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Projected top-5 pick in NBA Draft RJ Hampton signs lucrative deal with Chinese shoe company Li-Ning

Less than two months removed from his decision to skip college and play overseas in the National Basketball League, a professional league based in Australia, 18-year-old hoops phenom RJ Hampton has cashed in. Literally.

In addition to his salary with the New England Breakers, it was reported by ESPN on Thursday that he’s also signed a five-year footwear and apparel endorsement deal with Chinese-branded Li-Ning.

The Li-Ning endorsement deal will be more than just a complement to his salary with the Breakers. The deal includes an offering of a signature shoe and signature apparel, coupled with a steep escalator that could kick in if he is drafted in the top 10 of the NBA Draft in 2020. Here’s more from ESPN:

Li-Ning proved to be most aggressive not only in its overall financial offer, which could escalate aggressively based on bonuses for Hampton’s 2020 draft positioning, but also in offering both a signature shoe and signature apparel.

If drafted in the top 10 of the 2020 draft, the contract will become the richest Chinese shoe deal ever signed by a rookie. The deal’s total value would’ve made him one of the four highest-earning players in this year’s 2019 draft.

Li-Ning isn’t the household brand that many blue-chip players sign with like Nike, Adidas or Under Armour, but it is steadily building cache in the world of basketball. It famously signed Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade in 2012, and recently partnered with CJ McCollum and Evan Turner. In its past, Baron Davis and Shaquille O’Neal were also once signed by the company, which has huge audiences in China and throughout Asia.

While Hampton’s signing with Li-Ning doesn’t make the same splash as Zion Williamson’s signing with Jordan Brand earlier this week, it does have some benefit for both Hampton and Li-Ning. Hampton is a projected top-3 pick in our way-too-early 2020 mock draft, and building his brand recognition outside of the U.S. over the next year in the NBL could pay dividends down the line if he pops in the NBA.

Hampton signed with the NBL as part of its “Next Stars” program and is joined by LaMelo Ball, who signed with the Illawarra Hawks. Terrance Ferguson and Brian Bowen are among recent preps prospects to play in Australia before a jump to the NBA.

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