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Is Lance Stephenson All About The Shoes?

Lance StephensonThe conundrum that is where highly-touted basketball recruit Lance Stephenson will play his college ball may be solved as easily as looking at the shoes he wears, as first reported by’s Adam Zagoria here.

Stephenson, a guard for Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, which is known for producing stars such as Stephon Marbury and Sebastian Telfair, is the ninth-ranked prospect in the class of 2009 according to

Some insight into his recruiting situation first comes with the fact that Lincoln is an Adidas-sponsored program, but this arrangement doesn’t stop Stephenson from sporting his Nike produced Air Jordans each game. Despite his loyalty, Stephenson was not asked to participate in the Jordan Brand Classic at Madison Square Garden on April 18, some believe due to Lincoln’s deal with Adidas.

Stephenson’s recruiting trail heats up when his prospective schools are considered. The 6-foot-5 blue-chip prospect is considering St. John’s (a Nike school), Kansas (an Adidas school), and Maryland (an Under Armour school).

Recently, Stephenson’s shoe-deal entwined courtship became more muddled when he visited the Maryland campus and was given a tour of the Under Armour site, which is owned and operated by former Maryland football player and current Board of Trustee’s member, Kevin Plank. The Washington Post first broke the story of this potential recruiting violation and the school has been investigating.

It has been rumored that some top players may have been advised to consider Maryland because of the school’s ties with Under Armour, according to a source close to the situation.

Plank plans to unveil his line of basketball shoes in 2010, but has been building relationships with high school athletes that have been targeted as potential representatives of the product line, including Stephenson. Lincoln has also “wear-tested” several Under Armour products. Currently, Under Armour has deals with over 70 collegiate programs, including Auburn, Texas Tech, and South Florida, in addition to Maryland.

To say Stephenson will base the majority of his decision on the shoes a school wears is preposterous, but clearly it will be some-what of a factor in his choice, which says a lot about the current state of recruiting and the effects of school’s ties to company sponsorships. Many “one-and-done” basketball players may want to lock up a potential shoe deal early on, potentially having an immense impact on the recruiting process.

Stephenson is still looking at schools and has said he could announce his college commitment on March 21 after the PSAL championship game, which Lincoln has won the past three years, but his answer to where he will play in college may already be laced up.

6 replies on “Is Lance Stephenson All About The Shoes?”

Enjoyed the piece on Lance Stephenson. It was well written. Especially interested since I came from that section of Brooklyn many years ago. I wasn’t aware of how involved shoe companies are in the high school basketball scene.

Congrats to Richard Kimsey.

Excellent article, however this type of behavior is hardly new. I don’t think anyone is naive enough to believe agents and schools don’t compensate the superstate athletes during high school (perhaps earlier) and after they sign on.

These under-the-table dealings will increase along with the NBA age limit. As a life-long BK resident, I can account first-hand for the buzz Lance had since he was a pre-teen. This definitely does not come as a surprise.

On a side-note, I find it weird that Jordan wouldn’t invite him despite the fact that he broke the team code by wearing his shoes for the last four years.

On another side note, my brother graduated from Lincoln last June and still keeps in touch with his friends there… apparently Lance is a new father, so the man has to do what’s in the best interest (locking in a shoe deal before taking the SAT’s included) of his family. A lot of superstar athletes grow up in poverty and find it hard to wait for a big-time NBA contract to enjoy the luxuries in life – and quite frankly, many of them never see that big contract (Erik Barkley, Omar Cook, Lenny Cooke, etc.), so can you really blame them?

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The article also goes into depth about Under Armour’s attempt to unseat Nike as sneaker king. It relays the story of how Nike did the same to Converse in late 70’s/early 80’s. However, Nike had help in that in that Converse was acquired in an LBO and the new owners cut advertising and R&D to pay off debt. This gave Nike an opening that it walked through and never looked back. To learn more go to

im lances cousin and one of his closest friends…im not supposed to be saying this but he isnt gonna look at this so yea…he already made his decision…HES GONNA BE GOIN TO ST JOHNS!

I hope Jamal is right. At the same time, Lance often goes into hiding when his team is losing. I’ve seen it happen a few times this year against Jamesville-Dewitt, Boys & Girls, and in the Nike Super 6 (@ Fordham). When he’s focused, Lance is a force on offense. Defensively, he has to get tougher and concentrate more on staying in front of his man.

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