By Mark A. Upaa
Nike CEO Mark Parker, caused a buzz on Social media and blogs dedicated to basketball sneakers with talk about the release of Nike’s first signature shoe for Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo is the first foreign-born player to have a signature shoe deal with Nike. When released, the shoe is poised to launch Antetokounmpo’s brand into very rare air, reserved for popular NBA stars, including the likes of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
The shoe, to be called the Nike ‘Freak 1′ is expected to be released in July, according to multiple reports. “Building on the energy of a remarkable NBA playoff run, during which Giannis led his team in a ‘gentleman’s sweep’ of the highly favored Boston Celtics. With the launch of the signature shoe it is expected that Antetokounmpo earnings take a significant boost. He had signed an endorsement deal with Nike in late 2017 that was reported to pay him about $9 million in the first year, with escalator ‘clauses’ embedded for meeting mile-stones. Nike releases his first signature shoe in 2019, being one of them. According to Forbes, which has also ranked Antetokounmpo as the 30th-highest-paid athlete in the world for 2018 at $35.5 million.
Alex Saratsis, senior director of global operations at Octagon a, Connecticut-based, sports and entertainment representation and management company that manages Antetokounmpo, along with other popular NBA stars, like Stephen Curry of the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 NBA Champion’s Golden State Warriors. Shed some light on the potential for Giannis, with this new mile-stone. “There are so few signature athletes that I’d be lying to you if I said, ‘I know this is going to open this door and that door and that door,’ but even through our partnership with Nike and the fact he’s a signature athlete, there have been many brands who have come along and said, ‘Well, if Nike believes you’re a signature athlete and that you can push product, then we have to jump on that bandwagon, because if Nike believes it, we should believe it as well,'” Saratsis said. The shoe release will also involve a special launch event in Athens, Greece, Antetokounmpo’s birthplace, he added.
For the 2018-2019 NBA regular season, Antetokounmpo had the third-highest selling jersey Antetokounmpo also received the second-most votes of any player for the NBA All-Star Game at 991,561, just behind LeBron James, who received the most votes at 1,083,363. Antetokounmpo is a finalist for the both NBA’s Most Valuable Player and Defense Player of the Year awards, which will be announced during the third annual NBA Awards in Los Angeles on June 24.
Also this past season, Antetokounmpo led his team, the Bucks to the best regular season record in the NBA as-well-as to the Eastern Conference Finals, the team’s first trip to the conference finals since 2001. The Milwaukee Bucks selected Antetokounmpo with the 15th overall pick in the 2013 draft. In September 2016, Antetokounmpo signed a four-year contract extension with the Bucks worth a reported $100 million.
While he was born in Athens, Greece on December 6, 1994. Antetokounmpo is the son of Nigerian immigrants, his father Charles was Yoruba, while his mother Veronica is of Igbo extract. Giannis whose Nigerian name is ‘Ougko’, romanized his surname from Adetokunbo to Antetokounmpo when he officially gained Greek citizenship in 2013.