Why Did Grant Hill Choose Fila and Refuse Nike?

Fila shoes

Grant Hill emerged as one of the most prominent figures in the 1994 NBA Draft. As was typical for top collegiate stars at the time, there was widespread anticipation that he would ink a lucrative shoe deal with Nike.

Nevertheless, Hill opted for a different path, striking a deal with the Italian brand Fila, which was primarily recognized for its tennis footwear at the time. This strategic move proved fruitful as Hill's on-court excellence and rising popularity significantly contributed to the brand's ascent in the market.

In an interview on the Knuckleheads podcast, Hill discussed the reasons behind his decision to take a risk with Fila.

"I was Nike, all the way. I went to Beaverton and met you know, did the whole thing before the draft. And I remember sitting with Phil Knight, and he was like, you know, this speaks to his vision for the future, but he was talking about the Far East and talking about going over to China in the Far East and those countries and expanding and growing the game and we're growing Nike in those markets. He wanted to have me at the Great Wall of China via satellite for the NBA Draft, and so all my people were like, 'That's a great idea,' and I'm thinking, 'I want that moment with Commissioner Stern. I wanna be there."

- Grant Hill

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Give up Nike and switch to Fila

Grant Hill

Despite his reservations about Knight's proposal, Hill admitted he was still highly interested in signing with the Swoosh brand. However, as negotiations progressed, he began to feel that they were offering him less than he deserved.

At that moment, Hill received an invitation from Fila, whose headquarters coincidentally were in Maryland, his father's home state. Without any particular expectations, Hill decided to hear what they had to offer.

"Fila was kinda like aspirational in the 80s, it was looked at bit; it wasn't looked at as a performance brand from basketball. They had a couple of sheets of paper in the conference room, and I turned to that second page, and the money? I was like, 'You know I can wear some Fila'."

- Grant Hill

The fourth NBA rookie to have his own signature shoe

Grant Hill and Fila

Hill joined an elite group as the fourth rookie in NBA history to receive a signature shoe, and one of just nine NBA freshmen to achieve this honor. Remarkably, his inaugural shoe, the GH1, surpassed expectations by selling over 1.5 million pairs, establishing it as the most successful rookie signature shoe since Michael Jordan's iconic

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Following Hill's achievement of co-Rookie of the Year, Fila experienced a significant surge in its sneaker market share, doubling its presence. The subsequent release of the GH2 the following year exceeded expectations, outselling its predecessor and generating $135 million in revenue for the company. Within a year, Fila surpassed both Adidas and Reebok, securing the second position behind Nike in the NBA shoe market.

In 1997, Hill inked a significant $80 million seven-year contract extension. Following his Hall of Fame induction in 2018, he rekindled his ties with Fila, signing a lifetime deal to revive his iconic 1990s signature shoe models.