During Nike’s first annual PK80 tournament this past college basketball season, Trae Young, the former Oklahoma Sooners sharpshooter, had an interesting opportunity other players didn’t. During his masterful 43-point performance against Oregon, all eyes were on Young — including an arena full of sneaker executives from every major brand looking almost exclusively at Trae.
One of those brands angling for his services is somewhat of a surprising one — PUMA.
Visibly absent from the basketball sector for the better part of the last two decades, PUMA, according to new reports from our very own Nick Depaula (also of ESPN), aims to make a splash back into basketball with hopes that Young could be the face of their resurgence.
It’s reported that during a past meeting with Roc Nation Sports — when Young was in search of an agent — a rep from PUMA was also in the room for a big-picture pitch. Young ultimately signed with Octagon Sports for his representation in lieu of Roc Nation, yet PUMA still has grand hopes of signing the charismatic guard.
“There’s a magic to certain players. There’s an ‘it factor’ that’s hard to quantify, and I believe he has that,” Omar Wilkes, one of several Octagon agents tasked with representing Young, told ESPN. “He’s able to have that with his combination of passing, shooting, ballhandling and charisma. There’s an effortless ease about him when he’s on the court.”
Young, the first player to ever lead the NCAA in both scoring (27.4 ppg) and assists (8.8 apg) in a single season, will begin his sneaker endorsement vetting process next week in Los Angeles. This, of course, all takes place after the NBA Draft Lottery later tonight where draft order is solidified. It’s expected that Nike, Adidas, Under Armour and PUMA will all pitch for Young services.
PUMA hasn’t been present in basketball since 1998 when they endorsed a young Vince Carter. Yet, the German-based brand thinks Young can not only bring them back but help sustain their basketball sector for years to come. In hopes of starting that process, PUMA is said to be prepared to present Young with a prototype of its upcoming fall basketball sneaker in advance of the official pitch next week.
“This is their first real foray back into basketball since 1998 with Vince Carter,” Wilkes continued. “The possibility to be the seminal piece to re-establish that category for Puma is what’s enticing.”
Could PUMA Basketball work in 2018? Young reportedly plans to come to terms on an endorsement deal before the 2018 NBA Draft on June 21.