Basketball: Footwear tug-of-war over basketball prodigy

Ben Simmons playing for the LSU Tigers. Photo / Getty Images
Ben Simmons playing for the LSU Tigers. Photo / Getty Images

Australian basketball sensation Ben Simmons is set to sign a shoe deal worth more than $US100 million.

Simmons, the expected number one pick in June's NBA Draft, is expected to be at the centre of a bidding war between shoe giants Nike, adidas and Under Armour.

Former Nike marketing executive Sonny Vaccaro, who signed a young Michael Jordan to his first sneaker deal, said he wouldn't be surprised if the Melbourne-born 19-year-old snared a $US100 million-plus shoe contract.

Vaccaro said the final number could exceed the $US90 million multi-year deal LeBron James signed out of high school in 2003, believing $US100 million was "not enough because times have changed".

"The number's been stagnant since LeBron," Vaccaro told SportsNet New York on Friday.

"It would be the new precedent because LeBron was the last and (Simmons) has the makings in the mind of the NBA that he could be a great, great player."

Relative newcomer Under Armour has been aggressively snapping up sports stars to snare market share from Nike and adidas.

"Under Armour is on a roll with (NBA MVP) Steph Curry and they've gotta get another young one now and this kid is in a great position," Vaccaro said.

If Simmons is the number one pick in the draft he will also sign a rookie contract with his team - possibly the Philadelphia 76ers or Los Angeles Lakers - for about $US5 million a season.

The lofty numbers come as Simmons' faltering Louisiana State University team appears likely to miss the end-of-season NCAA Tournament.

Simmons has averaged an astonishing 20 points, 12 rebounds and five assists in his freshman season while LSU has had a disappointing 18 win, 12 loss record.

Simmons and LSU could still turn their season around.

They face nationally-ranked Kentucky Wildcats in the final game of their regular season on Saturday and then need to string multiple wins together in their Southeastern Conference end-of-season tournament.

If they win the SEC Tournament they will guarantee a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

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