Kentucky commit Karter Knox a prime example of still-developing NIL landscape

In the summer before his final year of high school, Karter Knox moved out of his family’s Florida home to finish his high school basketball career at a top basketball academy, Overtime Elite. The move to the Atlanta-based school had another benefit. In Georgia, Knox could sign with an agent to represent him for his Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) rights.

Shortly after the move, Karter signed with LIFT Sports Management for NIL representation. At just 18, more than a year away from reaching the NBA as he hopes, Karter already has an agent in Kevin Bradbury, who represents NBA players, and a deal with a leading shoe company.

“When you put the work in and you’re doing really good on the court, the money is going to come in eventually,” Karter told The Athletic. “I’m not surprised that I’m a millionaire at this age, because I put in the hard work. My parents, my family, have my back and they’re going to make me money.”

Karter is just one of the many high school athletes who are taking advantage of the still-maturing NIL ecosystem before they even get to college. A handful of marketing contracts has given Karter a financial safety net that hadn’t even been possible seven years ago when his older brother, Kevin Knox II, was on his way to becoming a lottery pick.

It started, of course, with location. While Karter moved to Georgia, his family remained in their home outside of Tampa. Unlike his brother, who went straight from Tampa Catholic to Kentucky on his way to the NBA, Karter transferred before his senior year. While college athletes have clear-cut markets for their NIL rights, with local businesses and collectives ready to pay a university’s top players, high school athletes still have to be a little more entrepreneurial. Each state has its own NIL laws. In Florida, high school athletes can’t monetize their NIL rights.

As a consensus top-20 player in his high school class with, now, more than 81,000 Instagram followers, Karter had a number of financial opportunities he could cash-in on. While Knox helped RWE, his OTE team, get to Game 5 of the league finals this weekend, it took him some time to get comfortable in his new home.

“The first week was kind of hard,” he said. “I was homesick. I missed my family. But it’s paying off right now. You get better every day. You get money. It’s really good that I’m here right now.”

Karter recently announced that he will attend the University of Kentucky next season, but some of his hardest decisions have already been made. He has deals in place with Fanatics, Adidas and PSD Underwear. He also has a deal with sports media company, Overtime Sports.

The deal with Adidas came out of his involvement with Overtime Elite. The sportswear company is an Overtime Elite sponsor and signed an NIL contract with Karter too. Adidas also sponsors the McDonald’s All-American Game, in which Karter will play next month.

The company has plans to include Karter in its mentorship program, where it pairs NBA stars who endorse Adidas with younger talent. Cam Mason, Adidas’ head of sports marketing, said James Harden and Donovan Mitchell have already shown interest in mentoring him.

“If you look at where Karter is as an athlete, we want to work with him on a ground level,” Mason said. “He has a nice social following, he fits the brand.”

But the deal with Adidas is just for one year. After the 2023-24 season, Karter will be able to sign with them again, or with a new shoe company. Kentucky has an apparel contract with Nike through 2025.

Karter has had an exclusive trading card deal with Fanatics, which owns Topps, since August. That contract will cover his first year in the NBA. The Fanatics deal, his father Kevin Knox Sr. said, is a seven-figure deal.

Karter’s PSD endorsement was part of a larger tie-in between LIFT and the underwear company. PSD signed seven top high school basketball players as endorsers last month. Mike Miller, one of LIFT’s co-founders and a lead agent, is also a stakeholder in PSD.

Karter and his family have also come into this process thinking long term. Knox Sr. said that when Kevin was going through high school, he told him to focus on getting into college and not just starring in high school. With Kevin’s success — the New York Knicks picked him ninth overall in the 2018 NBA Draft — the family is looking even further down the line now.

Karter’s goal is to be drafted higher than his brother. His parents have already said the money he makes through NIL should not be the endgame.

“That’s what you’re pushing for,” Kevin Knox Sr. said, “is trying to get a second (NBA) contract.”

There has been a learning curve to handling money at an early age. Karter said the first time he got paid, he spent it quickly. His parents, he said, told him to save it instead and put him on a budget. His first purchase with his new income was a PlayStation 5 game console, but he said he has been more judicious since then.

All the schools Karter considered — Louisville and South Florida were among his final options — offered roughly similar NIL offers, his parents said, which created a financial baseline. Karter said he focused his decision on which school could help him get to the NBA and continue to improve, not the money.

“For us to allow our kids to just make a decision to go to college because they’re giving us the most money — no,” Karter’s mother Michelle Knox said. “What if you get there and then their playing style is different? Or you don’t get to play? Or it’s two people ahead of you in that same position? So there’s factors that you have to weigh in to ensure that your child makes the best decision for them because we, of course, know our kid’s ultimate goal is to get to the NBA. So Karter wants to be a one-and-done to get to the NBA. It’s important for him to select the right school.”

Karter has taken a hands-off approach to the NIL business, letting his family handle the majority of the responsibility. Karter said he’s told when there’s a photoshoot or some kind of brand activation with an existing sponsor that he has to show up for. He learned about the Adidas deal, for example, when his parents came to him and said the company was interested and recommended he sign with it. Karter thought about it and then did.

“It’s a completely different landscape,” Bradbury said. “They’re approaching it that way too.”

(Photo: Brian Rothmuller / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top