Illustration by Dina Arakcheyeva/The Pioneer
For years professional athletes were just that, athletes.
Sure they signed endorsement deals, acted in commercials and movies, but for the most part, after the game was over they went home.
However, in today’s era there is a high importance placed on access, especially with athletes. Fans want to see what they do off the court and field, that has led them to be this successful in professional sports. Many athletes have capitalized this trend, broadcasting their lives on reality television and social media at an all-time high.
Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry has capitalized on this recent trend at an all-time high. His promotion of his shoe deal on social media and other media caveats led to him turning a virtual unknown athletic shoe company, Under Armour, into one of the top-selling shoe companies in the world, thanks to his three branded shoes since 2012.
Last week, Curry held a release party for his SC3, his third shoe with the company. The event was attended by several heavyweights in the sports and entertainment world that included teammates Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, rapper French Montana, as well as his wife and family.
Curry’s wife recently snagged her own share of the limelight thanks to her husband’s recent success in the league, and has produced a cookbook, does cooking tutorials online and on television and has become a entrepreneur in her own right.
Lebron James has also taken branding and his entertainment involvement to another level. The reigning NBA champion took his stab at acting when he took a major role in the comedy “Trainwreck,” starring comedians Amy Schumer and Bill Hader. The movie was critically acclaimed and James’ performance was applauded by publications like The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times.
James was able to take his extraordinary abilities on the floor and use them to catapult himself into the entertainment world.
A perfect example of an athlete-turned-brand is six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan. Jordan was a monster on the court, considered to be the best basketball player to ever play the game, to this day. He expanded his horizon and created his own brand by releasing the Air Jordan 1 sneaker in 1984.
Everyone went crazy over Jordans, because everyone wanted to be Jordan. Now, people weren’t just talking about Jordan on the court, they were talking about Jordan as a brand. Of course, basketball was important, but what was even more awesome was that the best basketball player in the world had his very own shoe, with a legendary logo, that anyone could buy. Those who were not even basketball or Jordan fans had a pair of Jordans.
Many athletes have followed in the footsteps of Jordan and have branched into industries that go beyond sports. Oakland native and Portland Trail Blazers star, Damian Lillard has also created his own brand and put himself in the entertainment industry.
The point guard has his own shoe with Adidas named “The D Lillard,” and he recently released a full album on iTunes titled the “The Letter O,” which features well known artists like singer Jamie Foxx and rapper Lil Wayne.
Lillard’s rap name is Dame D.O.L.L.A. He has portrayed himself as much more than a basketball player. While he is a great athlete, he is also good at other things like rapping and acting, and I think that is what athletes want people to know. They can do more than just dazzle fans with a ball.
Unlike Jordan, Lillard, James and Curry all have social media and the internet at their disposal to promote anything they want. This has led to viral videos, commercials, television and movie roles. Athletes today are much more than just good with a ball; they command attention off the court as well.