Why Derrick Rose’s sneaker is still so popular in China

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There are three NBA players with an active Adidas signature sneaker line: reigning MVP James Harden, fellow first-team All-NBA guard Damian Lillard and Derrick Rose.

Yes, Derrick Rose.

The Minnesota Timberwolves point guard — who was named league MVP before Lillard even played an NBA game and was last named an All-Star back in 2012, when he was with the Chicago Bulls — has a new model put out by Adidas every year, something that continued this summer with the launch of the DRose 9.

Why? The answer is simpler than it might appear. While Rose’s domestic popularity has waned along with his productivity, he is still a beloved figure in the NBA’s largest overseas market: China.

“Going there [for the first time], it was like [I was] Muhammad Ali,” Rose told ESPN before embarking on his recent Adidas promotional tour in China. “It just made me feel great to know that all of this came from being from Chicago. Being a kid from the Midwest, it was amazing that they were even recognizing me.”7

Although Rose is now a backup earning the league minimum, he’s still the fifth-highest paid sneaker endorser in the NBA, behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Harden. Rose is no longer on the level of those players on the court, but he remains just as popular as any of them in a country that has more NBA fans than the entire population of the United States.

According to industry sources, more than 70 percent of sales of the Rose line come from China, where Adidas boasts more than 10,000 stores, with plans to add 2,000 more by 2020. As recently as 2017, Rose’s No. 25 New York Knicks jersey was among the top 10 sellers in China, and he was No. 36 on the ESPN World Fame 100 list earlier this year, largely due to his continuing support from Chinese fans.

Rose recently spent more than a week in China as part of an annual tradition that began in 2011, when he was fresh off becoming the youngest MVP in NBA history. His status as a superstar for the Bulls — the franchise that Michael Jordan made popular worldwide — made him an instant sensation in the nation.