I love all things Nike. As I type this column, I have on a Nike polo, a Nike T-shirt, Nike socks and Nike shoes. Since I've been an adult, which is probably no longer than about 30 minutes, I've never purchased a pair of tennis shoes, athletic equipment or basketball gear that doesn't have a swoosh or Jumpman on it. Call that snobbish if you will, but we all have our vices.
Mine just happens to be an addiction to Nike gear. For that reason, I find the Final Four in San Antonio this weekend to be absolutely crucial to the survival of a truly great American institution — Nike. The end of the college basketball season represents a clash of ideologies; good against evil; Jay-z against Nas; the roadrunner versus the coyote; Tom versus Jerry.
And Carolina is our only hope.
See, Kansas, Memphis and UCLA are three of the signature and flagship schools that wear Adidas. Kansas made the switch during the second year of Bill Self's tenure in Lawrence; UCLA jumped on the Adidas bandwagon when Ben Howland came to Hollywood; Memphis
became an Adidas school when John Calipari returned to college. This is big time business, too. All of these coaches are paid six-figures worth of supplemental income each year — as is Roy Williams with Nike — for their school's contract.
Also, high-major Division I recruits usually play on Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) teams that are funded by these two behemoth corporations. It is the hope of the two retailers that an early affiliation with their brand will cause them to pick a school that wears that
same brand, and, if they are gifted enough, leads to them signing an endorsement deal with said company after the players become professionals.
The results in recent history show the correlation.
Seattle Supersonics forward Kevin Durant played for an AAU team — which included UNC's Ty Lawson — called the D.C. Blue Devils, a team sponsored by NIKE. Both chose schools – Durant went to Texas – that sported Nike clothing and shoes. Upon entering the NBA, Durant signed an endorsement deal with Nike.
The same is true of former Wake Forest and current New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul, who also played for a Nike-sponsored AAU team and college.
A plain black shirt is kind of boring.
A plain black shirt with the three-bar Adidas thing isn't what's hot.
A plain black shirt with a swoosh or a jumpman on it, is hot.
Now, this is nothing against Adidas — their stuff is just ugly to me and, well, Nike is Nike.
Look at the stars who wear Nike gear: Michael Jordan, Steve Nash, LaDanian Tomlinson, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Chris Paul, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods. Now, compare that list to Adidas' celebs: David Beckham, Kevin Garnett, Gilbert Arenas, Tim Duncan and Tracey McGrady. Color me underwhelmed with the Adidas roster.
Nike partnered with Jordan to not only create an entire market segment that previously didn't exist, but, without sounding grandiose, changed the world.
The first Air Jordan came out in 1985 toward the end of Jordan's rookie season. Before this shoe, most basketball sneakers were all white. The first Jordan was only black and red, which broke NBA uniform rules. This black and red model led to a great deal of controversy, which caused the NBA to ban it from the league. Jordan continued to wear it anyway, facing fines up to $5,000 per game.
Nike was happy to pay these fines off though, because the controversy kept the public talking about the shoe, and sales took off.
Twenty-three years (ironic) and billions of dollars in sales later, Jordan Brand and Nike have become the leader in sporting gear sales — not to mention they've changed the way shoes are advertised with some of the most aggressive, controversial and creative marketing schemes ever.
How amazing are those "My better is better than your better" ads? Or the "There are no Cinderella's" commercials? Tell me honestly that the "Let your game speak" Jordan advertisements didn't help you relive your childhood.
Because of Nike's superiority, UNC has to win. Not because it is the better team or because the breaks go its way, but because the Tar Heels must protect the sanctity of Nike.
An Adidas school winning the title – the last nine National Champions have adorned the swoosh – would be like 3:6 Mafia winning an Oscar. Oh, wait, that actually happened. Actually, it would be like Soulja Boy winning a Grammy.
There will be dramatic jump shots, heartbreaking steals, crying fans, and, eventually, a triumphant champion crowned this weekend in the Lone Star state.
Hopefully, that winner will have a swoosh on their shoes.