What If Master P and Baron Davis Buy Reebok?

As a lifelong fan of Reebok...I...I...can't...

For those that don’t know, I’m quite possibly the biggest (dumbest, and overly-dedicated) Allen Iverson fan and my passion for the Reebok brand has consistently outweighed the marketing efforts of all the other brands since at least the Reebok Insta Pump Fury blew my mind in 1994. It might have even been earlier because as much as I loved MJ, I also love the underdog, always and forever, and the Pump Up Air Out commercials were also a favorite when I was a kid. Even prior to being a “sneakerhead,” I wore black or navy nylon Reebok Classics throughout much of middle school and early high school. The point is never about comparing my fandom to anyone else’s because if you are a fan of any sports team, you know that being a fan is oftentimes more heartache than it is not.

I’ve been letting the idea of Reebok being acquired by Master P and Baron Davis (along with an investor group of some kind I presume) ruminate in my mind for the past week or so in order to be precise with my words here.

First, I’ve been a huge fan of Master P and what he’s accomplished since the early days of No Limit Records. He was one of the rappers I followed growing up because he essentially took the concept of selling tapes (my Bay Area folks know!) out of his trunk and turned it into a genius marketing opportunity. I bought his first album(?) The Ghettos Tryin To Kill Me! because of the track Player Haterz with JT The Bigga Figga and San Quinn. It represented what drew me into Bay Area rap at the time, the collaborativeness. Thanks to my openness to addiction and consumerism (jk, heh.), I started “collecting” No Limit cassettes and CDs after seeing the list of upcoming albums on the insert of each release. As a fan of Bay Area hip hop, he leveled up the entrepreneurial hustle that anyone who watched the E-40 and Too Short Verzuz now knows all about.

As for Baron Davis, his first signature sneaker with Li-Ning is the reason I got my very first chance to shoot photos courtside at an NBA game. I had a terrible camera and no skills back then, but it will always be one of the most important moments of my career because it turned into so many other opportunities for me. Not to mention that BD won the McDonald’s All-American dunk contest in Colorado Springs in 1997, which is where I graduated from high school the same year. Plus, he wore the Reebok Question during his time at UCLA. Because of those things, he was a player that I followed closely well before he made it to the NBA. It should also be said that I just find him to be a good dude. You know when you just have that feeling about someone when you meet them? It applies here. I’m a fan.

Now that you know where I stand on the two players in this game, let’s look at Reebok. I’ve collected Reebok Questions since they first released. I’ve worked with them on projects independently, interviewed for jobs on occasion, been on the other side of business partnerships during my time with Finish Line, and even presented designs and storylines for collaborations with them that they may or may not have taken from me and ran with. Yet, here I am still a fan through all of the ups and downs, sitting amongst a room full of sneakers that are overwhelmingly branded with the iconic Vector logo Reebok has tried to forget on a handful of instances over the years.

It’s nothing new to hear that Reebok is potentially up for sale.

This narrative has been going on for years. My friend Brendan said adidas was ready to sell in 2015 and had previously written about the possibility in 2014 as well. 5 years later, the Sneaker History crew and I talked about it in 2019 on an episode of the podcast when Shaq said he was interested in acquiring Reebok.

Remember, the sale of Reebok to adidas began in 2005 and took almost 7 years before adidas publicly acknowledged that Reebok was making moves in the right direction. My guess is that if it took that long to acknowledge the positives, it’s taking adidas just as long or longer to acknowledge the negative aspects of Reebok’s business.

So why is it that this is such a hot topic once again? For anyone that’s worked in the footwear business, or in marketing or content outside of the sneaker game, the brand equity at Reebok is nearly incomparable. If I could give you a metaphor to envision the potential for a purchase of a brand like Reebok, who’s been a cultural success in countless different subcultures over the past 50 years alone, I’d say this… if Reebok was one of the Pyramids of Giza, it would be like paying the estimated $2.4 billion for the brand, only to find out that what we see above ground is only the tip of the pyramid and the full size extends for exponentially more levels below ground. That represents the potential for digging into the archives to discover the stories and products that align with Reebok’s success in running, fitness, hip hop (across 3 decades!), basketball, football, CrossFit, and the dozens of other categories most of you reading are thinking about as you read this.

You would think, that as an avid devotee to both the Reebok brand and these two entrepreneurs that I might be all-in on the idea of Master P and Baron Davis buying Reebok from adidas. On the contrary, I’m hesitant to be excited about the possibility, not because I don’t think these two men could pull it off and bring some much-needed life to the fading brand, but because of the way I’ve seen these opportunities for celebrities to get involved in businesses somehow get squandered in the past. (I wrote about this some in a previous post about Reebok’s fumbling of the bag 20 years ago.)

Jay Z and the Brooklyn Nets come to mind. Jay entered as a minority owner, rumored as 1/15th of a percent ownership, was touted as an owner publicly, brought a ton of energy to the team and the city of Brooklyn, then sold his share after 7 or 8 years. I lived in Brooklyn, less than half a mile up the block from the Barclays Center when it opened. The energy at the time was nothing short of amazing and gave me hope as a Sacramento Kings fan that someday my hometown would do the same (thankfully they did!). However, much like the Kings, the Nets never really capitalized as a franchise on the energy that came from the move to the new stadium in Brooklyn or short-lived partnership with Jay Z. To be fair, however, I’m still optimistic for both teams and their respective cities to become championship-caliber in the next decade (remember what I said about the heartache of being a sports fan? I’m setting myself up for it once again).

I don’t think there are enough open minds to flip the script on where Reebok stands but there are a few things that I think could make the brand appealing to the best of the best. I think Master P and Baron Davis can bring a lot of attention to the Reebok brand but if they want to be successful, they will need to check their egos at the door, remove themselves from the equation, and hire from the incredible roster of people with a passion for footwear that could turn the brand around.

As an example, Reham Habib, someone I deeply admire in the footwear business tweeted about the possibility of being CEO of Reebok. Her history with Nike and Jordan Brand, the much-needed energy of a female CEO in the footwear business, and the diversity she would bring to the brand would be a monumental shift for the industry as a whole. And at the same time, at the very minimum, would be a starting point of where things would have to begin with Reebok’s new journey.

It will also require moving the headquarters away from the Boston area, to either the aforementioned Brooklyn or Los Angeles, or possibly both, in order to attract the type of talented people that would want to be a part of the long road of bringing Reebok to a level of competition that it once was.

Last but not least, it would take a hard reset for the company to reprioritize the direction of the product assortment, endorsement partnerships, and the goals for the various categories under the Reebok umbrella. Unfortunately, that means letting go of some of the people that are there or possibly finding them better roles within the company. You can’t compete with Nike or adidas and still be holding on to longtime workers who aren’t excited about their roles. The good thing is if you’ve listened to any of the recent episodes of the podcast, you know these turning points are often the best things to happen to people.

I guess in short…it would take a lot of outside the box thinking. Hmm, I might have just convinced myself it’s possible.