Nike has made its biggest statement yet in the NIL game.
The sportswear and sneaker giant has announced the signing of five basketball players, ranging from the high school to college level. It’s the first big-time move the company has made. Nike slowly pieced together a roster in Year 1 of NIL, inking athletes such as Stanford women’s golfer Rachel Heck and UCLA soccer player Reilyn Turner.
Now the company is making its move in basketball. Bronny James, Caitlin Clark, Haley Jones, DJ Wagner and Judea Watkins have all signed with the sneaker magnet. Signing the athletes aligns with Nike’s mission statement, which is “inspiring young athletes who are leading the way now — both on the court and in their communities.”
It also sets the company up to be in a strong position to ink long-term deals for the next generation of basketball stars.
James is the oldest son of Lebron James and is a senior at Sierra Canyon High School in Los Angeles. As part of his agreement with Nike, he will continue to promote and positively impact communities with the LeBron James Family Foundation.
“For as long as I can remember, Nike’s been a part of my family,” Bronny James said in a statement. “Getting a chance to team up with them and continue my family’s legacy both on the court and in the community is wild — it really means a lot to me.”
A senior guard at Stanford, Haley Jones helped secure a national title this in 2021 and was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player. The senior averaged 13.2 points and 7.9 rebounds per games last season.
“Basketball has given me so much over the years. I’m excited about the opportunity this partnership presents — to give back to my community in more ways than I ever imagined possible,” Jones said in a release.
Iowa guard Caitlin Clark is one of the most accomplished players in the women’s game. A consensus first-team All-American in 2022, she was also the Big Ten Player of the Year. She’s the first player to win the Dawn Staley Guard of the Year Award in back-to-back years.
“I grew up watching Nike athletes across all sports play their game,” Clark said. “They have inspired me to work hard and make a difference. I’m humbled to be part of this first Nike basketball class and passionate about inspiring the next.”
Nike has also signed DJ Wagner and Judea Watkins — two high school stars. This is not Wagner’s first move with Nike. He previously signed on with Drake’s Nike sub-label NOCTA. Watkins is also a senior at Sierra Canyon and was the 2021-22 California Gatorade Player of the Year.
As part of her deal with Nike, Watkins will work with the company to With Nike, help revitalize basketball spaces across L.A. and “redefine the future of women’s basketball.”
Nike signing top-flight NIL talent
With over 12.2 million social media followers, Bronny James holds an On3 NIL Valuation of $7.3 million. The evaluation is the highest in the NIL 100 and among college basketball recruits. Partnered with his father’s NBA success, James has made a name for himself. He has his own deal with PSD Underwear, too. Monday’s announcement is just more evidence of what he will be able to command in the NIL market.
Clark and Jones have two of the highest valuations in women’s basketball, too. The Iowa guard holds an evaluation of $137,000, while Jones’ sits at $74k. Each have social media followings eclipsing 100k and have large portfolios of deals.
Despite not announcing his commitment yet, Wagner’s NIL Valuation of $662,000 ranks No. 52 in the NIL 100. With 115k social media followers, he holds a per post value $2,200K. It’s hard to think the combo guard won’t end up at a Nike school following Monday’s news.
The On3 NIL Valuation is the industry’s leading index that sets the standard market NIL value for high school and college athletes. A proprietary algorithm, the On3 NIL Valuation calculates an athlete’s NIL value using dynamic data points targeting three primary categories: performance, influence and exposure.
While the algorithm includes deal data, it does not act as a tracker of the value of NIL deals athletes have completed to date, nor does it set an athlete’s NIL valuation for their entire career. The On3 NIL Valuation calculates the optimized NIL opportunity for athletes relative to the overall NIL market and projects out to as long as 12 months into the future.