Dennis Smith Jr. becomes latest NBA rookie to sign a lucrative shoe deal

Dallas Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. has signed an endorsement deal with Under Armour that could pay him as much as $6 million over the next three years, according to ESPN’s Nick DePaula.

The ninth overall pick in this past June’s draft, Smith reportedly entered summer league without a deal in hopes of increasing offers from major apparel companies, and his highlight reel in Las Vegas apparently opened the door for an incentive-laden deal that could pay him up to $2 million annually.

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Under Armour confirmed the endorsement deal on their social media channels on Tuesday morning:


Smith joins an NBA roster at Under Armour headlined by two-time MVP Stephen Curry and featuring a crop of others who have experienced various levels of success, including Seth Curry, Kent Bazemore, Emmanuel Mudiay, Brandon Jennings, Patty Mills, Greivis Vasquez and fellow rookie Josh Jackson.

“I am definitely excited to be a part of team Under Armour as I get ready to go into [training] camp for my rookie year,” Smith Jr. told ESPN.com. “Under Armour is an explosive brand in basketball right now, and I’m excited to join Stephen and Seth and the team at UA in making our mark together.”

Under Armour’s endorsement deals include a host of impressive names across all sports — MVP quarterbacks Tom Brady and Cam Newton, National League MVPs Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw, Masters champion Jordan Spieth and most-decorated Olympian Michael Phelps, to name a handful — and the company is looking to expand its basketball brand after it recently reported financial losses for a second straight quarter and laid off 280 employees in the wake of Curry’s much-maligned shoes.

The company identified Smith as the man for the job after an explosive performance at summer league that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he had recovered from ACL surgery as a high school senior in 2015. He fell to ninth in the draft following an up-and-down freshman season at N.C. State. He previously caught the attention of Under Armour and the Curry brothers while competing at the Under Armour Elite 24 and the Under Armour-sponsored SC30 Select Camp in high school.

“The first time that I saw Dennis Smith at camp was when Stephen ran out of the gym after he tried to dunk on somebody,” Under Armour pro basketball sports marketing director Kris Stone told ESPN.com. “Dennis got so high — his elbow was at the rim. It was unbelievable. That was my first time experiencing what Dennis can bring to the table in terms of explosiveness. The reaction that Stephen had was ridiculous. Stephen was coming off of an MVP season and an NBA championship, and here he is, watching a high school kid own the moment and respecting it.”

Smith wore custom-made Drive 4 shoes during summer league, and he will reportedly be charged with repping them for Under Armour. The company is expected to launch its new sneaker this month.

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While Smith and Jackson have signed with Under Armour, fellow top-10 picks Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum, De’Aaron Fox, Jonathan Isaac and Lauri Markannen have all reached agreements with Nike. Lottery picks Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo are also among Nike’s growing roster of NBA players. Smith’s deal is reportedly in the same ballpark as the one Fultz, the No. 1 overall pick, got from Nike.

For reference, last year’s No. 1 pick, Ben Simmons, signed a five-year, $20 million deal with Nike. Curry initially signed with Under Armour for less than $4 million annually, but his newest deal, which includes equity in the company, will pay the Golden State Warriors’ star roughly $12 million in 2017. That’s a fraction of LeBron James’ lifetime partnership with Nike that may eventually exceed $1 billion.

Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball made headlines when his father reportedly turned down five-year, $10 million offers and demanded a multi-billion-dollar deal before releasing his own shoe for $495 a pair under the Big Baller Brand umbrella and selling fewer than 300 pairs on the first day.

New York Knicks point guard Frank Ntilikina and Portland Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins are now the only top-10 picks from the 2017 class without shoe deals.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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