Jaylen Brown says Nike criticism cost him spot on USA Basketball roster

The men’s Olympic basketball team was rocked a few weeks before Paris with the news Kawhi Leonard was removing himself from competition so he could focus on the Clippers this offseason. It left the team without one of its best defensive players, and in need of a replacement the team announced that Derrick White would take his place.

It’s a basketball move that makes a lot of sense. White gives Team USA much-needed defense in their rotation, and he’s fresh off an NBA Finals series that saw his ability to limit Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving as key factors in the Celtics’ win. Despite this one person didn’t understand the decision: Celtics teammate Jaylen Brown.

Brown re-ignited his longstanding feud with Nike to suggest that shoe politics were the reasons for White’s selection, not basketball fit. Brown has worn Nikes in the past, but spurned the company during the 2024 NBA All-Star Game when he wore two pairs from small manufacturers. There’s also a history of Brown taking shots at Nike, as he did in 2022 when the company dropped Kyrie Irving.

Brown also played on the adidas circuit as a top-ranked high school player coming up. It’s Brown’s belief that his decision to not support Nike cost him a spot, and there is at least a small grain of truth to all this.

Historically Nike has had a contentious relationship with Team USA when it comes to non-Nike athletes making the roster. In 2016 the company strategically placed non-Nike athletes in the back of photos, or covered their shoes in order to give the perception that Team USA was all-Nike. As transparent and stupid as that was, the idea that Team USA would capitulate to Nike pressure in player selection is a whole other charge, one that Grant Hill pushed back on when asked about White’s selection over Brown.

It’s definitely a complicated situation. On the one hand there’s no question that Jaylen Brown is the most talented player who could have been called up to fill Kawhi’s spot, but on the other Derrick White is unquestionably the better defender, and fills the gap left by Kawhi better.

As for alleged involvement in all this, we’ll probably never get an answer.

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