Celtics

Jaylen Brown looking for ‘brand of the future’ as sneaker free agent after leaving adidas

"I'm looking for a shoe company that’s progressive, cutting edge, that keeps an open mind."

Jaylen Brown
Jaylen Brown, here pictured in a pair of Nikes, is a sneaker free agent this year. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Jaylen Brown signed a deal with adidas shortly before the Celtics made him the No. 3 pick in the 2016 draft — a move the sneaker company reportedly made with an eye on breaking back into basketball.

At the time, adidas was about to lose its exclusive deal with the NBA and it snapped up as many players in the 2016 draft as it could (although it lost out on two of the top names: No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and NCAA Player of the Year Buddy Hield).

Reportedly, adidas forked over $1 million annually to Brown for the life of their contract.

Five years (and the first of many All-Star appearances) later, Brown is no longer affiliated with adidas. He has, at various times this season, been spotted in Nike, New Balance and Under Armour as he looks for his next sneaker partner.

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Still, don’t read too much into his sneaker choices at this stage: Brown says he leaves his decisions up to Celtics equipment manager Andy Mannix.

I let Andy choose sometimes,” Brown told reporters on Wednesday. “I look at Andy like, ‘What we going with today?’ …

“If I pick some shoes and I play bad, y’all blame Andy.”

Still, Brown — who is a very brand-conscious player — is giving his decision plenty of thought.

“I’m at the point in my career where I’ve been able to establish brands, so I want the companies that I go with to match kind of some of my brand values,” Brown said. “Some brands have an expectancy where ‘We’ve been this brand, we’re not doing anything different.’

“But it’s a new day and age. It’s 2021, about to be 2022 in two months, I think that the current athlete, the model of athlete, has changed a lot.”

Brown made a few headlines with one pair of adidas shoes in particular — a highlighter-bright pair of Damian Lillard’s signature shoe — but he never seemed to be a high priority for the brand, which has given James Harden a signature shoe as well as Donovan Mitchell and Trae Young in recent years.

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But Brown said he is looking for more than just a signature shoe.

“I’m looking for a shoe company that’s progressive, cutting edge, that keeps an open mind, that’s also leaning towards doing things in the community, as well environment friendly, sustainable, recyclable, biodegradable products,” Brown said. “I’m looking for the brand of the future, not the brand of the past.”

Sneaker deals are important in the NBA — the top players often make more from their preferred brand than they do from their employer. LeBron James’ lifetime deal with Nike reportedly will net him more than $30 million per year and could be worth more than $1 billion total.

Players generally sign one of three types of deals with sneaker companies: A merchandise deal, a cash deal, or a signature deal. Merchandise deals net a player free shoes for themselves and their friends/family, and sometimes offer performance-based bonuses. Cash deals do the same, but they also pay a player regular money (such as Brown’s annual $1 million check from adidas).

But the real money (and control) comes from a signature deal, where the player can have input on the design and build of their shoe. Brown recently launched his 7uice clothing line and is clearly engaged and interested in fashion. If he is focused on partnering with a ground-breaking brand — and if he is bringing a list of environmental and community-oriented requirements to the table — he might want to take a look at brands willing to offer him a signature deal.

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Brown hinted as much.

“I think that we’ve had the same model of approach for the last 20 years in terms of how to operate with a shoe brand,” Brown said. “I think possibly, maybe the approach will change going forward in the future. Athletes have changed the way to have influence. The way to reach globally has changed.

“I think that having a brand partner should match that. I think that the shoe company is definitely out there. Or, if not, it could be created or started from scratch.”

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