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Nike vs. Adidas in Beijing

July 9, 2008 |  3:10 pm

Members of the U.S. men's basketball team model the uniforms that the squad will wear in Beijing.

Conspiracy theorists say the evidence is as clear as USA Men’s Basketball head Coach Mike Krzyzewski's left foot.

Talk of an Olympic coverup began almost immediately after Nike made public the accompanying photo, which is supposed to showcase a new-and-improved design that, according to Nike, "eliminates 25 centimeters of material and reduces the weight by 31% when compared with current uniforms."

But talk online focused on Coach K's strategically placed foot, which seemed to block the sneaker worn by Dwight Howard. Then there's the basketball Howard cradles in his arm, which covers the Nike logo on his uniform.

It's all grist for the conspiracy theorists' mill because Howard is signed with Adidas.

I first read about the photo conspiracy on Darren Rovell's SportsBiz blog on CNBC.

Covering up during the Olympics is as old as the 1992 Barcelona Games. Nike guy Michael Jordan professed patriotism when the Dream Team leader showed up to accept the basketball gold medal with Old Glory draped over his shoulder -- and the Adidas logo on his team uniform.

But lest you think covering up or letting it be bared is only an Olympic sport, remember that Reggie Bush made some sports marketing waves in 2006 by playing his first professional game while wearing Adidas cleats. At the time, only Nike, Reebok and Under Armour were allowed to show their logos on the NFL's turf.

Nike and Adidas have good reason for paying attention to who's showing what.

A recent Nike filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission sets the shoe, apparel and sports equipment giant's endorsement and sponsorship obligations in coming years at just under $3.4 billion.

That's a huge jump from a decade ago, when Nike's endorsement and sponsorship obligations were about $500 million.

--Greg Johnson

Photo: Members of the U.S. men's basketball team model the uniforms that the squad will wear in Beijing. Credit: Nike