Cavs' Jones has deal with Li-Ning

Updated: January 10, 2006, 9:48 AM ET
Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- Damon Jones doesn't know much about China or the country's emergence as an economic superpower.

"I know one thing, though," the Cavaliers guard said. "I'm global."

Jones became the first NBA player to sign an endorsement contract Monday with Li-Ning, the largest China-based sports apparel maker, which one day hopes to challenge athletic shoe giants Nike and adidas.

Li-Ning, which signed a marketing agreement with the NBA last year, will begin selling shoes endorsed by Jones in its 2,500 stores in every province of China. The company has no immediate plans to sell the shoes, which retail for around $45 in China, in the U.S.

However, with Jones on board, Li-Ning hopes to tap into pro basketball's growing popularity in China and add more NBA players to promote its products.

The outgoing Jones, whose bubbly personality makes him a natural salesman, is excited about the opportunity to grow with Li-Ning, which was founded in 1990 by former Chinese star gymnast, Li Ning.

He wore the Li-Ning shoes, whose design includes Oriental themes, for the first time in a game in November, and said he has gotten positive feedback on the look from both Cleveland teammates and opponents.

"It's a great shoe," said Jones, who'll visit China for the first time this summer. "I'm looking forward to going there. I've talked to LeBron [James], and he said it's an amazing place."

Li-Ning has launched an ad campaign in China for the shoes, using the slogan "Anything Is Possible." Jones didn't miss a chance to use it during a news conference at the Ritz-Carlton.

Asked if he could outsell James, who endorses Nike, in China, Jones smiled and said, "Anything is possible" in Chinese.

Later, Jones revealed that he had the expression written phonetically on the back of his name placard on the dais.

"I didn't need it," he said. "I've been practicing for six days."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press