NBA

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Signed With Converse to ‘Build His Own Lane’

The NBA is filled with exciting young guards. Easily a dozen players under 25 have what it takes to be perennial stars. The 76ers’ Ben Simmons, Hawks’ Trae Young, and Mavericks phenom, Luka Doncic. Another player who deserves mention is Thunder shooting guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Let’s look at Gilgeous-Alexander’s career and recent endorsement deal with Converse.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s rookie year in LA

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The Charlotte Hornets drafted Gilgeous-Alexander with the 11th pick of the 2018 NBA draft, only to trade him to the LA Clippers for their pick and two future second-round selections. Gilgeous-Alexander showed plenty of poise and a silky smooth offensive game as a member of the Clippers’ Summer League team.

During the regular season, he quickly proved himself talented enough to earn a core position, starting 73 of the 82 games he played in. That year, Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 10.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.2 steals per game, while shooting an effective 47.6% from the floor. Most analysts assumed he would be a key piece for the Clippers moving forward.

Gilgeous-Alexander’s surprise trade and a breakout second season

NBA player Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder speaks to the media | Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In the end, however, Gilgeous-Alexander’s time with the Clippers soon ran out. In July 2019, he was included in the blockbuster trade that allowed the Clippers to net Thunder All-Star Paul George. That trade was also a necessary move in luring then-Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard to the Clippers.

If Gilgeous-Alexander was disappointed about being traded to a relatively small-market team, it didn’t show. On the contrary, Gilgeous-Alexander took to his new home immediately, while establishing himself as a legitimate candidate for the Most Improved Player award. Gilgeous-Alexander’s scoring ballooned from 10.8 to 19.3 points per game as a member of the Thunder.

Meanwhile, his rebounding numbers more than doubled, going from 2.1 to 5.4 per game. And while Gilgeous-Alexander did see his three-point percentage drop slightly from 36.7% to 35.1%, he made a little over twice as many attempts per game. The 6-foot-5 guard also showed himself to be a versatile wing defender, using his length to get into passing lanes and disrupt opponents’ strategies.

Gilgeous-Alexander shifts from Nike to Converse

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Gilgeous-Alexander signed his first endorsement deal, with Nike, soon after announcing his intention to join the 2018 NBA draft. While Nike may be the holy grail for many players, it’s also a big pond for a younger player to find himself in. There’s plenty of competition when it comes to high-visibility promotional opportunities.

So when Adrian Stelly, Gilgeous-Alexander’s Nike rep, moved to Converse, the Thunder guard to join him. It should be noted that Nike has owned Converse since 2003, so Gilgeous-Alexander is still staying in the corporate family. Yet by signing with the smaller brand, he’ll have more opportunities when it comes to creative control.

He told The Athletic, “[Converse] started the whole basketball sneaker thing. For me, it’s building my own lane, and trying to get it back to that level of people looking at it and seeing it as that high of a basketball brand.”

Gilgeous-Alexander isn’t the only high-caliber NBA player to make the leap to Converse. In recent years, Warriors forward Draymond Green and Suns guard Kelly Oubre Jr. also signed on with the brand.