Nike CEO Mark Parker announced Thursday the company is planning to release a signature shoe for Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook in 2018 and will also increase its promotion of Milwaukee Bucks emerging sensation Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Brandon Richard of Sole Collector passed along comments Parker made during an earnings call about how Nike and its Jordan Brand plan to promote two of basketball's biggest names.
"And Jordan Brand will launch its first signature shoe with reigning MVP Russell Westbrook," he said. "We're also thrilled to expand our relationship with Giannis Antetokounmpo as we bring his unique personality to life through new signature product and storytelling next year."
In September, Nick DePaula of ESPN.com reported Antetokounmpo had meetings scheduled with Nike, Adidas and Chinese company Li-Ning to discuss the future of his shoe endorsement after a breakout 2016-17 campaign that moved him into the league's upper echelon.
The 23-year-old Greece native, whose endorsement deal with Nike expired Sept. 30, posted his decision to sign a new long-term deal with the company on social media last month:
Meanwhile, Westbrook signed a 10-year extension with Nike's Jordan Brand in September that's the "most lucrative total endorsement deal for a Jordan athlete to date," per DePaula.
Wilson Taylor, the Thunder's equipment manager, told Sam Anderson of the New York Times in February the dynamic point guard takes a hands-on approach in creating his shoes, providing direct feedback to Nike, such as being unhappy with the "sole flexibility" of the Jordan 31.
"Most guys, I can just bring a pair of shoes," Taylor said. "Russell wants a certain pair. He knows which are for games, which are for practice. He determines which shoes are coming on a road trip."
The Nike cornerstones are both enjoying terrific on-floor performance once again this season. ESPN.com notes Antetokounmpo ranks third in Hollinger's value added, while Westbrook, who finished first in the category last year, has slid to a respective 13th following the arrival of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony in OKC.