The marriage between Kelly Oubre Jr. and Converse is an unexpected one, but it’s perfect. Oubre’s deal with Adidas expired on October 1, making him a sneaker free agent. As it turns out, he signed a multi-year footwear and apparel deal with Converse.
It’s a great move for Oubre, putting him in position do explore opportunities in fashion off the court. And it also reintroduces Converse to the NBA — the brand has been out of basketball since 2012 despite being one of the pioneering brands to ever touch a basketball court.
Oubre isn’t quite a household name, but he does things on and off the court that are really exciting for a brand to get behind.
This deal is very uncommon
Oubre is a good player. He’s a solid rotation player who is pretty streaky in how up and down he plays game to game. He’s only 22 years old, so that’s a plus. And he’s a high-flyer on the court—sneaker companies love that. And then off the court he’s eccentric, dabbling in fashion and music.
But he’s not a starter. You don’t normally see long-term contracts dealt out to rotation players—especially when they’re not household names. But Oubre is in a unique position as an improving player so far away from his prime with a brand looking to regain its former glory.
Some of the last guys to wear Converse sneakers on the court: Maurice Evans, Chris Anderson, Matt Bonner, Udonis Haslem and Kirk Hinrich, just to name a few. Those dudes are fine people, but they’re not memorable. If they wanted to regain standing in the NBA, they had to find a different way to make a splash. Oubre is it.
Oubre fielded pitches from Puma and New Balance—two brands that are also looking to regain former glory in the NBA. But Converse won out off its tradition and off of its standing off the court.
Its uniqueness is something other brands can’t afford
Oubre’s deal is unique in that it doesn’t require him to wear a basketball product from Converse on the court. Given the brand’s extensive history, the sneakers are there. Rather, they’re letting him flaunt the brand’s off-court gear while wearing Nike on the court.
This wouldn’t be possible without Nike’s backing of Converse. As a subsidiary company under Nike, Converse has wiggle room to give players a premium product on the court and lifestyle gear off of it. It’s a perfect match for what Oubre wants to do, establishing himself as a fashion icon and a brand ambassador while wearing a great on-court product.
Puma doesn’t have that. New Balance doesn’t have that. Adidas does similar things, but they’re likely uninterested in a multi-year deal with Oubre given the rest of their roster. This is only a balance Converse could strike.
Is there anything similar out there?
Not really. There’s no sneaker deal that looks like Oubre’s. Russell Westbrook’s ten-year deal with Jordan Brand is supposed to provide him with both an off court and on-court signature sneaker, but he’s not flipping back between Jordan Brand and Nike.
This deal is different. Jordan is known for athletics while Converse is a lifestyle brand—it’s basketball past was left behind last century. They work with stars in entertainment like rapper Tyler, the Creator and singer Miley Cyrus. The Chuck Taylor has worked as a collaboration between Converse and premium fashion brands like Off White and Commes De Garcon. This is an unprecedented deal that may change the way companies look at sneaker deals down the line if proven successful.
Converse is back in the NBA and in the most unique way possible. This is innovation and we should expect nothing less from the brand that has somehow found a way to hang around for more than a century.