Nike Basketball is heavily-invested in the USA Basketball program and international hoops. It’s also the official sponsor of the team and behind the World Basketball Festival. That could be the reason Brandon Jennings, the face of the up-and-coming Under Armour basketball sub-brand, got snubbed from the 30+ player final tryout invite list. That is, if you listen to Brandon Jennings.
In a recent interview with Yahoo Sports, Jennings said on the matter:
[…] If you want to get technical about it and you really want to look at it, half of the guys there are Nike guys. I?m not saying it?s a Nike thing, but Nike is kind of running a lot of things right now. To have a guy like myself on the USA team that?s flashy and really outgoing, you don?t want Under Armour to get all that [publicity].
Jennings doesn’t condemn Nike and say that the brand was definitively behind his reduced roster tryout snub, but he does raise an interesting point.
Following last NBA season, fellow 2009-2010 Rookie of the Year contenders Stephon Curry and Tyreke Evans (both Nike athletes) were invited to the 30+ man tryout with Team USA. Jennings was not. Could Nike really be behind the snub? Points to consider include the fact that Jennings would have been yet another point guard in a crowd that included the likes of Chauncey Billups, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook and the above-mentioned rookies. Also, six players with non-Nike ties were invited to the aforementioned tryout, with three of those players eventually making the FIBA Gold medal-winning team. Still, with Nike’s heavy ties to the USAB program, as well as 2008’s controversy involving Dwight Howard’s missing Swoosh and stripes, one has to wonder just how much influence Nike has on the selection process. Do you think Jennings is on to something, or is he just talking like he’s on something?