UPDATE: According to a Nike rep, as reported by Hypebeast, Jian “Uzi” Zihao has not been officially signed by the brand. It seems that Zihao was just one of several individuals selected to take part in a future LeBron James campaign called “Shut Up and ______.” The line, which will be available to stores in the greater area of China, will allow customers to customize their own shirts using the slogan.
In a huge step for the world of eSports, one of the biggest sport apparel brands in the world, Nike, has signed League of Legends player Jian “Uzi” Zihao to an endorsement deal. Zihao is originally from Yichang, Hubei, China, and plays for Royal Never Give Up. Even though Zihao is the first eSports player to sign with Nike, he’s already pairing up with brand-superstar and basketball legend LeBron James on a new clothing line. The campaign, called “Dribble &”, will feature the slogan “Dribble & Carry”, referring to Zihao’s notable role as an ADC (Attack Damage Carry).
— Tryndamere (@MarcMerrill) October 20, 2018
While Nike is not the first mainstream brand to test the waters of eSports, with Champion pairing up with Team Dignitas last month and Fortnite player Ninja gracing the cover of ESPN Magazine, the brand is almost synonymous with sports. Having a sponsorship roster comprised of players from nearly every professional sport, Nike made the next logical move by entering the world of eSports, which has exploded as a viable market over the past few years. The choice of Zihao as the first player sponsored by the brand is no head shaker either.
Jian Zihao is regarded as one of the top League of Legends players in the world, as well as one of the best to play Vayne, a highly agile champion with a large damage output, perfect for his preferred role as an ADC bot laner. Most recently as a part of Royal Never Give Up, he has helped his team win first place in both the 2018 Mid-Season Invitational and the 2018 LPL Summer Playoffs, and finished 5-8th place of the Worlds 2018 Main Event, losing to G2 in the quarterfinals. He was also a big part of team China’s gold medal win in the League of Legends tournament at the 2018 Asian Games. As the world of eSports continues its spectacular rise in the public eye, we can expect to see more stories like this, with eSport players brought to the forefront of the scene and merging with mainstream sports.