Since Reebok got out of the basketball sneaker game, there have been four American sneaker companies to sponsor and create shoes for NBA players. Nike, adidas, Jordan, and Under Armour hold the vast majority of contracts with NBA players, with Peak and Anta making up the majority of the rest.
Because so few companies hold contracts on most every player, there is possibly an opening for another company to come in and throw big money at players that might not be at the elite-tier, but still may move the needle. Under Armour did that and hit the jackpot with Steph Curry, and now Puma is trying to do the same with the 2018 NBA Draft.
Puma reportedly inked Marvin Bagley to an historic rookie shoe deal a few days ago and on Sunday, Texas Tech guard and projected first-round pick Zhaire Smith joined him on Team Puma, according to ESPN’s Nick DePaula.
Smith is an explosive athlete as noted by DePaula’s tweet and figures to find himself going somewhere in the late-lottery to early 20s range in the upcoming June 21 draft. Much like Under Armour last year going after Dennis Smith Jr., Puma is taking a swing with Smith in hopes that he can become a fan favorite thanks to his abilities above the rim — which has always helped sneaker sales in the basketball world.
For Smith, it’s a great opportunity because he would be highly unlikely to even sniff anything resembling a signature sneaker with one of the other major companies and with Puma he can take a chance on becoming a foundational piece of their basketball efforts.