While LeBron James ended the NBA's juiciest on-court free agency drama last month, the league's most valuable apparel free-agent is still on the market. But Kevin Durant is set to receive a deal larger than the one James signed with the Cavaliers.
Darren Rovell of ESPN reports that Under Armour has offered Durant a contract worth between $265 million and $285 million for 10 years. That's between $26.5 million and $28.5 million a year, or nearly 10 percent of Under Armour's annual marketing budget.
Durant has been loyal to Nike throughout his career. When he was a rookie, Adidas offered him $20 million more, but he still signed with the Swoosh. Now Under Armour is courting Durant diligently, and it has a lot to offer.
Headquartered in Baltimore, 36 miles away from where Durant grew up, Under Armour has an enormous presence in the Charm City. The company used the local ties as a selling point in a meeting on Aug. 13, which Rovell reports was only supposed to last a few hours but ended up taking the entire day. Under Armour also sold Durant on stock options as well as the prospect of a brand new community center with his mother's name.
Other than James and Kobe Bryant, Durant was the most marketable star in Nike's stable. A no-frills superstar coming off of his first MVP award, Durant is only 25 and seemingly entering the prime of his career. Nike's "KD" line of shoes, socks, backpacks and other apparel ballooned to $175 million at retail the past season.
As part of its contract with Durant, Nike has the option to match Under Armour's offer, in which case Durant would be legally obligated to sign with Nike.
Nike, of course, cannot compete with Under Armour's location. While Durant still has two years left on his contract with the Thunder, there's already been much talk of a possible return to his hometown Wizards. As Rovell notes, there's been speculation that a potential Durant deal with Under Armour could be tied to a design on signing with Washington.
"Should Nike pass and Under Armour win the battle for Durant, one has to wonder how much of a role Under Armour will play in Durant's decision where to play next. After all, in money alone, Durant would be more an employee of Under Armour than he is of the Thunder."
"Durant is due $41.2 million over his next two seasons with the team; his Under Armour deal would pay him at least $10 million more over that period."
Durant is coming off of one of the finest statistical seasons of his career, averaging career highs in points (32) and assists (5.5). During the season he broke Michael Jordan's record for the most consecutive games scoring at least 25 points (Durant hit 41).
He participated in the USA Basketball camp in Las Vegas and was set to join the team for the FIBA World Cup but pulled out due to mental and physical exhaustion. While that very well may the case, some have speculated that his decision may have been influenced by his interest in Under Armour. USA Basketball is heavily sponsored by Nike.