Adidas signs Bennedict Mathurin to headline largest NBA rookie class in brand history — Andscape
As part of a reset that began to take shape a year ago, Adidas has signed its largest batch of NBA rookies in company history, adding a dozen players from the 2022 draft class to its roster of endorsers.
The headliner of the rookie class is Indiana Pacers wing Bennedict Mathurin. The 20-year-old was recently named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for October and November after averaging 19.2 points per game during the opening two months of the season.
Mathurin is joined at the Three Stripes by fellow lottery picks Jabari Smith, Keegan Murray, Johnny Davis, Ousmane Dieng, and Jalen Williams. The collective of rookies is looking to establish Adidas’ new approach to design and marketing after the brand moved its basketball employees to Los Angeles last summer.
The full rookie class includes:
Bennedict Mathurin – Indiana Pacers
Keegan Murray – Sacramento Kings
Jabari Smith – Houston Rockets
Nikola Jovic – Miami Heat
MarJon Beauchamp – Milwaukee Bucks
Ousmane Dieng – Oklahoma City Thunder
Walker Kessler – Utah Jazz
Johnny Davis – Washington Wizards
Dalen Terry – Chicago Bulls
Jalen Williams – Oklahoma City Thunder
Isaiah Mobley – Cleveland Cavaliers
Blake Wesley – San Antonio Spurs
Mathurin has been familiar with Adidas since middle school. That was when his older sister Jennifer moved from their hometown of Montreal to the U.S. to play forward at North Carolina State, an Adidas-sponsored school.
“As I was growing up, Adidas was always my main thing,” he said. “When my feet got bigger, I told her, ‘You gotta send me some shoes!’ Having my sister play at NC State was really when I started to play in Adidas.”
Early on, he remembers wearing whatever sneakers Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard wore that his sister sent to him. Mathurin went through three pairs of the Crazy Light Boost from Lillard’s third season before eventually wearing models from the early years of Lillard’s signature shoe series.
Every sneakerhead can instantly recall their first sneaker purchase. Mathurin is no different.
“I remember I bought my first pair of shoes when I was 12 years old, and they were the Adidas Superstar,” he said. “Someone sold them to me for $40, and I would play basketball with them at the park or rock them with jeans and sweats. My mom gave me $40 to pay for something at school, and I bought a pair of shoes.”
Now that he’s an official endorser with access to Adidas shopping sprees, his first care package to his sister is an easy choice.
“I’ll send her the Adidas Superstars that I bought,” he said, smiling.
The Montreal native was one of the rookies most courted by sneaker brands this year. Since the spring, five brands expressed interest in signing him. After wearing Adidas early in his hoops odyssey, he wore Nike while playing at the University of Arizona for two seasons.
Just before the draft, Adidas hosted Mathurin for a pitch presentation at a mansion in the Hollywood hills. After beating every Adidas employee there in pingpong while getting to know the team, he turned to a prepared set of questions for executives, asking how they planned to market him and about his potential with the brand.
“My biggest question was how do you view me as a player, and as a person as well,” he said. “I feel like I can represent the brand very well. I speak four languages, and I’ve lived in Montreal, Mexico City, Arizona, and now in Indiana. For me, it’s a great way to market the brand and also show my love for the brand.”
Even as other brands came to the table, Mathurin’s mind was made up.
“Adidas brought the best mix of things that were of value to Benn,” said his agent, Nima Namakian of Innovate Sports Group, who negotiated the deal. “One is growth potential with the brand. That was in addition to all of the community initiatives that the brand has. Adidas has the resources to do activations and givebacks in the community, and they’re great at that, so that appealed to him. Third, he liked their interest in a new marketing campaign where he could be the leading face of the rookie class.”
With a clean and streamlined look first rolled out with a new apparel collection dubbed Chapter 01, the brand’s latest Remember the Why campaign zeroes in on every player’s starting point with the game.
“You never forget the first time you pick up a basketball,” said Eric Wise, Adidas Basketball’s global general manager. “We hope this new era of Adidas Basketball will remind everyone that the most important part of doing anything is why you started in the first place.”
Mathurin’s “why” is a story of family.
A surefire confidence and focus have carried Mathurin since he began playing the sport. Inspired by his sister’s basketball success, he says his dream of playing in the NBA one day felt realistic at 12 years old.
That was also when the Mathurin family faced their toughest challenge. His older brother Dominique was struck by a car when riding his bicycle home from school and died at age 15.
“In everything that I do, he’s always with me,” he said. “His dream was to be in the NBA.”
From then on, Bennedict was locked in on “doing the right thing,” as he calls it, relentlessly pursuing their shared league dreams. He has only one tattoo, with Dominique Jeune’s name etched in script along his left forearm. He often wears commemorative bracelets and shirts in honor of his brother and regularly grabs a Sharpie to add a tribute on his sneakers before a game.
“Trying to write his name on my shoe is great, and he’s always with me,” he said.
Eventually, Adidas will create player-exclusive colorways for Mathurin, who already has themes in mind. A #DomixWorld tribute to his brother will be first, along with pairs dedicated to Montreal and his collegiate days in Tucson, Arizona. He’s also looking to create a loud and colorful mismatched pair, celebrating the flags of his Haitian and Canadian background.
“Those two together, with one Haitian-themed shoe and a Canadian shoe – that would be tough,” he said.
Besides wearing the latest Dame 8 colorways, Mathurin also recently received a welcome to the brand from former Adidas signature athlete Gilbert Arenas. Arenas sent a case of the retro version of his Gil Zero, now named the Agent Gil Restomod. Adidas modernized the cushioning and performance of the low-top sneaker, which was first launched in 2006.
“Having another player who went to Arizona like me and wore No. 0, I watched him in the NBA,” said Mathurin. “Knowing that he played at Arizona, I have to rock the Gils to represent where we’re from.”
At just 16, Mathurin left Montreal, moved to Mexico City and spent two years at one of the five NBA Academy campuses around the world. The move allowed him to focus on his basketball development and learn life skills tailored to potential NBA prospects. Not long after, he met NBA commissioner Adam Silver when he visited the academy.
“I told him we’ll see each other in a few years,” Mathurin wrote on Instagram.
Four years later, the two shared an embrace on stage at the Barclays Center after the Indiana Pacers selected the 6-foot-5 wing with the sixth overall pick. The inside of Mathurin’s custom red and black Dolce & Gabbana suit jacket featured a childhood photograph of him, Jennifer and Dominique.
Ambitious declarations are nothing new for Mathurin, who’s long had similarly lofty goals for a shoe deal with Adidas.
“All of my friends would be playing in Nikes, and I used to be the only one wearing Adidas because of my sister,” he recalled of his early high school days. “I used to say, ‘One day, you guys will be able to get my shoe.’ Adidas was the one as soon as we had a moment to talk. That was like a no-brainer to me.”