Kevin Durant Leaves Texas for...Nike

Dave FinocchioSenior Writer IMarch 22, 2007

IconOn January 16th, 2007, I was granted a special exemption (by God) to root for the Texas Longhorns.
I was given the strength to temporarily put aside my disdain for Chris Simms, Mack Brown, and T.J. Ford for a greater good. As if lifted from a haze, I found myself dwelling more on how everyone always says nice things about Austin, and how I really, really like Dazed and Confused...and less on how Chris Simms has a tattoo of former Texas wide receiver and current Houston Texans QB coach Kyle Shanahan's name on his lower leg.
This was a religious experience, and I was ready to tattoo Kevin Durant's name on my lower leg.
But after reading articles on the Internet, I discovered that many, many other people were sharing the same experience, and it suddenly became less personal. I still got the tattoo, but I didn't move to Austin.
Well, I did more reading on the Internet today and it seems that God is about ready to revoke my exemption. Every sports analyst in the land agrees that Kevin Durant is about to bid adieu to college basketball, which means that I will bid adieu to the University of Texas. The impending result itself is a little sad, but far from unexpected. It's the cause that's far more intriguing, because it isn't actually God that's taking Texas away from me—it's Nike.
As stated in almost every major sports source in the country, Kevin Durant loves being in college—which means he's normal. He also doesn't need to sweat the potential of injury and losing out on an NBA salary, as he can easily insure himself. But Durant will enter the NBA draft in the coming weeks, because not doing so would mean risking millions and millions of dollars in endorsements.
Chip Brown of the Dallas Morning News reported Thursday morning (obviously) that NBA fan-favorite Kobe Bryant has contacted Durant to discuss the amazing benefits of signing a shoe deal with Nike.  Which got me thinking: Why is Nike THIS concerned with making Kevin Durant an offer he can't refuse?
I watch Nike's "second coming" commercials seven to thirteen times every day. I know for a fact that they have sponsorship deals with Kobe ($40 million over five years), LeBron James ($90 million over seven years)...and I'm pretty sure you've seen the commercial too. In summary, a lot of big name NBA players are paid to endorse Nike.
But how many more shoes is Nike really going to sell by paying Kevin Durant 30-something million dollars over the next five or so years? Will they increase their revenue by more than 30 million dollars? I sincerely doubt it.

In fact, for every additional million dollars that Nike spends on sponsoring a player, they get less in return than they did when they spent their previous million dollars. The fact is that people who buy basketball shoes already watch the league's superstars, most of whom endorse Nike. How many of those people are NOW going to start buying Nikes because Kevin Durant (as opposed to Kobe, LeBron, Steve Nash, et. al.) says they should?

So again, the question remains—why is Nike making sure that Kevin Durant doesn't play another year of college basketball?  The answer is pretty simple: market share.  If Nike doesn't sign Durant, some other shoe company will. And when that happens, many of Nike's current customers will defect. Kevin Durant isn't going to leave college to make money for Nike; he's going to leave college to save money for Nike.

Ah this thing they call business.

I do wish Durant the best and I'm sure beyond sure that he'll soon become an ever greater converter of angry sports fans. When he fills out a little, he's also going to become one of the most dominant players in the NBA. He might even transcend the ridiculous, long-standing "you can't compare black NBA players to white players and vice-versa" standard (think Larry Bird, Boston fans).

But there is one thing Kevin Durant isn't going to be, and that's a sophomore in college.