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Kyle Kuzma Turned A Sneaker Obsession Into A Legit Business Opportunity

No eight-figure shoe deal? No problem. The Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma walked his own path to sneaker supremacy.

Nick De Paula

Kyle Kuzma remembers how he became a sneakerhead growing up in Flint, Michigan, working within his mom’s limited budget. “We used to take trips to the mall every weekend to Finish Line and Foot Locker,” he says, laughing. “We’d look and then just go home.”

When the 6-foot-9 forward became a first-round draft pick of the Lakers in 2017, he thought his window-shopping days were over. “Everybody has the perception that when you get to the league, you can get any shoe that you want,” Kuzma says.

That didn’t happen. In the NBA, players typically sign one of three kinds of endorsement deals with footwear brands. The top tier is the signature shoe deal, reserved for about a dozen stars who receive a personally branded and designed sneaker with their own input and sign-off. Such deals, which come with a base salary and a standard 5 percent royalty on sales, can be worth tens of millions a year. The next tier consists of roughly 150 players who are signed to a cash deal, earning north of six figures to endorse a brand’s latest launches.

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March 2019

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