Not as Foot Locker salesman like the ad portrays, but instead as, well... Foot Locker salesman. As Under Armour salesman. And wittingly or not, as unofficial Milwaukee Bucks brand ambassador. Because while Jennings does not have the pedigree or international reach of Andrew Bogut, the playoff experience of Stephen Jackson, or the Twitter followers of Jon Brockman, he has already leapt and lapped most of his NBA peers in bravado and ubiquity. And this, in a league saturated with the bravado and ubiquity of its star players.
The reason it works, the reason that Jennings continues to pull this off and build his fanbase and brand despite a career 37.9 % field goal percentage? It's in the setup, the branding, if you will.
Jennings -- McDonald's All-American and collegiate spurner -- successfully managed to present himself as the capable underdog all along, spurred on from Day One in the NBA by his exclusion from the Green Room on Draft Night, which prompted him to not show up to the draft at all... until Milwaukee picked him in the lottery, 10th overall. And just like that, Jennings was a lottery pick and created the perception that he was slighted at the same time.
Ever since, both on and off the court, Jennings has lived up to his me-against-the-world disposition. He chirped at Kevin Garnett in the tunnel and called out his doubters after a game as a rookie (still one of my favorite games on press row). He became Under Armour's outspoken trailblazer, going up against the Nikes of the world, a challenge more daunting even than playing against Kobe Bryant himself. Coincidentally, Jennings also managed to position position himself against Bryant this offseason.
And for the Bucks, for now, it works. Because the Bucks are the perpetual underdog, the small guy, and Jennings personifies the franchise in that mold all the way down to his slight frame, and he does so in a strangely endearing way. At the same time the lockout has smothered the life out of the NBA, Jennings remains full of life, thriving without the league.
During the lockout, I have been doing a lot actually. My summer has been kind of crazy due to the lockout, I was interning at Under Armour as the "Curator of Cool". I've been going around different parks playing basketball - Not just Pro-Ams, but different parks in different neighborhoods. I've been working with Mission Core Grip throughout the whole summer. I've actually been becoming a business man if you think about it.
Jennings has become a bit of a businessman indeed, but we should trust that his real energy is still devoted to basketball, and not just because of the standard offseason workout article. Even when he is acting as a businessman or just acting in general, he is at his best when he is not acting at all -- to wit, Under Armour showcases Jennings in his element, melding footage via on the court and off, in a series of slick promotional episodes. And that is why the brand works -- Jennings is not something conjured up by the Bucks or any other outside force. He is young and talented, sure, but he is also flawed, and it is that which makes him naturally compelling.
The concern used to be that Jennings, scoring wizard and skyscraping personality, would outgrow Milwaukee. That concern gave way last season to an altogether different type of concern: that the Bucks would not grow with Jennings. Whether his Milwaukee story has a good ending or not, it is already a good story.
The chapters that will define him on the court moving forward are whether he becomes the scorer the Bucks desperately need, or whether his perceived signature moments remain " when he was a rookie."
In the meantime, in all of this unforeseen and unfortunate mean-mean-time (the Bucks should be hosting the Nets tomorrow), those of you in the Milwaukee-area can watch Jennings continue to dominate the season of nothingness as he celebrates the release of his Under Armour Micro G Bloodline shoe collection at Foot Locker at Mayfair Mall in Milwaukee from 6:00-7:30 tonight.