Jordan Brand is writing Russell Westbrook the fattest check it’s written for an athlete since, um, Michael Jordan cashed in last pay period. On Tuesday, ESPN reported that the reigning MVP will sign a 10-year extension with the brand he’s endorsed since 2013. Though the exact figures aren’t known yet, the contract will make for the highest total endorsement deal yet for the Nike-derived company, and puts Westbrook, who has yet to sign the maximum extension Oklahoma City has offered him, in an even more interesting offseason position.
In addition to financial stability, the contract also gives Russ the freedom to flex his passion for style, a side he’s already began monetizing by publishing his book, Russell Westbrook: Style Drivers, earlier this month. Jordan Brand will reportedly begin creating a signature shoe for the superstar, in addition to more off-the-court looks. But for those wondering (or worrying) why Westbrook hasn’t already re-signed with the Thunder, this long-term, very secure, moolah-dripping deal has almost sour timing—especially for OKC faithful, who, as NewsOK’s Brett Dawson pointed out, will remember that Kevin Durant also earned that kind of financial security from Nike before leaving the franchise. Why hasn’t Westbrook signed, and does a new deal with Jordan Brand have anything to do with it?
What’s the deal with Russ’s contract options?
Westbrook is up for a maximum contract extension, which would have to be agreed upon the day before the start of the season, on October 16. His current contract, a three-year, $85.6 million deal that includes a player option in 2018-19, essentially expires after this season, should Westbrook decide to opt out. And that’s likely—with a maximum extension, he’s up for far more than the $30.5 million he could make next season. In addition to the $28.5 million he’s guaranteed this year, the new designated veteran extension supermax would tack on roughly $207 million (figured using future cap estimates) over five years. That total, over $235 million, would be the richest contract in the history of the league. Kind of a theme for our guy here.
If Westbrook does not ink the deal in October, he’ll have a chance at that exact same sum with Oklahoma City as an unrestricted free agent this upcoming summer. Of course, he could also ride the same wave so many other elite talents in the NBA are and sign a shorter deal. He could also, you know, [clears throat, checks over shoulder for Sam Presti] leave Oklahoma City.
Is there any reason, then, to wait until next summer to sign?
Yes! A player can only request the addition of a no-trade clause in his contract when he is signing a new deal, not an extension. If Westbrook wants that stipulation, and he knows the money would be the same either way, then waiting makes sense. Especially after this summer, considering the chronicles of Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, and, perhaps soon, Carmelo Anthony, forcing a trade to leave an organization has never been more popular. The no-trade clause, now, is also just as useful for negotiating an exit from a team as it is staying on one: If a player eventually wants the option to be traded to a team of his choice, what better way to control the destination than agreeing to waive his no-trade clause for that franchise?
Back to Russ: Are there reasons he would consider a shorter deal with OKC?
This is where the Jordan Brand money figures in. If Westbrook is at all considering retiring outside of Oklahoma, a shorter deal with the franchise ensures that he has the option to leave while still in his prime. The appeal of a long-term contract could be less influential when major money (like Jordan Brand money) is coming in elsewhere.
But even without the shoe deal, Westbrook’s camp has reason to consider shorter deals. The point guard built a game on hurling his body at the basket, pushing tempo, and using quickness and agility to overpower opponents. That, at a high level, doesn’t age as well; signing the following contract after this next one will be easier if Westbrook is a couple of years younger.