Similar to how Michael Jordan’s name and likeness helped Nike to become heavy in the culture, Grant Hill rocking Fila made the footwear company blow up in the ’90s. Though the former NBA star signed with the brand, there was once a Nike deal on the table.
During an interview on “Knuckleheads” podcast, Hill recalled initially being sold on Nike and speaking with its founder Phil Knight, who had the vision for the brand’s global expansion.
“He wanted to have me at the Great Wall of China via satellite for the NBA Draft,” Hill told the hosts of the podcast, Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles. “And so all my people were like, ‘That’s a great idea.’ And I’m thinking, ‘I want that moment with Commissioner [David] Stern.”
What’s more, Hill shared that the potential Nike deal took a turn as the negotiations fell through and he was “kind of lowballed.” One door closed; however, another one opened after his father advised him to check out Fila’s headquarters. Although it initially wasn’t a basketball performance brand, Hill’s curiosity led to inking a lucrative deal, as well as the start of a cultural moment.
“They had a couple sheets of paper at the conference room,” he said. “I turned to that second page and the money? I was like, ‘You know I can wear some Fila.’”
The partnership between Hill and Fila began in 1994. According to the Baltimore Sun, by 1997, Hill signed a seven-year, $80 million contract with Fila Holdings SpA and brought “hundreds of millions of dollars” to the company.
Hill claims that up until 2000 it was the highest-grossing debut signature shoe, and he still gets a royalty check.
In 2018, he signed a lifetime deal with Fila to revive his retro sneakers, as well as create new editions and remixes, ESPN reported.
“Fila was there for my first professional steps on the court,” Hill said at the time. “We have now come full circle, and I am thrilled to be a part of the family once again.”