By Glenn Minnis
The rewards for bagging an NBA Most Valuable Player award have its exponential advantages.
Think in the ballpark of at least $265 million; that's the minimum offer sports-apparel maker Under Armour has reportedly extended Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant over 10 years, all in a brazen effort to poach him away from Nike and in a move that could have league-wide repercussions.
The deal also includes shares of UA stock and the erection of a community center in his mother's name, whom Durant has often referred to as his "real MVP." By far, the transaction would be the largest sponsorship agreement in UA's brief but profitable history and would represent roughly 10 percent of the company's annual marketing expenditures.
In potentially securing Durant's services, the Baltimore-based, up-and-coming establishment might also be gift-wrapping the league's top scorer for his boyhood favorite Washington Wizards. Durant, who has spent his first six years in the league as one of Nike's highest profile and most loyal athletes, grew up in nearby Maryland and has recently hinted he may not be opposed to returning to his roots once he can become a free agent after the 2016 campaign.
It all makes for a storybook promotion for Under Armour, who even as basketball sneaker sales accounted for just one percent of their revenues last year is expected to gross in the arena of $3 billion in earnings over the next twelve months.
But word is UA founder Kevin Plank is convinced if anyone can add to that bottom-line, it's the sweet-shooting Durant, particularly in such a favorable setting. So sold on the idea are company execs, they have been willing to add the sweetener of offering to pay Durant most of his cheddar up front.
Nike has a legal right to match any outside offers Durant garners, but clearly the handwriting appears on the wall as to what The Grim Reaper and his Roc Nation reps are now thinking.
So tied at the hip to the Durant camp are UA execs rumored to be, it's an open secret that ongoing negotiations with company bigwigs had as much to do with his recent decision to bolt Team USA and drop out of the FIBA World Cup Games as the "I'm too tired" excuse he gave Coach Mike Krzyzewski and USA basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo.
In potentially returning to his near D.C. roots, Durant would be following a movement recently started by LeBron James and endorsed by fellow UA client Stephen Curry of NBA players returning to their hometowns to perhaps close out their careers.
Indeed, 2007 –when Durant declined a far more lucrative offer from Adidas to sign on the dotted line with his beloved Nike - now seems like a lifetime ago. Under Armour is said to have blown Durant away in extending him an offer that will pay him $10 million more than the Thunder will over the final two years of his current deal.
By then, the value Kevin Durant and Under Armour Sports could hold for one another may be greater than any partnership the league has seen since the Chicago days of Michael Jordan and Nike.\
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