Nike Releases Ja Morant’s Signature Shoe Despite Recent Controversy
By: Brian Kowalski
In the world of professional sports, athletes are often seen as role models, capturing the adoration of millions around the world. This also means that they are not immune to controversy, and when a star player finds themselves trapped in the negative spotlight, it can create a ton of uncertainty. This is the case with superstar basketball sensation Ja Morant, who has faced a load of backlash from fans and the media. But amidst the chaos, Nike, the distinguished athletic brand, has chosen to make a bold statement by releasing Morant’s new shoes.
On May 25th, 2023, Nike released the Ja 1 “Hunger” sneakers on the SNKRS app, and the shoes sold out within minutes. This shortly followed the Grizzlies star likely receiving an indefinite suspension from the NBA due to his display of a firearm on a Instagram live video, which would mark his second suspension in recent months.
Following the occurrence of the second firearm video and pending suspension, “Finish Line and Hibbett Sports, both of which were slated to participate in the launch, removed the Ja 1 “Hunger” sneaker from their online release. Nike, while selling products through its app, also removed a webpage for the new sneaker from its main website,” according to Inti Pacheco of The Wall Street Journal.
After removing the shoes from their primary website, Nike made the deliberate choice to make the shoes available to the public through the SNKRS app. “Despite the controversies, the Ja 1 ‘Hunger’ drop on Nike’s “SNKRS” app was apparently a resounding success. The shoe, which sold for $110, is already being resold on sites like StockX and Goat at a price of $500 or more,” according to Geoffery Arnold of the Portland OREGONIAN.
The success of the shoe may come to the surprise of many, but when looking at it from a shoe collector standpoint, the shoe was a must-have. If Nike were to cut off their deal with Morant, the shoes would instantly go up in value because of their rarity. We have seen this happen before when rapper Kanye West and Nike cut ties back in 2013, leading to West’s “Air Yeezy 2s” being resold today for well-over $3,000.
Now, the ball is in Nike’s court and they have a huge decision to make. Do they stick with Morant, trust that he can clean up his act, and keep selling his shoes? Or do they cut ties and allow the resell shoe market to make a future fortune off their shoes? Ultimately, the decision of whether Nike should continue their partnership with Ja Morant will demonstrate the brand's commitments to supporting athletes through adversity.