Croatia’s Dragan Bender is one of the best young prospects in the world right now—he’s currently projected to be the No. 5 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft by Draft Express. But he won’t be playing in the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championships this summer.
Why? Sneaker politics.
See, Bender as a deal with adidas, but his national team rocks Jordan Brand. When the team informed Bender he wouldn’t be able to wear his adidas sneakers on the court—that he’d have to wear Jordans—he decided to leave the team and the tournament altogether, rather than switch up his kicks. Talk about brand loyalty.
Croatian star forward Dragan Bender will not play at the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship as he will leave the team over a contract dispute.
Vladimr Vanjak, Croatia’s head of delegation at the tournament in Heraklion (Crete), Greece, confirmed to FIBA.com that Bender will be leaving Greece on Sunday.
He said: “The fact is that Bender denied [refused] to play in the Jordan Brand shoes but our Federation has a contract with Jordan and everybody has to play in Jordan Brand. He denied to do that but he didn’t say anything before coming here. That’s the problem. I talked with my Secretary General and other people who made the decision because we have a very serious contract with Jordan. If he cannot play in Jordan Brand, he cannot play. That’s it.”
Bender, who was expected to be one of the biggest stars at the tournament, has a contract with adidas and the Croatian national team is signed to a long-term deal with Jordan Brand.
With rosters finalised, Croatia will play out the 2015 U19 Worlds with 11 players.
H/T: Kicks on Fire