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Master P aims to make Allen Iverson for Reebok what Michael Jordan was for Nike

Daniel Roberts
·Editor-at-Large
·3 min read

Reebok is for sale, parent company Adidas Group confirmed last month, and since then, the rapper Percy Miller (“Master P”) has emerged as an interested buyer.

Adidas (ADDYY) acquired Reebok in 2006 for $3.8 billion, but the brand has been in decline for the last few years. Adidas says it will announce a buyer on March 10.

Miller already launched one sneaker brand, Moneyatti, in 2018. His bid for Reebok includes NBA veteran Baron Davis as a partner, and, he told Yahoo Finance Live last week, he has also invited Shaquille O’Neal (who has had success with his Papa John’s investment and board seat) to have “a seat at the table.” Miller believes Reebok “definitely can be revamped,” and that majority Black ownership could make the brand cool again.

And if he succeeds in obtaining Reebok, he aims to put Allen Iverson front and center.

Iverson, whose final NBA game was in February 2010 (though he didn’t officially retire until 2013), has had a signature shoe deal with Reebok since 1996.

“The way we look at Michael Jordan for Nike (NKE), we look at Allen Iverson that way in Reebok,” Miller says. “We need to bring him to the forefront. We need to bring in better designers. We also need to make this for the millennials. And I think that that would be a game changer.”

Building a shoe brand on the shoulders of Allen Iverson in 2021 might be a very tall order.

Do kids today know Iverson? He is an NBA Hall of Famer and was the league MVP in 2001. But he never won a ring, and hasn’t played in 11 years.

Michael Jordan is globally famous, instantly recognizable even to non-basketball fans, and his ubiquitous Jumpman logo made Nike’s Jordan Brand the biggest brand in basketball sneakers. Under Armour, with its new Curry Brand, is trying to make Steph Curry its Michael Jordan, and even that might be a stretch. Can Allen Iverson sell shoes?

Feb 8, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Former Philadelphia 76ers and hall of fame member Allen Iverson reacts with fans during the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 8, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Former Philadelphia 76ers and hall of fame member Allen Iverson reacts with fans during the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

There is also a broader market context that will make it a challenge for Miller to market Iverson: the performance basketball sneaker category has been in decline for five straight years. These days, the category represents just 3% of all athletic shoes sold.

And lucrative basketball endorsement deals are on the wane, as it is becoming less certain that a star endorser can move the sales needle.

As NPD Group retail analyst Matt Powell puts it, “If you don’t consider Zion Williamson, what was the last big rookie shoe deal that was signed? And you’ve got to believe Nike is unhappy with the money they paid Zion, because he didn’t come in and change the league. He’s a very good player but he’s not going to sell basketball shoes. Everything I’m hearing about this year’s draft class is no one is going to get big money from a brand.”

Of course, Iverson is not a current player, but a former star and still-young icon. And Powell allows that while performance basketball sneakers aren’t selling, “The retro basketball shoe business is great right now. Retro Jordans, Air Force Ones are selling like crazy.” (Powell, by the way, believes Miller and Davis have a good shot at getting Reebok.)

If Miller and Reebok can put out appealing Iverson retro sneakers, they might just revive the brand.

Daniel Roberts is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance and specializes in sports business. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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