At one time, New Balance was among the biggest sports apparel companies in America, but the company’s sales declined as companies like Nike, Reebok, and Under Armour grabbed more market share in the industry. These days, New Balance is making a comeback in the apparel business and has formed a partnership with the NBA. Now New Balance has started signing some of the league’s stars to endorsement deals. One of New Balance’s most recent deals says a lot about the player who was signed.
New Balance and the NBA
New Balance’s association with the NBA dates as far back as the ’80s, when Lakers great James Worthy had a deal with the brand. In 1985, Worthy became the company’s first signature athlete when he signed a million-dollar deal with New Balance.
The first product to come out of that partnership was the New Balance P740, which Worthy wore during games. Worthy would endorse several other subsequent New Balance models during his NBA career, but the original proved to be so popular that New Balance brought it back — in an upgraded form — in 2014, just before the 30th anniversary of the company’s partnership with Worthy.
That was also around the time that New Balance started to partner with NBA players again, after a lengthy absence from the league.
New Balance partnering with modern NBA players
New Balance’s return to the NBA came in the 2010s when Matt Bonner wore the company’s shoes, even though he didn’t have an endorsement deal with them. It wasn’t until 2018 that New Balance signed another partnership with an NBA player.
That was the year that then-Raptors star Kawhi Leonard signed a multiyear shoe deal with New Balance, leaving his longtime partner the Jordan Brand. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but it was expected to be worth more than $5 million annually and in the range of the four-year, $22 million extension Leonard turned down from Jordan Brand earlier that year.
Leonard was the first domino to fall, with the Thunder’s Darius Bazley signing on with New Balance last year. The teenager signed a five-year endorsement deal with New Balance guaranteeing him $1 million, with incentives potentially taking the money up to $14 million if he reaches such milestones as winning the Rookie of the Year or NBA Finals MVP awards.
New Balance signs Dejounte Murray
New Balance’s most recent NBA signing to date is the Spurs’ Dejounte Murray, who reached a deal with New Balance last November after spending his first three seasons in the league aligned with Nike. Murray’s New Balance contract is a multimillion deal, although the exact terms are not known.
That signing shows the kind of faith that New Balance has in Murray, who missed all of the 2018-19 season with a torn ACL. He signed the New Balance endorsement early in the 2019-20 campaign — with the company unsure how he would hold up in the long term after returning from the injury.
New Balance clearly felt he would return to form the way he was before the injury hit, and the company seemed to be right. In the 58 games — 50 starts — before the season was suspended in March, Murray was averaging career highs in most major statistical categories, including 10.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game.
He’s also playing more than he has in the past, averaging 24.9 minutes per game. New Balance marketing director Pat Cassidy says that Murray was on the company’s radar for a while “because he doesn’t fit any one mold on the court. And it’s almost like he’s getting better every time you see him.” Cassidy called that “compelling” and said Murray’s “off-court story has yet to really to be told.”