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China's Li-Ning Signs NBA's Evan Turner To Continue Foray Into U.S. Market 

August 23, 2010: Li-Ning is taking on Nike and adidas and it means business. The China-based company has taken what arguably could be the athletic footwear and apparel firm's biggest step into the U.S. market with the signing of Evan Turner, the 2010 No. 2 overall draft pick of the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers. Executives called it  "a game-changing moment for the Li-Ning brand."

Financial terms of what Li-Ning called a "long-term agreement" were not disclosed. Turner's agent is David Falk, among whose multitude of claims to fame was representing Michael Jordan during Jordan's rise to NBA dominance and the growth of the iconic Nike Air Jordan basketball shoes.

Turner, the 2010 recipient of the Naismith Award, the John Wooden Award and the Associated Press Men's College Basketball Player of the Year while with Ohio State, joins several NBA players who have signed deals with Li-Ning, including Shaquille O'Neal of the Boston Celtics, Baron Davis of the Los Angeles Clippers, Jose Calderon of the Toronto Raptors and Hasheem Thabeet of the Memphis Grizzlies.

No. 1 overall draft John Wall of the Washington Wizards recent signed a deal with Reebok, which is owned by adidas..

After building a billion-dollar business in China, Li-Ning has been ramping up activation in the U.S., in particular since the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing when the company was able to make a first-hand impression to athletes, marketers and other businesses. The company has its U.S. headquarters and a retail store in Portland, Ore., which is the long-time home of Nike (located in nearby Beaverton) and adidas.

Li-Ning said it plans to immediately incorporate Turner in marketing and other global activation, and that next season he would have his own line of signature shoes and apparel. Li-Ning did not specify where Turner's shoes would be available, but  Baron Davis' line of shoes is available at Champs and EastBay.com.

"This is truly a game-changing moment for the Li-Ning brand," Brian Cupps, Li-Ning's brand initiative director for basketball, said in a statement. "Adding a supreme young talent like Evan Turner sends a message to the global basketball community that Li-Ning basketball is committed to being a player on the global stage."

According to Turner, "It's great to have the support of a company that's as eager as I am to perform at the highest level possible. I am excited to be part of a growing brand and to blaze a new path for future young ballplayers everywhere to follow."

Several other NBA players also have deals with China-based shoe companies. Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics recently signed with athletic shoe and apparel company Anta after a long association with adidas. Jason Kidd has a deal with Peak. Concurrently, former NBA star Stephon Marbury has a deal to play with the Shanxi Brave Dragons of the Chinese Basketball Assn. that includes team ownership promoting his signature line of Starbury shoes and sportswear via production, retail outlets and marketing. Starbury originally launched as part of the Steve and Barry's roster, but Marbury retained rights when the national retailer closed its doors in 2008.

Li-Ning Company Limited was established in 1990 and named after its founder and chairman, the iconic gymnast who won six medals during the 1984 Olympics.

Jay Li, general manager for Li-Ning International, said he envisions a bright future for Turner. "We are thrilled to have another star representing Li-Ning. To compete and be relevant as a performance sports brand, you need representation of some of the world's best, and we know we're getting that in Evan Turner."

China Keeps Calling, NBA Keeps Answering

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