In early 2015, Chinese brand Anta was reportedly in the works to sign Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson, who just finished his rookie contract with Nike.
The bid to win Thompson over is not the company’s first time. In fact, it came after partnerships with the likes of Kevin Garnett, Chandler Parsons, Luis Scola, and Rajon Rondo. Some of these players were even given signature Anta basketball shoes.
Surely, the deals with those players are not total flops. It’s just that they delivered only moderate success at best, and moderate is not enough if you’ve already set your eyes on global dominance.
At that time, Klay Thompson was an All-Star reserve. He also just came out of an outstanding performance wherein he dumped mind-blowing 37 points on the Sacramento Kings in a single quarter. And to top all that, he was en route to his first NBA Championship bid. He was indeed a star in the making and if Anta were to gamble again, Thompson would be a very wise and strategic pick. He held a lot of promise, and he convincingly looked like the break that the company was waiting for.
Similarly, Anta looked like the answer to Klay Thompson’s prayers. “I didn’t know much about Anta,” Klay admitted. But he knew that making it big in the US sneaker scene is not going to be easy for him. There is Adidas and, of course Nike. But signature shoes from these giants are just so hard to come by. “I knew with Anta, I would have so much input creatively. I was going to hopefully be the Michael Jordan one day of Anta. That really resonated with me, and knowing that I could be really big in China, that was really cool to me. The shoe market sometimes is overflooded in the States, and I thought, ‘Well, why not branch out and be global.'”
The two parties practically just took chances with each other. But as we see now, their gamble continues to pay off big time.
Anta: The Sports Tiger from the East
Like many greats of today, Anta also rose from humble beginnings. The company’s story began when sixteen-year-old Ding Shizhong dreamed of getting his family out of their financial burdens. He immediately took action to realize his dream, and his first course was selling right from their home the shoes that his father created. "My first jobs was in shoes and shoes have never left my life ever since," Ding says.
It was in 1991 when the first seeds of what would become the sports giant Anta were sown. It coincided with the time when China was transitioning from a planned economy to a market-driven one. Because of this economic change, brands from the West like Adidas and Nike successfully entered and established themselves in the local market. Like many, the Chinese fell to the spell. They were enamoured by the promise of greatness that these brands bring. The foreign products such as the German Adidas shoes and American Nike sneakers became so successful that they became their brands became standard against which any new player in the vibrant sportswear industry is measured.
Anta was not an exemption. In fact, the company’s first strategies involved keeping itself out of the giant brands’ paths. Hailing from the city of Xiamen in China’s Fujian province, Anta remained and thrived in similar environments: second- and third-tier cities. First-tier metropolises are occupied by dominant foreign brands, and joining them there without a secure foothold elsewhere is entrepreneurial suicide.
While the cities and communities where they were present were populous, their inhabitants didn’t have the buying power that was as great as what the residents in first-tier urban areas had. In order to keep itself afloat, Anta offered their products at affordable rates. In fact, Anta’s offers are oftentimes just half the price of their foreign counterparts. While this was good news for the buyer, the low prices posed a risk of being labeled a second-class brand by price-conscious consumers. Nevertheless, Anta grew, and the their growth was slow but at least it was certain.
A milestone was reached in 2004 when Anta was named as the official sportswear sponsor of the Chinese Basketball League (CBL). The company held to this role until they were replaced by Li-Ning in 2012. Fortunately, the end of their CBL partnership did not come before Anta gained enough strength to ramp up its marketing efforts.
Consistent with their “Single-Focus, Multi-Brand, and Omni-Channel” strategy, the company in 2009 acquired the rights to market and distribute products of Italian brand FILA in China. Having FILA in their portfolio has given Anta the opportunity to enjoy the unique devotion that Chinese buyers have for foreign brands. The multi-brand aspect of the strategy tagline refers to an important shift in focus: instead of building Anta itself as a brand that goes global, the company opted to just take advantage of the marketing strength that some foreign brands already have in mainland China and some neighboring territories like Hong Kong. To illustrate, FILA products have been presented by Anta as high-end offers with high-end prices, something that they cannot do with their own products because of the market’s perception of local vis-a-vis foreign brands.
Anta added more and more names to the growing list of foreign brands that they market domestically. In 2014, Anta became the sole marketer and distributor of NBA merchandise in China.
The move broadened and emboldened the company’s hold on the basketball-loving sector of China’s market, which they have been pursuing aggressively since the signing of Kevin Garnett and Luis Scola in 2010 and Chandler Parsons and Rajon Rondo in 2013. In early 2015, Anta made waves when it added rising star Klay Thompson to its roster. A lot of the Anta basketball shoes today that get to the US are signature releases in his honor. We will talk more about this topic in the section below.
The signing of NBA players also provided an opportunity to be present and be noticed in the US. But Anta still has always been careful not to ruffle any feathers.
“We will follow through with an acquisition plan rather than say expand China to the US,” Zheng clarified. “We can sell some product in the US but Anta won’t necessarily become a dominant brand in the US. Fila is one type of acquisition but still focusing on China and Hong Kong.”
Locally, Anta’s stake on sportswear grew further as it struck exclusive deals with Japan-based Descente, which retails high-quality trainers, apparel for skiing, and durable shoes for running; and Korea-based Kolon Sports, which sells apparel for the outdoors.
After Beijing amended the country’s one-child policy and made it a two-child policy, Anta also became aggressive in China’s long-overlooked children’s wear market. As a significant follow-up to their 2008 launch of Anta Kids, the company got the sole right to market and distribute FILA Kids products in 2015. This is reinforced by their acquisition of the exclusive right to market the products of HK-based Kingkow in 2017.
“The kids’ segment is still very fragmented,” Anta Executive Director James Zheng said in a 2015 interview with the South China Morning Post. “There are more than a thousand kids’ brands in China but so far there is no leading brand at this stage. Obviously the demand is there, especially under the State Council’s new recommendations to put football and basketball in the kids’ physical education […] we look at this as a huge opportunity for us.”
As a direct result of their market aggression, Zheng said that as of 2015, the company already had 7000 stores for kids, and there were still plans to add more. “For our kids business, it’s not too many shops,” he explained. “We think this business still has a lot of room.”
The reverse is true, however, for the side of Anta’s business that primarily targets adult sporting enthusiasts. Even with their aggressive expansion and signing of high-profile endorsers like Thompson, there was already a problem of oversaturation as early as 2012 when the company already had over 70000 stores that sell Anta basketball shoes and other apparel nationwide.
“Our shops were relatively small, like below 80 square meters, so it was difficult to show off your brands, to give the whole picture to consumers,” Zeng said. “We have pushed our retailers to open big shops of more than 150 square metres which enable us to really display the collections.” This new requirement resulted in a double-digit retailer turnover, effectively solving the oversaturation problem.
All that has been done came to fruition when Anta announced in early 2018 double-digit percentage increases in revenue from Anta basketball shoes and other products, profit attributable to equity shareholders, and basic price per share. Anta has also grabbed the crown as the undisputed top local brand in China’s sports scene. Ding Shizhong, now CEO and Chairman of Anta, expressed optimism in terms of growth and expansions. A part of his official statement reads:
"In the future, we will continue our focus on the sportswear industry. Aside from existing brands, we will continue to seek high-end international sportswear brands with strong growth potentials to meet the sportswear needs of our customers and to fill the gaps between different market segments. Meanwhile, we will continue to improve our product differentiation and increase our market share in the running, boxing, basketball, female fitness, cross-training and skiing sports segments."
Klay Thompson: His Anta Shoes, His Story
Without a doubt, Klay Thompson is Anta’s golden boy. The optimism upon his signing in early 2015 surely did not go to waste. Just a few months after joining Anta, his career made huge strides forward. In June, the Golden State Warriors emerged as the NBA champions. The points that he contributed together his Splash Brother Stephen Curry helped secure for the Warriors their first championship title in many years.
That win is both inspirational and special not only for the men but also for the basketball sneaker brands that they represent. They toppled the Cleveland Cavaliers, which was led by no less than The King himself, Nike’s LeBron James. Klay Thompson’s Anta and Stephen Curry’s Under Armour got an extra boost of motivation. They may be the underdogs in the world of basketball sneakers, and they will perhaps be for long; but that win just made it clear that somehow it is still possible to win over the giants, albeit in battles carefully chosen.
Klay Thompson’s popularity shot up, especially in China where marketing efforts for his products were much more aggressive. As early as August 2015, he was already spotted in unveiling events for what appeared to be his first official signature shoes. While he was issued basketball kicks that bore his initials–the Anta KT Fire– upon signing, they were certainly not part of his main signature line just yet. The KT Fire is a team model, pretty much like the LeBron James shoes in Nike’s Soldier line.
The First Klay Thompson Basketball Shoes
It was reported that Klay Thompson himself was closely involved in designing the KT1.
“You learn doing a shoe that it is a lot harder than it looks,” Klay once shared. “I told them (the designers) what I thought was comfortable, referencing shoes in the past. It was a harder process than I thought.”
As a sharpshooting starter who’s expected to spend more or less 35 minutes per game, it is understandable for him to choose comfort and function over fashion.
“I like it,” he told an interviewer when asked about the looks of the first official Klay Thompson basketball shoes. “But it is not my No.1 priority.”
The Anta KT 1 was officially launched in December 2015 at San Francisco, in an event that was attended by the Chinese media and some basketball shoe bloggers such as WearTesters. The signature model’s debut marked the very first time that Anta shoes were sold in the United States.
These Anta basketball shoes were made available in selected Champs Sports stores in the Bay Area. Later on, getting these Anta basketball shoes became a bit easier through China-based online sellers that ship overseas.
Even if looks and style are not given as much emphasis as function, the first Thompson shoes are still released in colorways that creatively respond to Klay’s game and achievements. Two Playoff versions of the shoe were released around May 2016. These versions featured the yellow and blue colors of the Golden State Warriors.
When it became apparent that the Warriors were heading to the Finals again, the Back to Back colorway began to surface. This is of course an optimistic foreboding of the Warriors’ successful defense of their title.
The Warriors did make it again to the Finals, and they faced once more their old nemesis: LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Very unfortunately, the title was snatched from them after seven games.
Even with their loss, Klay Thompson and the rest of the Golden State Warriors could still say that the NBA 2015-2016 season was a phenomenal run for them. After tallying 73 wins and nine loses during the Playoffs, they became the team with the best Playoff record in the history of the NBA. An Anta KT1 colorway–the ‘73 Wins’–commemorates this rare achievement.
However, losing a title is not always an easy pill to swallow. It must have been a more bitter one for Klay Thompson who is known to not really go easy on any loss. "It's all about winning for him,” Klay’s uncle John Leslie disclosed in an interview with Bleacher Report. “Even now, I don't think he'd be happy scoring 25 for some team and squeaking into the playoffs." John then recounts how his nephew was so upset when his college team the Washington State Cougars lost an important game to the Kentucky Wildcats. Back then, Klay just felt that the loss was on him and that he let his teammates and a horde of fans down.
"It was very disappointing just because we know how good we are," Klay Thompson admitted when asked to comment about their loss to the Cavs. "We feel like we're still the best team in the world, and we let that slide. So it hurts right now. I can't tell you when the disappointment's gonna fade, but it will."
Knowing that they still have what it takes to win was enough reason for Klay and his team to rise and train to get stronger. With four All-Stars in the their roster, Klay couldn’t be more right in assessing their strength. But there’s still room for improvement, and the Warriors’ front office was quick to recognize this.
As soon as the offseason kicked off, talks about Kevin Durant joining the Warriors started floating. On the fourth of July 2016, KD’s transfer to the Bay Area was confirmed, and Klay’s older Mychel broke the news to him.
“I didn’t believe it at first when he told me, so I had to check my phone and verify it,” Klay shared in an interview with Yahoo Sports. “I was like, ‘Seriously? KD really chose us?’ It was an incredible moment for our organization, and I was psyched. We had the final form of our team.”
If there is one thing that former NBA player Mychal Thompson taught his son Klay, that would be putting a greater value on teamwork over individual greatness. And this is pretty much evident in Klay’s amenable behavior to Durant’s widely criticized move to the Warriors. He was not at all jealous that he would have to share the limelight not only with Steph Curry but also with Durant, who by the way is honored by Nike with at least two lines of signature KDs.
“We all want to see each other do well; but I’m not sacrificing [expletive], because my game isn’t changing,” Klay said of the team that has become since Durant joined. “I’m still going to try to get buckets, hit shots, come off screens. I want to win and have a fun time every game we play.”
When asked to comment about the possible ripples that his joining created in the Warriors’ circle, Durant seemed to be on the same page as his teammate Klay Thompson. “We want Klay to stay Klay,” he said, hinting further that no one has to actively change or to adapt or to sacrifice just so the other can shine. “We don’t want him to change. The games dictate where the shots come from. I may shoot 12 shots one night; Klay may shoot eight or nine shots one night, and Steph may shoot 25 shots one night. And it could be a different flow another night.”
With five All-Stars, the Warriors undoubtedly became an NBA mammoth, but not everyone is happy. “Now, we can embrace being the hated team and getting everyone’s best, and adding some tension every night,” Klay shared. “It’ll be a fun experience going into arenas on the road, with opposing fans hating what we’ve built.”
The chemistry between Durant and Klay was immediately put to the test when they both represented the United States in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Anta rallied behind Klay, and created a ‘USA’ or ‘2016 Rio Olympics’ version of the KT 1.
“It would be a great honor,” Klay responded when asked about him joining the national team. “Just thinking about the Olympics gives me butterflies, just because that's a dream I always had as a kid.”
The Anta KT1 ‘USA’ is, therefore, a concrete reminder of a dream come true. It is the last highly publicized version of the first Klay Thompson basketball shoes. Because he won an Olympic gold medal while wearing them, this celebrated colorway provides a fitting close to the first chapter of the Anta athlete’s signature shoe story.
Klay and His Second Anta Shoes
In the second half of 2016, Anta made buying their products a bit easier for US consumers by launching AntaAmerica, a website through which Anta products are presented, assessed, and ultimately bought. They have also closed a deal with Shoe Palace, effectively expanding their presence not only in California but also in Hawaii and Nevada.
Around the same time, the second Klay Thompson basketball shoes were released. Just like Klay and his team who worked hard to make themselves better for the 2016-2017 season, the Anta KT2 expectedly brought significant improvements to the KT1’s build. With a better cushioning system, almost all reviewers agreed that the shoe is a true upgrade.
These supportive mid-top basketball shoes for Klay were made available in numerous colorways. A version that pays tribute to Team USA and their triumphant Olympics stint was among the first to arrive. As early as September 2016, or basically before the season even kicked off, a Playoff version of the KT2 had already been floated online. Anta must have been so sure of the superlative capabilities of Klay and his team that the thought of them not making the Playoffs is 100% absurd.
In December 2016, Klay Thompson showed up in a game against the Pacers, and then scored a whopping 60 points in the first three quarters after playing for only 29 minutes. This rare feat earned him the NBA Performance of the Year award at the end of the season.
When asked about this career milestone, Klay said, “It was fun. I was in a great rhythm. I took all good shots, for the most part. Still missed a few wide open threes I wish I could get back. It was a fun night, to say the least."
To celebrate this rare achievement, Anta renamed the unreleased (but heavily talked about) ‘Night Storm’ and unveiled it as the Anta KT 2 ‘Make It Rain.’ The new name for these Anta shoes clearly references the multiple points that rained on the opponent through Klay Thompson’s shooting.
Two colorways were seen in February 2017: one commemorates Klay Thompson’s February 8 birthday, the other was a special colorway for his participation in the All-Star Weekend’s three-point competition. The latter was later on released to the public as the Anta KT 2 ‘Blazing 3.’ By the 25th, the Playoff version of the KT2 became official as the Golden State Warriors secured a sure spot in the Western Conference Playoffs. Their Playoff berth was by then the earliest in NBA history. The regular season ended with 67 wins and 15 loses on the Golden State Warriors score card, making them the first seed in the West.
The Golden State Warriors practically went through the Playoffs unscathed, 12 wins in 12 games. Anta must have been so comfortable with how the team was performing that they already had what appeared to be two Finals versions –one ‘Home’ and one ‘Away’– of the KT 2 when the Playoffs was just starting in April.
The Warriors’ winning streak continued in the first three games of the Finals, bringing the team’s 2017 Postseason record to 15-0, which is obviously the best that any team could have at that point. They tumbled in the fourth game, but they bounced back and finally sealed the deal in the fifth.
On Top with the Third Klay Thompson Shoes
As early as March 2017, images of the Anta KT 3 had already been leaking online. Those who are eager to try it out had to wait until September to cop these Anta basketball shoes.
When the season kicked off in October 2017, Klay Thompson laced up an Anta KT3 that is bathed in gold. Aptly called ‘Gold Blooded,’ this rendition of the third Klay Thompson shoes celebrates Klay and his team’s successful run the previous season. It is said that only 99 pairs were made, and they represent the 82 regular and 17 postseason games that the Warriors had to go through in order to win the title.
The NBA 2017-2018 Season was yet another great run for Klay Thompson. He broke scoring record after record both in his team and the league as he swept through his games with his otherworldly three-point shooting capabilities.
In February, Klay got selected for the All-Star Game for the third time, and Anta celebrated it with a special rendition of the KT3. Some time later, ‘Home’ and ‘Away’ Playoff versions of these high-top basketball shoes were made as the Golden State Warriors advanced to their sixth consecutive postseason appearance.
The Houston Rockets, led by Adidas golden boy James Harden, made things a little difficult for the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Their close rivalry took them up to the deciding seventh game, in which the back-to-back points made by Kevin Durant and the Splash Brothers Klay and Steph sealed the deal for the Warriors.
Before the championship dust even settled, images of the next Anta basketball shoes for Klay Thompson started leaking online, giving Klay Thompson another reason to celebrate his athleticism and life.
How much does a pair of Anta shoes cost?
Save for a few releases like those under Klay Thompson’s signature line, Anta shoes are generally priced within the budget range. But expert reviewers and ordinary wearers are unanimous in saying that they deliver more than what their low prices promise. Getting more for less, then, is an everyday thing when you transact with Anta.
As with any other brand, those who wait out will surely be rewarded. Even if they debut on already low prices, Anta products will still be available with further discounts a few months after their release.
When are Klay Thompson basketball shoes usually released?
Looking at the release history of Anta’s line of signature Klay Thompson shoes, it looks like they are released in the -ber months. Two of the last three models debuted in September, the remaining one in December.
Images of the Anta KT 4 started leaking in June 2018. Klay Thompson himself wore a triple white pair in one of his practice games in China. These Anta shoes will most probably be released in the last four months of 2018.
Does Anta have Rajon Rondo basketball shoes?
Yes. In fact, not long after he signed with Anta in 2013, a signature shoe that bore his initials– tha Anta RR 1–was released. Every year since then, Anta basketball shoes that honor him are released. The latest one is the RR5, which was released in late 2017.
Does Anta have Chandler Parsons basketball shoes?
Like Rajon Rondo, Chandler Parson was also given his own signature Anta basketball shoes short after being signed. However, when he got injured sometime in 2015, he blamed the shoes’ poor ankle support. Signature Chandler Parsons basketball shoes from Anta stopped appearing since then.
Who designs Anta shoes?
Not much is known about the designers of Anta basketball shoes. However, the company has Robbie Fuller, a senior design director for Adidas shoes who left his job to be Anta’s creative director of footwear.
Before working on Klay Thompson basketball shoes, Robbie Fuller had direct and indirect participation in the design of signature basketball shoes for Damian Lillard, Derrick Rose’s signature sneakers, and John Wall basketball shoes.
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