The 2018-19 NBA season will be filled with firsts for Kawhi Leonard. Primarily it begins in Toronto, where Leonard will play his first professional season removed from San Antonio and the Spurs. In addition, the Los Angeles native will be without the footwear endorser that has partnered with him his entire pro career — Jordan Brand.
In a new report from our own Nick DePaula via ESPN, multiple sources indicate that Jordan Brand will allow Leonard to walk when his current deal expires this October. The once Defensive Player of the Year and Finals MVP has been with Jordan Brand since he entered the NBA in 2011. His sneaker deal expires at the end of September.
Leonard and Jordan Brand had been in talks of an extension that would span four years and $22 million. Talks stalled soon after Leonard and his team turned down said offer. There were even reports that Leonard felt the offer was an insult.
Kawhi, despite the weirdness that took place this past season and the summer up until the trade that landed him with the Raptors, is by in large the best sneaker free agent this fall. When healthy a top two-way player in the league, Leonard will have options in terms of potential suitors. Yet, it’s Leonard’s assumed lack of enthusiasm regarding marketing and his unknown ability to sell sneakers that make him somewhat of a rare breed.
Near the end of his Jordan Brand tenure, Leonard was featured in numerous campaigns — plenty for a player without a signature sneaker. Kawhi was placed in the “Like Mike” campaign with Gatorade, he was the face of the Air Jordan XXX1 alongside Russell Westbrook, and most recently he had his very own Air Jordan 1 “Pass The Torch” in conjunction with Nike’s “Champions Thinks 16” Pack.
NBA players, according to DePaula, are typically allowed to take meetings with outside companies 60 days in advance of their expiring deal. Kawhi could begin meeting with brands as soon as next week.