Kawhi Leonard has always been somewhat underrated in the NBA. Many people blame his ultra-serious demeanor, others blamed his presence in the small market of San Antonio. Not only was Kawhi underrated in the basketball world, but he was also slept on by the sneaker industry. Unlike Leonard, most of the other big stars have solidified their presence in the shoe world (and some very early in their careers). On Wednesday, Kawhi Leonard joined them by agreeing to a deal with the most Kawhi-like sneaker company imaginable: New Balance.
The deal between the new Toronto Raptors forward and New Balance appears to be a win for both sides. Kawhi finally secures the long-term shoe deal he has always been lacking and New Balance lands their first major NBA athlete since James Worthy in the 1980s. Kawhi Leonard discovered his first true sense of immortality this past year when he missed nearly all of last season with a right quadriceps injury. It was important for Leonard to earn a major endorsement in order to protect his future should injury reoccur. Details of the agreement have yet to be announced.
For New Balance, they needed to come up with a game-plan to enhance their brand. Long viewed as an inferior shoe brand (and often mocked for their plain design), they are hoping that Kawhi can help them make a 180-degree turn similar to what we have seen with Puma recently. For most other brands, signing Kawhi Leonard may have been deemed too risky, as his injury-ridden season was also met with uncertainty both in his career and his mentality. However, so far in this young season Kawhi has shown why he was considered one of the top players in the NBA.