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With the McDonald’s All-American Game set to tip off on Tuesday night, JuJu Watkins, Bronny James and D.J. Wagner are exemplifying the impact of Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) on the current era of high-level high school and college sports. They are unable to wear the standard uniform for the game because of deals that they signed ahead of the 2022/23 basketball season.
The McDonald’s All-American Game, played for the first time in 1978, features the nation’s best high school senior basketball players in the country on both the men’s and women’s side. It is sponsored by Adidas.
As such, all of the uniforms, shoes and gear are Adidas brand. That creates a conflict of interest for three of the most high-profile recruits in this year’s game.
James, a four/five-star combo guard and son of LeBron, stands 6-foot-3, 190 pounds. He has yet to commit to his future school, but is considered to be down to a final three of Oregon, Ohio State and USC.
Wagner, a five-star combo guard and son of former Memphis star and NBA player Dajuan Wagner, stands 6-foot-3, 165 pounds. He is the top ranked player at his position and committed to Kentucky back in November.
Watkins is the No. 1 girls basketball recruit in the country and two-time USA Basketball U-17 gold medalist. She committed to USC over South Carolina and Stanford.
Watkins, Wagner and James all signed NIL deals with Nike. They are playing in a game sponsored by Adidas. So how does that work?
Well, by signing with Nike, none of the three star hoopers can wear Adidas shoes. Their contract with “the Swoosh” does not allow them to wear anything but Nike kicks.
They can, and will, wear Adidas uniforms during the McDonald’s All-American Game and practices. They won’t wear Adidas shoes during the game or practices.
While the rest of their teams are wearing the shoes given to them for the game, the trio of Nike signees are not.
Watkins, James and Wagner’s shoes — and games — will stand out on the court this week.
This will be no different come tipoff on Tuesday night. While their shorts and jerseys will feature the Adidas logo, and teammates will wear Adidas shoes, Watkins, James and Wagner will be the only three wearing Nike shoes.
NIL has had a massive impact on college basketball, including Miami’s run to the Final Four. The impact has reached the high school level and is on full display this week in Houston.