Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics star and soon-to-be sneaker free agent Gordon Hayward is gaining interest from a number of companies looking for a new star to build their brand around.

But when Hayward, currently signed to Nike, hits the market in August, expect Boston-based shoe company New Balance to be the first to contact Hayward’s camp about some new kicks.

From ESPN:

One company with strong interest in Hayward is New Balance, which would look to re-launch its dormant basketball category with the Celtics star. The company’s commitment to re-engage in hoops isn’t entirely a secret, as it recently partnered with the Celtics on the team’s new 70,000-square-foot Auerbach Center, the franchise’s new¬†state-of-the-art training facility.

New Balance has not been in the basketball shoe game in nearly a decade (their last athlete was New Hampshire’s Matt Bonner), but have prior connections to the game, most notably with Los Angeles Lakers star of yesteryear, James Worthy.

The company’s desire to jump back into the thick of things — and with Hayward as their face — comes as part of what’s been a multi-year dive into the Boston sports scene. New Balance partnered with the Boston Bruins for Warrior Ice Arena, and the aforementioned Auerbach Center was built about 100 yards away from Warrior and New Balance headquarters.

According to the same ESPN report, Chinese brand Anta could also make an attempt to sign Hayward. Klay Thompson is already on Anta’s roster, and the company signed both Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo after the Celtics won the title in 2008.

Hayward was endorsed by Peak, another Chinese sneaker brand, early in his professional career.

In addition to Hayward, Kawhi Leonard and Joel Embiid are among those in search of new shoe deals this summer.