Don’t let anyone tell you the power of the Lakers brand isn’t real.
While small markets have come a long way in the NBA, there is still nothing like playing for a team like the Lakers, evidenced most recently by Austin Reaves landing a shoe deal with Chinese company Rigorer. ‘
Reaves announced the deal on his Instagram account on Wednesday.
Rigorer’s website describes the company as a “sporting goods brand who specialize in basketball products and offer an extensive range of protection gear.” Reaves becomes the first NBA endorser and only the second American with the company, joining former college basketball sensation and NBA draft pick Jimmer Fredette, who has played in the Chinese Basketball Association four of the last five seasons.
Reaves will wear the brand’s shoe next season, specifically the War Ender 1.0 Pro.
OFFICIAL: Lakers wing Austin Reaves has signed a multi-year shoe deal with Rigorer, becoming the Chinese brand’s— Nick DePaula (@NickDePaula) April 28, 2022
1st NBA endorser.
He’ll headline the War Ender 1.0 Pro shoe next season. pic.twitter.com/ZuX8tMd7pR
If we’re being realistic, there is no chance this happens at another franchise outside of perhaps the New York Knicks. As was the case when Alex Caruso landed his shoe deal with ANTA, undrafted free agents do not get shoe deals within just a few seasons of making the league in normal circumstances. And undrafted rookies flat out do not get these deals.
Reaves’ teammates were as excited as you could imagine for him to land a deal.
Austin's teammates are excited about his newfound shoe endorser status. pic.twitter.com/b2148wMA4A— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) April 28, 2022
Their excitement is warranted because it’s a special moment for Reaves. He cashed in on the fame that comes with playing for the Lakers, as well as the hard work he has put in to earn his role on the team.
Based on Rigorer’s website, there doesn’t seem to be much of a path to a signature shoe for Reaves. Realistically, an Air Hillbilly or Air HBK would be a hilarious product but it would be hard to argue its profitability...for now. Currently, on the Alex Caruso Path™ with the Lakers, Reaves should see another ascension in year two before really taking off. Then, the discussion can really begin in earnest on a signature shoe.
For now, though, Google’s suggested popular searches related to Rigorer seem to imply that there is fan interest in the shoe Reaves is advertising right now, as well as more information on the partnership between the two specifically:
And, earnestly, it’s cool to see Reaves land a deal with a company, no matter the details. And it’s just another example of how the Lakers and their fan base are truly built differently than other franchises.