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Nike scores a pair of rookies

NBA teams will make their draft selections June 26. Nike has beaten them to the punch, inking deals last week with two of the most sought after players to enter the league in quite some time – LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

Eighteen-year-old James, expected to be the number one draft pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers, announced his agreement to a seven-year, $90 million deal with the sports apparel company last Thursday. That contract, the largest ever offered to an NBA rookie, also included a $10 million signing bonus.

“Nike is the right fit and has the right product for me at the right time,” James stated in a recent press release. “They are a good company that has committed to supporting me throughout my professional career, on and off the court.”

James should have no trouble supporting himself from now on. In addition to his deal with Nike, he recently signed a lucrative five-year contract with the trading card and sports memorabilia company Upper Deck.

Anthony, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward from Syracuse who will most likely be one of the top three draft picks, accepted a six-year, multi-million dollar Nike contract Tuesday.

Rival companies such as Reebok and Adidas are no doubt feeling the pressure of Nike’s fast-growing domination of the athletic marketing world.

Last year, Nike easily led the pack in profits, due in large part to continued endorsements from such superstars as Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan.

Past success will only fuel the $10 billion company’s future ventures.

A new generation of talented athletes grew up wearing the famous Nike swoosh and will gladly sport the apparel during their pro careers.

The sports culture has become so synonymous with the image of endorsement deals that many players are beginning to view participation in commercials and print ads as a rite of passage into the professional field.

“If I had to wear something else, I guess I’d deal with it, but I’ve been wearing Nikes since I was a little kid,” Anthony was quoted as saying on “They brought me in like family and I felt at home when I signed with them.”