- Darren Rovell, ESPN.com Sports Business reporter
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Sebastian Telfair, the 18-year-old, 6-foot point guard who is a cousin of New York Knicks guard Stephon Marbury, announced his intention to enter the NBA draft at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
"It's definitely been a long process, but my whole life, it's been my dream to play in the NBA," Telfair told ESPN.com on Monday night.
Telfair has signed with agent Andy Miller, who also represents Minnesota Timberwolves power forward and league MVP Kevin Garnett, and has also inked a shoe and apparel deal with adidas.
Sources told ESPN.com that Telfair's six-year deal with adidas is worth between $1 million and $2 million annually, depending on his reaching incentives in his contract.The company signed both Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady to deals worth $2 million per year in 1996 and 1997, respectively.
Telfair told The Associated Press on Tuesday his deal was worth more than $15 million total.
Telfair's signing with the company should come as no surprise.
Dwayne "Tiny" Morton, who was coach of Telfair's Abraham Lincoln High School team in Brooklyn and his AAU team, the Juice All-Stars, has been a paid consultant of adidas since last August. Lincoln and the Juice All-Stars both are funded by the shoe company. If he did not go pro, Telfair was headed to Louisville, coached by Rick Pitino, one of adidas' highest-paid coach endorsers.
Telfair's new agent also has recently worked with adidas, having signed Garnett to a lifetime deal with the company last year.
Telfair said all of those connections didn't make much of a difference in the end.
"I've been wearing adidas shoes since I started playing basketball, but the bottom line is that for the past couple of years all the shoe companies have been interested in me, sending me pairs of their shoes," Telfair said.
For the past five summers, Telfair has played in adidas' ABCD camp instead of going to the Nike camp. One of the camp's directors is former Lincoln coach Bobby Hartstein, who coached the school from 1980-1995. Telfair won the camp's MVP award in 2001 and 2002.
As part of his deal with the shoe company, Telfair has the opportunity to eventually get his own signature shoe. Adidas is unveiling signature shoes for its two league MVPs: Tim Duncan (2002 and 2003) in June and Garnett (2004) in July.
"Sebastian brings an instant credibility to our brand," said Kevin Wulff, director of sports marketing for adidas America. "He has that street credibility among the real ballers that is just one of those intangibles that is impossible to manufacture."
Wulff said the fact that Telfair played basketball in New York City also makes him more appealing than some of the other high school athletes entering the draft. Also, Telfair was on the cover of Sports Illustrated two months ago.
"Wherever he goes, he's recognized," Wulff said. "You see all these kids lined up to get his autograph."
Adidas put in the first offer on Telfair after meeting him in March.
Although Miller said many of the shoe companies were interested in Telfair's services as an endorser, sources told ESPN.com that adidas' offer was high enough to discourage other companies from putting in a competitive bid. Nike spokesman Rodney Knox said the company was interested but never extended Telfair an offer. Neither did Reebok, which is now under the purview of former Nike and adidas executive Sonny Vaccaro, nor And 1, which sells the Starbury Mid, Marbury's signature shoe.
"How adidas presented themselves to him as far as where they see him today and where they see him in the future was just the right approach," Miller said. "They made it clear that they were a brand that he could grow with."
One reason the Telfair offer might have been characterized as high is because some scouts think Telfair's stock has dropped after appearances in postseason high school all-star games. Telfair played in two games -- the McDonald's High School All-American Game and the Hoops Summit in San Antonio -- dishing out 18 assists but scoring a total of four points.
Meanwhile, the stock for a player like J.R. Smith has risen. The guard from Newark, N.J., who on Monday announced he would forgo his commitment to the University of North Carolina, was named the MVP in three all-star games.
"If teams make their selection based on a couple of games, I know that some teams would be drafting me No. 1 and some teams wouldn't draft me at all," Telfair joked.
Aside from the perception that his stock has dropped, Vaccaro said he believed Telfair didn't have as much of an upside in terms of the contract value on the table from adidas.
"This deal worked out very well for Sebastian and I am very happy for him," Vaccaro said. "But I think he'll wind up being the lowest draft pick in history with a shoe contract as high as this."
Vaccaro did say that Telfair's off-court value has "great potential."
"The fact that he got a substantial deal now means that his marketing dollars won't be affected based on where he is drafted in June," Vaccaro said.
"Where you get drafted is one component," Miller said. "But it's just the beginning in what is a very long process."
Telfair averaged 33.2 points per game during the regular season in his senior year. Under his leadership, Lincoln won three straight Public School Athletic League championships and one state championship.
There are many more shoe signings to come in the preps-to-pros division, though no one will approach the seven-year, $90 million shoe deal LeBron James inked with Nike last May. The most marketable players for the taking are Dwight Howard, who could be picked No. 1 overall; Josh Smith; and Shaun Livingston.
But Telfair said he believes he is the most marketable among the high schoolers in the 2004 NBA Draft "by far."
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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