Zion Williamson recently took it to the courts of Harlem to unveil the latest Jordan Brand signature shoe, the Air Jordan XXXIV. Banking on his hype, this is the first of many that the rookie will be wearing after signing a record-breaking shoe deal in July. The Duke star, however, wasn't the first rookie to cash in on his hype way before playing his first-ever NBA game.
Since the global rise of the NBA, businesses have been snagging potential stars that could give the best possible boost to their brands. Players such as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have long been retired from the league but are still racking up sneaker sales to this date. It shouldn't come as a surprise then that NBA rookies have been signing these monster deals even before playing their first-ever game in the league.
That being said, here are the ten largest shoe deals in NBA history inked by rookies, inflation factored in.
#10 Tracy McGrady (1997) – Adidas, 6 years/$12 million
Value in 2019: $19,150,878.50 or $3.2 million/year
Tracy McGrady came into the league with so much hype to his name. His entry was also a time when Adidas was on a mission to upstage Nike in the basketball sneaker business. McGrady knew that with his good friend, Kobe Bryant, signing with Adidas the year before, that the brand was banking on the young guns to be the face of what they were trying to build. It came as no surprise then that the explosive player chose Adidas over the other brands who courted him.
What's really remarkable about this shoe deal is that T-Mac wasn't the only one being paid by Adidas. Part of the deal was that the brand also had to pay his high school coach $150,000 annually for six years.
In ESPN's 30 for 30 episode, Sole Man, T-Mac thought this provision should be a no-brainer. The two-time scoring champion said, "I think it was right for those guys to get a percentage of my deal...If it wasn't for them, there would be no Tracy McGrady or T-Mac."
#9 Carmelo Anthony (2003) – Jordan Brand, 6 years/$21 million
Value in 2019: $29,233,711.96 or $4.9 million/year
Coming out of Syracuse as a sure top 3 pick, Carmelo Anthony signed with Jordan Brand even before the NBA Draft took place. He then became the fresh young face of the brand after Michael Jordan's retirement that year.
As a rookie, Melo made an immediate impact on the team, playing a major part in the impressive turnaround of the franchise. From a 17-65 record the year prior, Melo helped the Denver Nuggets finish the 2003-04 season with a 43-39 record, reaching the playoffs as the eight seed. Melo and the Nuggets eventually lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves 1-4 in the first round, but his role on the franchise solidified after an impressive rookie campaign.
The forward also proved that he was a great choice for Jordan Brand, gaining even more hype as his years in the league progressed. In 2012, his Jordan Melo M9 ranked third-best in U.S. retail sales, cashing in $40 million for the brand.
The Jordan Carmelo line has since produced 13 shoes, one of the longest running sneaker lines by any NBA player.