In 2014, Kyrie Irving became one of the latest Nike athletes to sign a signature shoe deal with the company. That same year, Irving released his first signature shoe – the Kyrie 1. Over the next six years, Irving and Nike collaborated to create the Kyrie 2, Kyrie 3, Kyrie 4, Kyrie 5, Kyrie 6, and Kyrie 7.
The basketball star was scheduled to release his newest shoe – Kyrie 8 – sometime in November 2022, but that release got scrapped when Nike decided to suspend their partnership with Irving. On December 5, 2022, Irving and Nike mutually decided to cut ties as their 8-year partnership came to an official end.
The move came after Kyrie shared a series of anti-semitic messages on social media and in interviews. “Kyrie stepped over the line. It’s kind of that simple. He made some statements that we just can’t abide by and that’s why we ended the relationship. And I was fine with that,” said Phil Knight (Nike co-founder).
10 Nike Athletes Who Aren’t Going Anywhere Anytime Soon
Being one of, if not the biggest sports brands in the world, it’s no surprise to learn that Nike athletes are taken care of – not just with the contracts they sign, but with the worldwide exposure they get as a result. The company is currently valued at nearly $200 billion, which means there’s a lot of money to go around.
At the same time, it’s no surprise to know that Nike athletes are held to a strict standard and anyone who falls out of line with their beliefs will be suspended and/or released in the blink of an eye – even if they have a highly-anticipated signature shoe being released soon. Kyrie Irving is the perfect example of that.
While Irving is no longer on the coveted list of Nike athletes, they still have hundreds of athletes signed to their brand – many of which are in the NBA, but also plenty in other popular sports. Below, we’re going to detail 10 Nike athletes that likely aren’t going anywhere anytime soon – barring any sudden surprises.
10. Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods has been with Nike for more than 25 years now. He signed his first contract with the brand at just 21 years old in 1996 – just before making his professional golf debut. His second contract came in 2001 and was reportedly a 5-year, $105 million contract – more than double that of his first contract.
In 2006, he signed a 7-year contract and signed another extension in 2013 – one that is reportedly worth more than $200 million. He has always sported Nike apparel and shoes throughout his career, though he had to change to a different brand of shoes after his horrific car accident to better suit his health needs.
While Tiger Woods is nearing an end to his career, he still competes in the major championships and is still one of the most marketable golfers in the world. His long partnership with Nike is a historic one and has us believing that they won’t be doing away with it anytime soon – even after he decides to retire.
Woods has been a professional golfer since 1996. Over his 27 years on the PGA Tour, he has won 82 tournaments (tied for an all-time record) and has held the No. 1 world ranking a total of 683 weeks (most all-time). He also has 15 major wins in his career, including five Masters between 1997 and 2019.
9. Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo began his partnership with Nike back in 2003 – he was just 18 years old at the time and was just beginning his senior career with Manchester United. Being one of the most marketable athletes – not just football players – in the world has helped Nike become the sports giant it is today.
In 2016, he became just the third athlete to ink a lifetime deal with Nike – LeBron James and Michael Jordan being the other two. His deal is reportedly worth more than $1 billion and means he definitely won’t be going anywhere anytime soon – he won’t be going anywhere ever. He’ll be a Nike athlete for life!
Ronaldo is always rocking Nike apparel and has worn dozens of unique Nike cleats throughout his career. His shoe collection with the brand is one of the most popular in the world. Signing Ronaldo to a contract two decades ago was one of the best things Nike ever did and will continue to pay off for the company.
Ronaldo is regarded as one of the greatest football players of all-time. He has won five Ballon d’Or awards in his career and more than 32 trophies total. He has spent a majority of his career in the Champions League, but also has scored a record 122 international goals for Portugal’s national team.
8. Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy began his partnership with Nike back in January 2013, when he signed a 10-year deal worth somewhere between $100 and $250 million – there was a lot of speculation on the exact amount. In 2017, Nike dropped out of the equipment business, meaning he stopped using their balls, bag, and clubs.
Despite not using their equipment, McIlroy signed a 10-year extension with the company (for apparel), which was worth around $200 million. Between the two contracts, McIlroy is set to be with the brand through 2033 and there’s a good chance he stays longer – considering he’s one of the faces of the brand.
“I chose Nike for a number of reasons. It’s a company and a brand that really resonates with me. It’s young. It’s athletic. It’s innovative. They are committed to being the best, as am I. Signing with Nike is another step towards living out my dream,” McIlroy said in 2017 after signing his most recent contract.
Rory McIlroy turned professional in 2007 and has 36 pro wins since then – 23 of which have come on the PGA Tour. He has been the world No. 1 golfer for a total of 122 weeks during his career and has won four major championships – the only major he hasn’t won is the Masters, but he was runner-up in 2022.
7. Caitlin Clark
Caitlin Clark is one of the newest Nike Athletes and it came at the perfect time. She’s not a professional basketball player yet, but she ended up signing a name, image, and likeness (NIL) deal worth nearly $1 million in October 2022 – just a few weeks before she began her third season with the Iowa Hawkeyes.
It was the perfect time to sign that contract because she had her best season yet and helped turn the Women’s National Championship game one of the most-watched sporting events in recent history. She ended the year with 27.8 points, 8.6 assists, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game (38 games played).
While she ended up losing to LSU in the championship, it was an incredible run and she was named the AP Player of the Year, Naismith College Player of the Year, USBWA National Player of the Year, and won the John R. Wooden Award for her efforts as the most impressive women’s college basketball player.
She set multiple records during March Madness, including a record 191 total points and 60 assists in the tourney. Her game brought a lot of attention to women’s sports and a lot of attention to Nike, as a result. They’d be smart to lock her in as a sponsor long-term before someone else does – because she’s a star.
6. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo began his partnership with Nike when he signed a four-year contract with the brand in 2013 – the same year he was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 15th overall pick in the first round. By the time his contract ended, he was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2017.
Giannis received some intense pitches from Adidas and Li-Ning (in China) when his contract with Nike expired in October 2017, but that didn’t seem to matter because Nike quickly re-signed him to a new contract in early November of that year. Part of that contract was to give him his own signature shoe.
Antetokounmpo saw the release of his first shoe – the Air Zoom Freak 1 – in August 2019 and released the second version – Zoom Freak 2 – in November 2020. The Zoom Freak 3 was the next release in July 2021, but he didn’t release his Zoom Freak 4 until earlier this year. His shoes are always well-designed.
Giannis has truly done it all in the NBA during his 9-year career. In addition to Most Improved Player, he’s a 7-time All-Star, 6-time All NBA, 5-time All-Defensive, 2020-21 All-Star MVP, 2020-21 Finals MVP, two-time MVP, 2019-20 Defensive Player of the Year, and a member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team.
5. Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant began his partnership with Nike when he signed a 7-year contract worth around $60 million in 2007 – the same year he was drafted by the Seattle Supersonics with the No. 2 overall pick in the first round. By the time his contract ended, he was one of the greatest scorers in the entire league – by far.
Durant reportedly received an offer from Under Armour worth between $265-$285 million in 2014 when his Nike contract expired, but it didn’t seem to matter. He decided to sign a 10-year contract to remain with Nike and it was worth a potential $300 million. It even included a $50 million retirement package.
His contract is set to expire in 2024, but they’d be insane not to sign him again. Over the past 16 years, there have been 15 iterations of his KD shoes – from the KD1 to the KD15. The newest edition launched in April 2022 and he has another one dropping on May 5 – the KD16. Let’s hope it’s not his last with Nike!
Durant is averaging a career 29.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game. He’s a 13-time All-Star, 10-time All-NBA, two-time champion, two-time Finals MVP, two-time All-Star MVP, 2013-14 MVP, 2007-08 Rookie of the Year, and was a member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team.
4. Carlos Alcaraz
Carlos Alcaraz began his partnership with Nike in 2015 when he was just 12 years old, but it wasn’t until 2020 that he finally signed his first professional contract with the major sports brand – it was reportedly worth more than $1 million. He was just 17 years old at the time and was just beginning his pro career..
It didn’t take long for Alcaraz to make a name for himself on the ATP Tour, winning his first title at the 2021 Croatia Open Umag. The following year, he won his first major after defeating Casper Rudd in the 2022 US Open – becoming the youngest US Open champ (19 years old) since Pete Sampras in 1990.
The win also made him the youngest No. 1 world tennis player of all-time and the first teenager to earn that achievement. He also ended the 2022 year as the No. 1 world player, becoming the youngest and first teenages to end the year at No. 1. It was an impressive season as Alcaraz put his name on the map.
To date, Alcaraz is one of the faces of men’s tennis and has eight career titles under his belt. He has a career 108-33 (76.6%) singles record and has held the No. 1 ranking for 20 weeks – he’s the current No. 2 tennis player in the world. He turns 20 years old in May, so he has a lot of good tennis left in him.
3. Mike Trout
Mike Trout began his partnership with Nike in 2013 – a year after he won AL Rookie of the Year with the Los Angeles Angels. By 2014, he signed a massive 6-year, $144.5 million with the Angels and a reported 10-year contract extension with Nike worth about $50 million after winning his first AL MVP award.
2014 was a special year for him. Aside from his contract extensions and MVP, he also became the first MLB player since Ken Griffey Jr. to get his own Nike cleat. It not only showed how marketable he was (and still is), but it showed how happy Nike was to have him as an athlete – helping him make history.
“The first signature cleat for star outfielder Mike Trout, the Nike Lunar Vapor Trout redefines the balance of speed and power,” wrote Nike. “Informed by Trout’s own insights, the Nike Lunar Vapor Trout is designed for the directional speed needed to steal more bases, get to more balls in the outfield, and get out of the batters box quickly.”
Trout is currently in the midst of his 13th season and has recorded a career .303 batting average, 1,550 hits, 298 doubles, 51 triples, 351 home runs, 899 RBIs, 204 stolen bases, and 1,057 runs scored. He’s a 3-time MVP, 9-time Silver Slugger, 10-time All-Star, and Rookie of the Year – his resume is impressive.
2. Devin Booker
Devin Booker began his partnership with Nike in 2015 when he signed a multi-year contract with the brand – he signed the deal prior to being selected by the Phoenix Suns with the No. 13 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. The deal expired in 2018, but was renewed in 2018 as he continued his rise in the NBA.
2022 was a massive year with the shooting guard. Not only was he months removed from his first NBA Finals appearance, but he signed a $224 million supermax contract extension with the Suns and was featured on the cover of NBA 2K23 – an incredible honor for someone who was still in his mid-20s.
Even better, Booker signed a contract extension with Nike that will keep him with the brand until 2029. The one thing he’s still missing is a signature shoe, but that’s reportedly in the works and is scheduled to be released sometime in Spring 2024 and will allegedly be called the Nike D Book 1. It’s going to be lit!
During his 8-year career in the NBA, Booker is averaging 24.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 0.8 steals per game (529 games). He’s a three-time All-Star and one-time All-NBA player who is averaging a career-high 28.0 points per game during the 2022-23 season. Nike was right to pursue him 8 years ago.
1. LeBron James
LeBron James began his partnership with Nike in 2003 when he signed a 7-year contract with the sports brand worth a reported $90 million. He was offered a $100 million contract with Reebok – who offered him $10 million on the spot to not meet with Nike. He ultimately chose Nike and it was a good decision.
James’ first deal with Nike came prior to him being drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the No. 1 pick in the first round of the 2003 NBA Draft. He renewed his contract in 2010, but it wasn’t until 2014 that Nike decided to sign him to a lifetime contract with a reported $1 billion – a historic, one-of-its-kind contract.
That deal made him just the second Nike athlete to receive a lifelong contract – the first being Michael Jordan. Over the past 20+ years with Nike, he has released 20 renditions of his signature shoe – the Nike LeBron 1 up to the Nike LeBron 20. He’s reportedly getting the Nike LeBron 21 during the holiday season.
James is currently playing in his 20th season in the NBA and is averaging a career 27.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.5 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game. He’s a 19-time All-Star, 4-time MVP, 4-time champion, 4-time Finals MVP, 3-time All-Star MVP, and the league’s all-time leading scorer.
Other Nike Athletes Worth Mentioning
Many people would likely get tired looking at the long list of Nike athletes – there are simply too many to list in one article and that’s not even mentioning all the different teams, clubs, and leagues they have sponsorships with. That’s why signing a deal with Nike is something many athletes dream of growing up.
Aside from the Nike Athletes listed above, some of the more influential Nike athletes include Russell Westbrook, Rafael Nadal, Russell Wilson, Chris Paul, Paul George (who has a signature shoe through the brand), Sabrina Ionescu, Nathan Chen, Naomi Osaka, Scottie Scheffler, and much more.
Other Nike athletes who aren’t necessarily active in their respective sports include Michael Jordan – who has made more than a billion dollars through the company – Kobe Bryant, Derek Jeter, and Maria Sharapova. Since Kobe’s death, his wife Vanessa Bryant has signed a deal with the sports brand.
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