Former NBA star JR Smith, who is now a freshman golfer at North Carolina A&T, is entering the NIL game.
Smith signed a deal with Excel Sports for NIL representation, his agent Lance Young told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. It’s a first for a high-profile former professional athlete and he’s gained “significant NIL interest among golfing equipment and clothing manufacturers and video game companies,” his agent said.
Smith, 36, played in the NBA for 16 years and retired after the Los Angeles Lakers won the 2020 NBA title. It was his second di lui and he earned the Sixth Man of the Year award with the New York Knicks in 2013. Upon retirement, he enrolled as a full-time student at NC A & T, a historically black college and university (HBCU) in Greensboro, North Carolina. And he worked his way onto the golf team.
JR Smith’s NIL potential
He’s one of the largest names for endorsement possibilities in college because of his status as an NBA champion. He could reportedly earn “well into the six figures” under the NCAA’s new name, image, likeness rules.
Smith never attended college, instead going straight from St. Benedict’s Prep in New Jersey to the No. 18 pick in the 2004 NBA draft. Smith earned an estimated $ 90 million during his playing career, per Spotrac.
The endorsement potential is also so high because of his social media accounts. Smith’s return to college to play golf created chatter and every new milestone, such as qualifying for his first tournament, there’s more of it. He often live-tweets his life di lui as a college student in ways that feel relatable, another plus for companies looking to partner with him on commercials and social media posts.
He has close to 800,000 followers on Twitter and six million on Instagram.
NIL at the six-month mark
There is no public clearinghouse that tracks all NIL compensation deals and activity, but certain companies have tracked the deals and released findings. Third-party data from July 1 through Dec. 31 shows that male athletes have more NIL deals than female athletes, as reported by the Associated Press.
Male athletes in Division I have received about 59% of all reported NIL deals, per INFLCR, and approximately 67.4% of total NIL compensation, per Opendorse. It’s significantly skewed in part because of football. Via the Associated Press:
That has so far favored male athletes, though INFLCR CEO Jim Cavale said “if you remove football from the equation, transactions or activities disclosed by female student-athletes make up more than 50% of the total for all other sports.”
In addition to the football split, there’s also a significant split between Power Five schools and the rest of Division I. Smith’s foray into NIL will go against that grain in both ways, providing opportunity for the school itself and interest in golf. NC A&T is the largest HBCU and Smith has talked about bringing the sport of golf to underrepresented minority groups.
And athletes in what are often called “non-revenue” sports such as golf have not received as many deals. Football (45.7%), women’s basketball (26.2%) and men’s basketball (18%) combine for make up about 90% of all NIL compensation, according to Opendorse.