Paul George wants out of Indiana, and his landing spot of preference is the Los Angeles Lakers. Yesterday, multiple reasons came out for George’s desire to land in L.A.: he grew up here in Palmdale — just north of Los Angeles –, he has been a Lakers fan since he was young, and he thinks Magic Johnson can bring the Lakers back to glory. All of those reasons seem nice. Coming home will resonate with any fan base, but call me a skeptic for thinking there’s another reason.
George has said he wants to play for a contender. The Lakers are far away from being a contender. Even the dream scenario of landing George and LeBron requires multiple steps to get under the cap. That is unless players take less money to play together. The only reason these players would think about taking a pay cut is because of off the court opportunities, the biggest of which are always shoe deals.
Paul George wants to go to Los Angeles. That’s great for Nike. Nike doesn’t have a star in a L.A. market that was once owned by Kobe Bryant. Now there is no one there. Paul George’s sneaker is one of the top selling shoes for Nike’s signature athletes. It’s one of the best designed and has one of the lowest price points. George in Los Angeles would be a huge win for Nike and PG13.
Nike wouldn’t go directly to George and say sign with Los Angeles no matter what, but maybe George gets more money for camps. Maybe someone mentions it in passing that it would be nice for both George and Nike to own the market.
Maybe this has already happened. Kevin Durant ended up in the Bay Area because the Warriors gave him the best chance to win. Landing with the Warriors also put a major Nike athlete in a huge market that was dominated by Under Armour. Everyone wins. Durant wins because, well, he is winning. Nike wins because Durant is now in a huge championship market. Under Armour may be the only loser. Nike didn’t tell Durant to go anywhere, but it wouldn’t be a shock if they told KD they wouldn’t mind him moving to San Francisco.
This is what happens when rings culture is combined with a salary structure that limits how much a player can make on the court. LeBron is worth $60 million per year, but he can only get $35 million on the court. His $1 billion deal with Nike seems a little more important. Is it any wonder LeBron is supposedly considering moving to Los Angeles as well?
It’s not the major reason that players are choosing cities, but it would be dishonest to say it doesn’t effect them. The extra money, fame, promotion and marketing all matter. It’s interesting no one has brought up George’s Nike ties over the past few days. It has to be a consideration.