Will high pick drive shoe sales?
Sebastian Telfair came out a lottery winner after all on Thursday night.
Despite rumors he could be dropped to a late first-round pick, the 6-foot, 168-pound point guard from Brooklyn's Abraham Lincoln High, who watched the event from a Manhattan hotel room, was selected in the final lottery slot -- No. 13 -- by the Portland Trail Blazers.
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Peoria (Ill.) High School guard Shaun Livingston might have received a boost on shoe deal negotiations thanks to landing in big market Los Angeles, when the Clippers took him with the fourth overall pick.
"It's not New York, you know what I mean?" said Livingston. "But it's going to be great and hopefully I can take advantage of that (market size) to the most of my abilities."
Nike and Reebok have been in initial talks with Livingston's agent Henry Thomas of CSMG.
The Blazers are hoping Telfair will be worth the $5 million they will pay him over the next three years, while adidas is hoping the contract it signed with the phenom -- a six-year deal that could be worth as much as $12 million, depending on how he performs -- pays off as well.
So will the kid from New York who has the most catchy name and is the most well-known of the eight high schoolers selected in the first round be able to sell shoes?
It won't be easy.
And although James' success in Cleveland (TV market: 17) and Tracy McGrady's play in Orlando, Fla., (TV market: 20) has allowed Nike and adidas, respectively, to overcome the size of those markets, Portland, Ore., (TV market: 23) is a bit more complicated for Telfair.
"The guy with the most cred in the whole draft needs to stay in the New York area to maximize what he has developed," said Bob Dorfman, sports analyst for San Francisco-based Pickett Advertising. "Allen Iverson has been helped by the fact that he made his name on the East coast and plays on the East coast and his playground style and attitude are much more appreciated on the East coast. Much in the same way, Sebastian could affect style trends much more on the east coast than he can across the country."
Kevin Wulff, director of sports marketing for adidas America, said Thursday that he isn't concerned about the Portland market, where the shoe and apparel company just happens to be located, or the fact that Telfair was picked behind three high schoolers -- Dwight Howard, Shaun Livingston and Robert Swift.
"People tend to remember the first player picked and maybe the big three from last year," Wulff said. "But in the end, the order doesn't really matter much in our business. It seems like a lot of coaches and general managers are looking for immediate results these days since the term of tenure is shorter and the pressure is on to win now. We're confident in Sebastian's future."
Adidas has no immediate plans of giving Telfair a signature shoe, but he will be the most visible face behind the "Game Day Lightning," a $80 shoe that is scheduled to hit stores on Dec. 18.
"Even though orders aren't in yet, our forecast is that the shoe that Sebastian will be wearing is going to be one of our biggest basketball shoes ever," Wulff said. "The response from the people who have seen it has been amazing."
The company is launching a shoe for NBA MVP Kevin Garnett next month.
Telfair is not a big risk for adidas, Wulff says, because his contract -- as well as the contract of No. 17 pick Josh Smith -- is incentive-laden.
"That's how we work," Wulff said. "Some players like that and some players don't. That's why you get some players and you don't get others."
One factor in selling shoes is the ability of the endorser's team to win. Wulff says he likes the Trail Blazers because it is an organization that is committed to winning.
A report in the New York Post last month suggested that adidas would pay off the Trail Blazers to take Telfair in the draft. In exchange for the purchase of luxury suite seats and a marketing campaign around Portland, the Trail Blazers would guarantee the pick.
Trail Blazers general manager John Nash denied that such a deal was made and Wulff told ESPN.com that despite the team landing Telfair, that no agreement was ever made.
"As we understand, the story came from a former disgruntled adidas employee," Wulff said. "To suggest that we agreed to give the Blazers some $200,000 to do this is borderline ludicrous. We do some things with them, we will continue to do things with them, but there have been no marketing conversations about next year as of yet."
Conspiracy theorists could come back with the fact that Telfair's shoe, designed before he was drafted, was silver and black -- two of the Blazers' principal colors.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.firstname.lastname@example.org
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