CounterKicks can confirm that Li-Ning initiated an early termination of Baron’s endorsement deal, which was originally signed in 2008 and not due to expire until later in 2013.
Our sources tell us Baron’s 5-year Li-Ning contract was paying him in the neighborhood of $1.5 million per year, which would total an approximate $7.5 million at full payout.
Months in the making, the split officially commenced last week on April 1. That date wasn’t random. We’re told that Baron received quarterly payment checks (Jan-Feb-Mar, etc.) from Li-Ning, with the last payment sent at the beginning of this month. If the $1.5 million per year estimate is accurate, it would mean Baron was receiving $375,000 per check.
Baron’s first game played after April 1 and also the Knicks’ first game this month came against the Pacers in Indianapolis on April 3. Baron, who has worn on court all this season his original Li-Ning BD Doom signature shoe from two years ago rather than current Li-Ning product, opted instead to wear a Nike shoe that game.
Specifically, he wore Kobe Bryant’s signature Zoom Kobe VI in a “Duke” nicknamed colorway. Baron has continued to wear the Nike Kobe shoe in all of his April Knicks games thus far, which includes Indiana, Orlando, and Chicago.
The timing of the BD and Li-Ning breakup now, rather than waiting until the completion of the current NBA season or running out the clock on Baron’s 5-year deal, looks to be fueled entirely by cost savings by Li-Ning and the completion of Baron’s latest quarterly payment as the official marker towards that end. Li-Ning obviously overpaid for Baron’s services at around $1.5M per and decided to negotiate a mutual departure earlier than expected. Not everyone inside the company agreed with the move, but the final decision was pushed through by Li-Ning China which inked the original deal with Baron.
We contacted Nike senior communications manager Brian Strong today to inquire about any new endorsement deal the company has signed with Baron. There is none. We also asked about Swoosh product given to Baron and was told that his Nike Zoom Kobe VI shoes were provided to the Knicks’ equipment manager by Nike.
Li-Ning’s US website is still selling a Baron Davis “Beardman T-Shirt” in blue and orange, at the time of this posting. Li-Ning is currently in a joint-venture partnership with Chicago-based Acquity Group to form “Digital Li-Ning” which operates the Chinese brand’s US operations.
Game photos of Baron Davis in Nike kicks — not Li-Ning — can be seen below.
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