports, a tactic that reportedly didn’t sit well with Nike, keeping Durant was a must. And Under Armour’s involvement only provided some extra motivation for Nike.

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by Anthony Slater
Thunder Beat Writer
Anthony Slater started on the Thunder beat in the summer of 2013, joining after two years as NewsOK.com's lead sports blogger and web editor. A native Californian, Slater attended Sonoma State for two years before transferring to Oklahoma State in...
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