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The other shoe is about to drop for Toronto Raptor sensation Vince Carter, bringing with it a windfall worth about $11.5-million (U.S.).

Carter, who is working out with the U.S. Olympic team in Honolulu in preparation for the Sydney Olympic Games, is to sign a sponsorship deal with shoe conglomerate Nike for a reported $30-million, a National Basketball Association source confirmed yesterday.

The six-year deal, details of which are being fine-tuned, would see Nike clear a $14.5-million debt that Carter owes Puma, the shoe company with which Carter had initially signed an endorsement deal before joining the Raptors two seasons ago.

Carter became dissatisfied with Puma last year and tried to walk away from the contract. The matter went to arbitration in the United States and the arbitrator ruled in Puma's favour, saying that Carter owned the company $13.5-million plus an additional $1-million in lawyer fees.

The ruling, which came down after the conclusion of the 1999-2000 NBA season, prohibited the 23-year-old forward from signing an endorsement deal with another company for three years.

Under the terms of the new agreement, Nike would clear Carter's debt with Puma and then pay their competitor an additional $5-million to release the high-flying dunk king from the initial contract.

The remaining money, about $11.5-million, will go into Carter's pocket.

The Associated Press on Tuesday reported Carter denying a new deal had been reached.

"I just got out of a Puma suit, so how can I have a deal ready?" Carter said. "Everybody's jumping the gun."

However, a source close to the negotiations with Nike and Puma, who did not want to be identified, said the new deal should be announced within the next week or two.

"For Vince, to not have to worry about this once and for all would allow him to focus on basketball," the source said. "For him, he'd like to get it done as soon as possible."

Officials with both Nike and Puma were unavailable for comment yesterday.

Under the terms of the arbitration ruling, Carter was required to continue to wear the Puma brand when he played basketball. He did so but grudgingly, often covering up the Puma logo on the shoes with tape or blacking it out with ink.

The sneaker scenario certainly had no bearing on Carter's performance last season, as he guided the Raptors to their first appearance in the NBA playoffs.

He was the leading vote-getter for the starting lineups in the NBA all-star game where he soared to victory in the slam-dunk competition.

It is believed that Carter's deal with Nike is among the most lucrative involving NBA players. Nike also has signed golfer Tiger Woods to a new endorsement package, a five-year deal believed to be worth $122-million.

Raptors president Richard Peddie said he had no knowledge of Carter's pending shoe deal.

"You want your players being focused on the game and you want them to be financially secure," Peddie said. "The less players have to worry about, the better. We're huge fans of Vince. We want it to all work out for him."

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