Over the last decade, the sneaker business has seen some major players turn the tides of the industry to a significant degree. Most notably, Kanye West signing with Adidas in 2013 proved to be a monumental success. Now, Reebok is attempting to do the same by getting its footing in the hoops sector and hiring Shaquille O'Neal as President of Basketball.
The position Shaq will be taking on will not be serving as a replacement for anyone. It's a completely new role created by the company in its plan to re-emerge as one of the top sports sneaker brands it once was. And it all starts with basketball. It also serves as a reunion of sorts, as the NBA Hall of Famer was Reebok's first signature athlete in the company's history.
For the last 15 years, Reebok had been owned by the aforementioned Adidas. However, in March of 2022, the company was purchased by Authentic Brands Group for $2.4 billion, more or less giving Reebok a clean slate to start anew.
If it was a notable splash they were looking to make, consider this one to be a crowd-pleasing cannonball. Because coming aboard alongside "The Big Executive" — an excellent nickname coined by The Boardroom — will be fellow Hall of Famer Allen Iverson, who will serve as Vice President of Reebok Basketball.
Here's what Shaq had to say about the type of things he'll be focusing on.
"We just want to do things differently. That's what we were best known for back then and what we want to stay true to now. A big part of my role will be leveraging my network to build bridges, connect the brand with players, and help those players develop through their partnership with Reebok."
Shaquille O'Neal is not only a beloved and highly respected figure among players both past and present, he's also proven to be a naturally creative person over the years. So when he says they want to do things differently, it's probably more than safe to expect things to be noticeably different once the ball gets moving.
Despite Nike's overwhelming presence in the basketball space with multiple NBA players having their own signature shoe, Shaq's unmistakeable magnetism and countless connections should prove to be a powerful competing factor for Reebok right off the bat.
When you pair that with an equally larger-than-life personality in Iverson, who will be focused on driving player recruitment, it certainly feels like the company is destined to make some major announcements sooner than later.
The full, official re-launch of Reebok Basketball is not expected until early 2025, but getting this duo in place now makes complete sense. It's an instant eye-opener for college players on the rise and notable NBA players who aren't already locked into long-term deals with rival sneaker companies.
In fact, according to Reebok CEO Todd Krinsky, there's already something in the works.
"We're about to announce our first partnerships, that he's (Shaq) been very passionate about. He called me with an idea that he thought would be perfect to kick this thing off. Two weeks later, we were all in New York meeting with this person and now we're getting ready to announce."
It's hardly surprising that Shaq is already in the lab cooking things up and preparing for what sounds like a major player endorsement deal.
With all the buzz this news is creating and will continue to create, there will naturally be plenty of skeptics. And rightfully so. When Puma announced Jay Z as Creative Director of its basketball division in 2018, heads absolutely turned much like they're turning for this Shaq-Iverson announcement.
While Puma has in fact made its presence known by signing Hornets star LaMelo Ball and giving him a signature shoe, they haven't exactly been breathing down Nike's neck either. Let's be honest, names like Kyle Kuzma, Deandre Ayton and Dennis Schroder don't jump off the page and provide the needed star power to flip the script in any significant way.
But this announcement from Reebok feels a little different. Just based on everything O'Neal and Krinsky had to say, it sounds like a firm, concrete plan is already in place. And, as mentioned, a major announcement is already forthcoming.
Much like anything else, time will tell on this one. But Shaq and Iverson are known disruptors. It would be difficult to see this partnership not shake the foundations and create a unique, sought after space for Reebok in basketball.
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