Caitlin Clark should’ve gotten Michael Jordan-esque Nike deal, shoe industry legend says

Mike Battaglino
3 Min Read
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Caitlin Clark got a huge deal from Nike, but one of the most famous sneaker executives in history said the iconic women’s basketball superstar deserved a whole lot more.

“She should have gotten a piece of everything, just like Michael Jordan” Sonny Vaccaro told TMZ Sports.

Coming off a record-setting college career that led to unprecedented interest in and record television ratings for women’s basketball, Clark reportedly is receiving a $28 million endorsement deal with Nike that will include a signature shoe. It is believed to be the richest sponsorship contract ever for a women’s basketball player.

That’s still not good enough for Vaccaro, a former Nike executive who helped sign Jordan to his first shoe deal back in the 1980s, which ultimately led to the Air Jordan brand. Now 84 years old, Vaccaro maintains that not only should Clark be getting more money annually during her new eight-year deal, but that she also should be receiving a cut of all her branded merchandise, like Jordan did in his deal.

Neither Clark’s management nor Nike have commented on her deal as of yet.

“I’m saying to you, they messed up,” Vaccaro said of Clark’s representatives. “They should have held on to the last drop.”

Also known for running an elite high school basketball camp, Vaccaro has said Clark’s deal also is less than it should be because other companies dropped out of the bidding. One report said Under Armour was offering $16 million over four years, while Adidas was offering $6 million over the same time period. Puma also may have been interested but was not willing to go over $3 million per year.

Clark is leaving the University of Iowa as the all-time leading Division I scorer in college basketball, men’s or women’s. She was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft by the Indiana Fever and is expected to begin her professional career when the season opens next month.

Her WNBA salary also has raised some eyebrows, with the approximately $76,000 she is set to make in her rookie season being held up as a glaring example of a gender pay gap.

Her total for four years will reportedly be slightly less than $340,000. By way of comparison, Victor Wembanyama, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, will make a salary of $55 million over his first four years.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has focused on New York sports. He has covered the NBA and NFL for almost three decades and is still waiting for the next championship for the Knicks and Jets.