The Biggest Nike Athletes

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Due to the overwhelming influence of social media platforms and the power of brand deals, sport-marketing contracts between companies and athletes has grown into a huge market. If you watched the recent hit-film, Air, you got a taste of just how influential these partnerships with athletes can be for a company (see: Michael Jordan and the Air Jordan). 

Nike is a trailblazer when it comes to engaging athletes in huge partnerships that have had massive success and influence on society.

Related: The 13 Most Comfortable Nikes for Standing All Day in 2023

Many of the biggest and most well-known athletes in the world have worked with Nike to bring unique collaborations to life. From thought-provoking ads to branded merchandise, Nike has sponsored some of the biggest sports marketing projects of all time. 

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest athletes who currently have contracts with Nike.

1. Michael Jordan

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  • Nike Athlete Since: 1984

Michael Jordan's groundbreaking contract with Nike was signed in 1984 after months of the company’s efforts to recruit him. Getting Jordan on team Nike marked a pivotal moment not only in sports and marketing, but also was a big deal for NIke as a company, which was nowhere near the level of popularity that it is at today.

The partnership revolutionized the concept of athlete endorsements and set a new standard for athlete-brand partnerships. Once Jordan was brought on board, the launch of the iconic Air Jordan sneaker was soon to follow. The Air Jordan helped lead Jordan's global fame to unprecedented heights. This historic contract resonates as a symbol of sports-marketing innovation and the enduring legacy of one of the greatest athletes of all time.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

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  • Nike Athlete Since: 2016

Cristiano Ronaldo's Nike contract is representative of his global influence as an iconic athlete and overall star-power. The partnership, which was established in 2003, has evolved into an iconic collaboration that’s impact across the globe has been insurmountable. Ronaldo's extraordinary talent on the field coupled with his memorable personality, align with Nike's commitment to innovation and athletic excellence. 

This long-standing partnership has given rise to the CR7 collection, showcasing Ronaldo's distinct style and elevating his status as a cultural icon. Beyond soccer, Ronaldo's Nike contract has given him the platform to leave an immense mark on sports marketing and popular culture.

3. Serena Williams

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  • Nike Athlete Since: 2003

It's hard to overstate the legacy that Serena Williams has had on tennis and women in sports as a whole. Her Nike contract stands as a testament to her unrivaled talent on the court and her determination off it. The partnership between Williams and Nike is best surmised as mutual admiration. Through multiple renewals since their initial agreement in 2003, Nike has consistently recognized and celebrated Williams' trailblazing achievements. 

The collaboration has not only produced a line of iconic tennis apparel but has been a platform for Williams to be a powerful advocate for women's empowerment. The enduring success of Williams' Nike contract mirrors her legacy as a tennis legend and an inspiration to athletes and individuals worldwide.

4. Tiger Woods

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  • Nike Athlete Since: 1996

Since 1996, Tiger Woods and Nike have gone hand in hand. The contract between Woods and Nike has not only revolutionized golf endorsements and pushed the boundaries of athletes endorsements. The iconic “swoosh” is a part of Woods' remarkable achievements on the course, and his overall impact on the sport of golf.

5. Lebron James

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  • Nike Athlete Since: 2003

LeBron James' deal with Nike was initiated in 2003, and has since developed into one of the greatest representations of athletic excellence and social activism. LeBron's elite athleticism and leadership qualities mirror Nike's commitment to innovation and social responsibility, which makes the partnership a no-brainer.

The iconic LeBron signature shoe line has not only redefined basketball footwear but has also become a symbol of empowerment for young athletes. LeBron's journey from a young talent to global icon can be credited to his commitment to community, which makes him the perfect Nike athlete who will continue to inspire generations to come.

6. Naomi Osaka

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  • Nike Athlete Since: 2019

Naomi Osaka's influential Nike deal promotes the significant impact that the tennis star has had on and off the court. Since signing with Nike, Osaka has emerged as a true global icon, through her achievements as a Grand Slam champion mixed with her advocacy for social justice and equality. 

First signed in 2019, the partnership between Nike and Osaka has been the perfect example of Nike giving a platform to athletes who will use it for positive change. Osaka's signature Nike apparel and footwear line are designed to represent her relentless playing style while allowing consumers to express themselves and be inspired by her unwavering confidence and grit.

7. Kevin Durant

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  • Nike Athlete Since: 2007

Kevin Durant's longtime partnership with Nike dates back to 2007, and has since morphed into a representation of his versatility and skill on the court. Durant models Nike's ethos of constant evolution and innovation, as his long career has been filled with ups and downs during which he has always remained a relentless worker. 

Through his Nike sponsorship, KD’s iconic KD signature line encapsulates his finesse and dominance in basketball. Durant's Nike contract also aligns with his advocacy for social change and community empowerment, all of which makes him a role model that Nike is proud to sponsor.

8. Rafael Nadal

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  • Nike Athlete Since: 2008

Rafael Nadal is the perfect face for Nike due to his unrivaled determination and unmatched work ethic on the tennis court. Nike bought him on as a sponsored athlete to exemplify its ethos of pushing boundaries. The collaboration between Nadal and Nike has resulted in cutting-edge tennis apparel and footwear, and has also solidified Nadal as a global sports icon.

There is a distinctive "bull" logo of his collection that is meant to reflect his ferocious playing style that makes him the tough opponent that he is. Nadal's Nike contract represents his exceptional career as a tennis powerhouse who has always pushed himself to be the best.

9. Megan Rapinoe

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  • Nike Athlete Since: 2016

Since partnering with Nike, Megan Rapinoe has become a symbol of empowerment and activism. When Rapinoe signed with Nike in 2013, she quickly started to use this platform to inspire others to stand up for what they believe in while pushing themselves to be the best athlete and person they can be. 

Rapinoe's signature Nike gear embodies her fearless playing style and her dedication to pushing boundaries in both sports and beyond. Rapinoe's Nike contract showcases her commitment to creating a more inclusive world, making her a role model for athletes and individuals alike who aspire to make a difference.

10. Russell Wilson

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  • Nike Athlete Since: 2015

Russell Wilson's partnership with Nike was formed in 2016, as a result of his years of dominance as a top performer in the NFL. As a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and a charismatic leader, Wilson embodies Nike's values of determination and leadership. The RW signature cleat line is designed to embody Wilson's precision and agility in the game. The collaboration between Russell Wilson and Nike represents his journey from an underdog draft pick to a celebrated athlete and community advocate.

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