C. J. Fair, signed by the NBA Dallas Mavericks to play in the Vegas Summer League, relaxed on a leather couch and was watching a big screen showing an NBA 2K14 video game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors.
Resting right next to Fair, a lanky, 6-foot, 8-inch former Syracuse University player, were his adidas size 14 Crazy 8 basketball sneakers wrapped in plastic. The white basketball shoes were a retro version of Kobe Bryant’s early adidas sneakers, he noted.
“They really engage the players,” Fair, 22, said of adidas.
Engaging players is just one way that the global sports apparel and sneaker manufacturer activates its official NBA apparel and outfitter sponsorship deal during the Vegas Summer league.
More than a dozen pristine sneakers stood in a row in the adidas make-shift hospitality suite, which was converted from a bar area at the Thomas & Mack Center main concourse.
The Royal Crown bar, called, “The Club,” is a popular attraction for Thomas & Mack guests. But this week it’s off-limits to NBA fans, as workers erected walls a week ago to enclose a swanky hospitality, meet-and-greet zone for adidas during the July 11-21 summer league at UNLV. The NBA event includes 24 teams playing 67 games, offering rookies, young players and grizzled veterans a chance to display their hoops skills to coaches and scouts.
Jim Gatto, director of global sports marketing for adidas basketball, said the company suite is being used to meet player agents, cut shoe endorsement deals, showcase future products and conduct 3-D symmetrical foot scanning to fit athletes with proper shoe sizes.
On Sunday, the World Cup jerseys worn by finalist teams Germany and Argentina — both adidas-sponsored teams.
“If the players come with this brand, we want to show that this is a taste of the kind of products we have,” Gatto said Sunday afternoon.
Adidas declined to allow photographs of its new products because of competition with companies like Nike. But Gatto did show a reporter a new basketball sneaker with “Boost” technology that will retail for $140.
Adidas even invited guests to score a haircut courtesy of barber Michael Wardlow, of Indianapolis.
Wardlow has a barber chair in the corner of the suite, with electric razors, scissors and powders laid out on a small table. The slogan on his business card reads, “We are not just HOT. We got STYL(z).”
On this Sunday afternoon, while summer league games were being contested in Thomas & Mack and Cox Pavilion, Wardlow was putting the finishing touches to the haircut of Torrel Harris, a former Duquesne University basketball player.
“It’s cool,” Harris said, getting his forehead patted dry. “You have the best barber in Las Vegas.”
Besides hiring barber Wardlow, adidas even enlisted Ian Crary, adidas senior athlete services manager, to scan players’ feet with high-tech equipment in the suite to make sure the professional hoopsters were wearing shoes with the correct sizes.
Albert Hall, one of the Vegas Summer League organizers, said there is a growing trend of NBA sponsors such as adidas and teams using the summer league to more aggressively network with clients and fans.
Contact reporter Alan Snel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5273. Follow @BicycleManSnel on Twitter.