Does Nike Have a Problem with Kevin Durant Being Out?
Yesterday, Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti announced that Kevin Durant has been “removed from basketball activities” and could be ruled out for the remainder of the season as he continues to feel soreness in his surgically repaired right foot. Durant has already missed 42 games this season, which is more than he missed in his first seven NBA seasons combined.
While Thunder fans are more concerned about his basketball future, Durant's latest setback may also have sneaker-related ramifications. In the 27 regular season games he's suited up for, he's worn his new Nike KD 7 signature shoe for 1 quarter — 12 minutes in the 'Aunt Pearl' tribute colorway against the Dallas Mavericks on Feb. 19. He promptly switched into his KD Trey 5 II model for the 2nd quarter, before settling back into the KD 6 for the second half. By game's end, Durant was seen walking with a limp, and he hasn't played since.
When fans noticed Durant wearing the KD 6 instead of his new signature model after returning from surgery in December, Nike issued a statement on the matter, saying, "The existing KD 6 shoe design is currently the best solution to accommodate the orthotic. The Nike design team is perfecting the KD 7 to accommodate KD’s orthotic." The injury, a Jones fracture, occurred during the preseason, when Durant was playing in the KD 7. It's never been implied that Durant believes the shoe was responsible for his broken foot, but he's shown no trust in wearing it since going down last October.
This follows a summer during which Nike and Under Armour went head-to-head for Durant's endorsement services. Fresh off an MVP season, Durant was viewed as a potential game-changer for any brand that could lure him away. Ultimately, he decided to turn down Under Armour's rumored 10-year, $285 million dollar-offer to stick with Nike, with whom he's been with since entering the league in 2007.
Kevin Durant wearing the Nike KD 6 this season.
For Nike, this is the second-straight season that they've had trouble getting a top endorser to wear his signature shoe. Last year, LeBron James wore the LeBron 11 in just 35 of his 97 combined regular season and playoff games, often opting for the cheaper Soldier 7 model. There's also Kobe Bryant, who wears his new signature models, but has only played in 41 games over the past two seasons due to injury. Is the decline in on-court signature visibility becoming a problem for Nike?
According to the latest sales figures from Forbes, they have nothing to worry about — for now. James ($340 million), Durant ($195 million) and Bryant ($105 million) were basketball's top three active sneaker salesmen in 2014, each generating more money than they did in the previous year. And despite Durant's injury-ridden season, the KD 7 hasn't been completely absent from the court. Pros like DeMarcus Cousins, J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler and Zach LaVine are among many who have given it a run this season. The KD 7 may still be the right shoe for some — it's just not the right shoe for Durant. Well, for right now.
Short-term, the outlook for the KD 7 and other Nike shoes that aren't being worn by the signature athletes is good; they're selling more than ever and are still the preferred choices among players on every level. However, there may be some concern long-term. Whether it's because of injury, superstition or preference, the best players not wearing their own shoes means that they're devoid of impactful stories and lasting memories. They're somewhat like mid-2000s Nike SBs in that regard. Wild colorways and buyer hype will get them off of shelves, but their relevance 10 years from now will almost be entirely dependent on people still caring about today's looks. That hasn't worked out so well for SBs — we'll have to wait and see how it plays out for Nike's recent basketball signature models.
Source: sole collector