Via Getty Images

The hype surrounding Drake’s potential departure from Nike’s crown jewel, Jordan Brand feels similar to the warm nervousness that precedes natural disasters. In the midst of this thick tension; even an obscure image of OVO’s boss in anything remotely resembling an adidas offering has the power to make sneakerheads “look alive.” It’s all news-worthy but; What else? Drama? The death of Jordan Brand? Or is there some genuine concern about how a split between Nike and Drake impacts us as consumers?  

Kanye West performs in New York City. Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

When Kanye West departed Nike and Jordan Brand back in 2013, there was some drama - mostly hype. Kanye did however express his thoughts in an interview with Hot 97’s Angie Martinez summing up his reasons [in part] as: "The old me without a daughter might have taken the Nike deal 'cause I just love Nike so much," he said. "But the new me with a daughter takes the adidas deal because I have royalties and I have to provide for my family.”  For full context, the entire interview should be viewed - beginning to end but the crux is relatively clear - it’s just business.

So when the dust cleared, Nike kept silent and the “war” was bloodless. Nothing to see; no drama and business moved on. Except for one small ripple, a slightly younger @champaignpappi shared a very special announcement with several thousand of his closest fans: 

"Today also happens to be one of the best days of my life. Growing up, I'm sure we all idolized this guy, he goes by the name of Michael Jordan. So today, I came to Portland and officially became inducted into the Team Jordan family.”  

When Nike finally spoke on the matter, the words were:  He’s home. Welcome the newest member of #TeamJordan: @Drake" — Jordan (@Jumpman23) December 4, 2013

That was as dramatic as it got. So what does this mean for Jordan Brand? Could Drake’s departure be the blow that ultimately propels adidas to the top? To be sure, we truly live in a world and time where just about anything can happen. However, even in this time of extremes; truth, logic and reason still do exist.    For example, Drake’s mainstream success is not a fluke. He is certainly blessed or lucky if you prefer but he’s also a complete and balanced package with a solid performance and business foundation.

Beyond his music, Drake can count the NBA, Apple and Nike among an extensive list of business and professional affiliations. That resume alone would make Ivy League elites green with envy because doing business with major corporations is indescribably difficult. Success requires intelligence, commitment, toughness and a solid belief in - you. Without a doubt, an endorsement from any of those entities is an accomplishment beyond normal comprehension.

However, even among those titans, the co-brand: Young Money/Cash Money resonates loudly. To appreciate the connection, think Tyga, Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne. Though controversial, YMCMB’s contributions to the music industry, hip-hop culture and Drake’s success are undeniable and when amended to the list of prior mentioned juggernauts, it’s easy to see Drake as much more than a “hit maker.”  

Drake performs in Paris. David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns via Getty Images

By all accounts, Aubrey is the real business-deal which also means he is fully equipped to negotiate in both conventional and unconventional ways - with the latter seeming to be the current tactical approach. From the outside, his potential strategy makes sense. Nike is a corporation (a thing), which means you have to get people involved before anything meaningful can happen. No different than fixing a broken relationship (a thing) where one person is being undervalued, misunderstood, etc.. By the other. 

Timing is also on Drake’s side thanks to the clock-cleaning combo Kylie Jenner and Rihanna dealt Snapchat not too long ago. The bruises from that battle are still fresh and provide a filter for those who still don’t understand the power of modern celebrities. With a few characters of text - barely a combined large paragraph, Rihanna and Kylie in their roles as businesswomen shifted the financial positioning of SNAP Inc. inside a single trading day. This was not some PR rant or stunt. This was real, measured and impacted one of the things major corporations understand really well, stock price. So should Nike take Drake’s seemingly casual strolls with adidas seriously? Yes.

 Clip Via TIME

That said, if there is some strategy at work (in public and behind the scenes) and the result is still a split, the net result to us consumers is a loss of the coveted OVO mark of excellence on Nike’s shoes and a limited blow to Jordan 12, 10 and 8 models. There could be other losses in the form of potential projects Drake could have released under the brand’s umbrella or could do elsewhere but there’s no way to calculate that. Lastly, does anyone know if adidas wants this deal? Or if there is room for Kanye plus one?   

Gentry Humphry Via Sole Collector

 Even more interestingly, straight from the 2013 playbook, Nike reached out and scored with the reassignment of a key player. Within the industry, the name Gentry Humphrey is well respected. In his new role as VP of Footwear, his job is also clear-cut - Make JB GrMove Jordan Brand back to the top and keep it there. His track record with the brand speaks volumes and makes perfect dollars and cents... So at least for now, Jordan Brand is probably going to be ok. Not just because of Gentry but because overall business is pretty good and is actually forecasted to get better.

No real drama, no definite demise for anyone - then why do we care? This is the simplest part of the entire saga. We should care about the culture and shoes we love. When Kanye made the switch, we got a “Yeezy” that was freshly designed and very different from the ultra popular Nike versions. Transitioning away from the swoosh also equipped Mr. West with valuable business knowledge while providing music, sport and fashion with a new and unique platform.

Drake’s arrival at Nike was a shining moment for a generation while helping to firm up the collaborative approach that’s now basically a staple of modern sneaker culture. Drake also deserves the opportunity to further his talents and acumen so the right move for him (wherever and whenever that is) more than likely will be in line with God’s plan. Finally, with the return of Gentry Humphry, we can all look forward to at least a few truly innovative designs and potentially some very special combo packs. Changing things up keeps life interesting and with these players on the move, the sneaker game and those who love it should be the ultimate winners.

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This article is a personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of Sole Protector® LLC, it’s owners, partners or subsidiaries.


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