No Ceilings

by June 28, 2010

by Tzvi Twersky

As of this past Thursday’s NBA Draft, the future of the Washington Wizards rests on the slender shoulders of John Wall.  Ted Leonsis, Ernie Grunfeld, Flip Saunders and the Wizards aren’t the only ones counting on the rookie to resurrect a snakebitten franchise—as of last Wednesday, Reebok is, too.

Thirty-six hours before shaking David Stern’s hand, in a hastily arranged but well executed press conference in Times Square,  Reebok officially announced that John Wall had agreed to a  “multi-year, multimillion-dollar deal” with Reebok.

In addition to adding John Wall to a basketball roster that already includes Jamal Crawford, Jameer Nelson, Danilo Gallinari and Allen Iverson, Reebok also unveiled Wall’s first shoe, the ZigTech Slash.

“After a hugely successful launch of our ZigTech training footwear collection, we wanted to extend our technology into new categories,” said Reebok’s President Uli Becker.

While “recruiting” Wall, Reebok sat him down with Allen Iverson and others who could help the company woo him. Ultimately, though, it was his adolescent connection–for the better part of his teenage years, John Wall played Reebok grassroots ball— that truly helped the company land him.

“Reebok believed in me when no one else did,” said John Wall, referring to his high school days in Reebok camps. “Now, I believe in them and the new technology they have to offer me as a player.”

Reebok’s done very well over the past few business quarters, selling vast quantities of the revolutionary ZigTech running shoes and muscle-toning EasyTones. But since Allen Iverson’s NBA success has waned, Reebok’s effort—and success—pedaling basketball gear has waned, too.

Enter John Wall.

“John is a unique player,” said Todd Krinsky, Reebok’s head of sports and entertainment marketing. “He has a distinct swagger on the court and an inspirational style and flair off the court. John’s individualism and energy make him the perfect fit for the Reebok brand.

“I think he’s grounded,” Krinsky told SLAM. “Like, you’re not gonna see him doing silly thing. He doesn’t go get a tattoo cause the other guys get tattoos. He’s just his own dude. He wants to be his own man. He wants to make his own decisions. That’s why John Wall’s with Reebok.”

There’s a lot of pressure on John Wall—pressure to carry an NBA franchise, help carry a brand—but he’s still only 19, and has never played an NBA game.

“That’s why we’re gonna go slow,” says Krinsky when asked about the high expectations. “We feel like he’s gonna be an explosive player right out of the gate. But we also know that there are adjustments that take place when you go to the next level, and we are willing to grow with him.”

Reebok’s willing to expand their Wall offerings, adding off the court products, when he’s deemed ready. If the Wizards take the same slow and steady approach, John Wall may very well be plastered all over your wall for the next decade.

His first pair of Reebok shoes, the ZigTech Slash, drop on October 15th. His first public action with the Wizards, a summer league game in Vegas, takes place on July 11th against the Golden State Warriors.

Keep your eyes locked—on his game, and his kicks.