After weeks of speculation, CJ McCollum and Li-Ning announced Friday that the 6-4 guard out of Lehigh had signed a multi-year endorsement deal to join the Chinese sportswear company. McCollum, who was previously with Nike, now joins the likes of Dwyane Wade and teammate Evan Turner as NBA athletes under the Li-Ning umbrella.
“I think this partnership with Li-Ning will be great,” said McCollum. “Obviously being a Chinese brand, it’ll give me that exposure in the east and expose me to different opportunities, different potential partnerships on the business side in Asia. It’s just something that I’m really looking forward to. Having a teammate, Evan Turner, as a part of the brand, having talked with D Wade these last few months and building a relationship with him, I was able to gain a better understanding of the brand, where they’re heading and how I can be a part of that.”
For McCollum, the deal provides ample financial incentives, both in terms of the endorsement deal itself and the opportunity to expand his brand in China, where interest in basketball and the NBA specifically has seen exponential growth over the last decade. As for Li-Ning, signing a dynamic and charismatic player like McCollum at this point in his career gives the sportswear company the chance to associate their brand with one the NBA’s most prominent up-and-comers.
“I think there was mutual admiration,” said McCollum. “I think they felt like I could bring a unique perspective, a unique individual to the brand, a guy who’s in his mid-20s, continuing to get better and becoming more well known around, not only the United States but the world, as a basketball player and as an influencer. I think it made sense for both of us to at least sit down and have that talk, have that discussion. I think I can represent the brand well on and off the court. I feel like we can continue to expand and we have some potential ideas that will allow myself to help the brand and allow them to help me as an individual.”
McCollum joins Li-Ning after having spent four years with Nike, a brand many consider the gold standard in terms of basketball and sportswear. McCollum stresses that he holds no ill-will toward Nike and is appreciative for their support since signing with the company his rookie season out of Lehigh.
“Nike is a terrific brand, they were great to me,” said McCollum, “but I felt like Li-Ning presented some different opportunities, some different potential investments from that side of things in the business world They were extremely good to me, I’m very thankful for partnership that we had together. It’s kind of like the free agency market in basketball. You explore options and different things are presented to you and you accept them.”
The specifics of McCollum’s deal with Li-Ning, such as whether he’ll get his own signature sneaker or apparel line, are still to be determined, but what is certain is he’ll be one of the brand’s most visible representatives for the foreseeable future.
“I think we’re still figuring out the next steps and some of the phases, but I’ll definitely be one of the main faces, one of the main fixtures of the brand,” said McCollum. “I think obviously they have a guy like Dwyane Wade who is a superstar, who’s a hall of famer and done wonders for the brand and I’ll continue to help out any way that I can and will continue to figure out ways for me to be a part of that and to be a part of expanding the Li-Ning brand, not only in China and Asia but in the United States as well.”