Joel Embiid is entering this season fresh off an MVP campaign, and after years with Under Armour, he’s set to make a considerable change in footwear. On Wednesday, the Athletic’s Shams Charania and Mike Vorkunov reported Embiid is expected to headline Skechers’ foray into the basketball space, with Julius Randle and Terance Mann likewise set to get on board, as they continue their move into the performance sports shoe space.
Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid, the NBA’s reigning MVP, is nearing a deal to become Skechers’ star pitchman, industry sources briefed on the talks told The Athletic. A deal has not been signed yet, but Embiid wore a Skechers shoe for the first time during 76ers practice Wednesday with the brand’s performance staff on site as he begins to test out the sneaker, sources said. Embiid will begin wearing the new Skechers shoe in games once the deal is fully complete, according to a source.
Embiid’s time with Under Armour featured a poorly timed signature sneaker launch — it was announced a month before the world shut down — and never really picked up momentum despite Embiid continuing to grow in popularity. There has always been a gap between big men and the general public in the shoe-selling world, with Shaq as one of the very few to ever bridge that divide. Embiid’s pitch for his Under Armour was even to make clear it was not just a shoe for bigs, but for versatile players like himself who played all over the floor. Even so, it did not take off and now Skechers will try and launch its basketball brand by taking a rather sizable risk with Embiid.
Not only is Skechers building a brand around a big man, which has never gone particularly well in terms of moving signature sneakers, but they’re also going to be under immense pressure with the design of their first shoe if they’re putting Embiid in it. Given Embiid’s history of lower body injuries, any foot, ankle, or knee injury suffered will draw immediate scrutiny to whether it was caused by wearing an unproven shoe — even if that has nothing to do with it.
There is of course upside for Skechers, as you don’t often get the chance to launch a basketball sneaker line with the reigning league MVP and the bar is pretty low in terms of promoting Embiid compared to his previous sneaker deal. That said, this might be the highest risk-reward sneaker signing in years, and there will be plenty of attention paid to how Skechers’ shoes hold up under Embiid this season.