Deandre Ayton has never been one to take conventional routes.
The big man left the Bahamas to go to two different high schools in the United States, became the highest-rated recruit to ever sign with the Arizona Wildcats, and now is one of the first basketball players to sign an endorsement deal with Puma since 1998. (Duke’s Marvin Bagley III is joining him.)
Ayton’s partnership with the brand was officially announced Monday on Twitter. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, though Michael Scotto of The Athletic is reporting Ayton will be the highest paid player by a shoe brand in his draft class.
But why did Ayton sign with Puma and not one of the traditional basketball apparel companies like Nike, Adidas, or Under Armour?
Puma was the best deal. To me, anybody can make your shoe. Anybody can make the best shoe for you and put the right fit in the shoe. We were dealing with Nike people, Under Armour and all the other shoe companies for a pretty long time. We ain’t really got bad blood with any of them, but it’s not bad to start something new. We just thought Puma was the right fit. My mom had a friend at Puma, but we didn’t really know she was with Puma. But as I started to get more exposure to the world and basketball, she told us she was with Puma and knew people there. Just knowing all of these people personally, my mom felt comfortable. Another thing is that all these other brands got all these other superstars. It’s good that I’m one of the few that’s signed with Puma.
Ayton later added this:
Nike is Nike. Adidas is Adidas. I’ve played in their circuits and stuff like that, but now it’s a business. You don’t want just product. You’re not a kid anymore. You’re really trying to get bank.
... Anybody can really make your shoe. We’re not kids anymore. We’re not looking for product. Of course, the brands are going to do their best to give you the best product they have. At the end of the day, it’s a business. You’ve gotta take care of your people, so that’s involved. Of course, if Adidas is giving you like $2 mil and Nike is giving you $1 mil, who would you pick? If you have history or chemistry with Nike, I can see that. But when it comes to business, business is business.
As I’ve been in the States, I’ve seen what they do with entertainers and always liked that. I see someone like Rihanna recently -- who is a lot like me, we have a similar background -- and she’s putting her stamp on the brand. That’s something that appeals to me from a creative side. Eventually I want to be a part of bringing this new style of Puma to my people.
Ayton is going to take another major step in his career Thursday when he is expected to be selected by the Phoenix Suns with the No. 1 overall pick.