Sneaker Wars: Who goes to the NBA Finals based on sneakers?
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The Sneakers Wars Round 2 predictor played true to form on the court, with the predictions of Golden State, Oklahoma City, Cleveland and Toronto all proving correct. Now, it gets more serious. It’s conference finals time, so let’s look at the top four players from the four squads—dipping well past the ranks of signature wearers—to choose our Sneaker Wars winners.
Golden State vs. Oklahoma City
Stephen Curry may be making sneaker history each time he plays. Will the Curry 2.5s he wore in the Game 4 overtime extravaganza against Portland become a special-edition colorway? Led by Curry, who started the year in his Under Armour Curry Two sneaker and transitioned at the close of the regular season into the unreleased Curry 2.5 sneaker, the Warriors have a powerful sneaker arsenal. Klay Thompson brings a second signature, his from Chinese brand Anta, the KT1, complete with a conservatively growing mix of commemorative colorways. Beyond the two stars, though, there’s plenty more sneaker prowess.
Draymond Green has been highly publicized for his choice of the Nike LeBron line for the majority of his games this season, even wearing them in games against the Cavs. While Green has mixed in other Swoosh-adorned sneakers, the options in the LeBron line give this star plenty to choose from. Andre Iguodala offers another shoe-loving star for the Warriors. His sneaker collection still surprises the young guys every year, he tells SI.com, and he regularly plays in Nike shoes. He’s worn HyperDunk, HyperRev and, most recently, HyperChase.
Oklahoma City has a pair of sneaker superstars to match the Warriors. Kevin Durant currently plays in the eighth iteration of his signature line from Nike. He can choose between the low top KD8 in a variety of KD-only designs or the calf-high KD8 Elite—a sneaker like no other in the NBA—giving him a versatile mix even if he doesn’t dip into the line’s history. Russell Westbrook has an entire 30-sneaker Air Jordan history to choose from, though. While Westrbrook has an off-court signature from Jordan Brand, he serves as the lead athlete for the Jordan line, generally playing in the AJ XXX in player edition colors. It’s when he mixes it up, whether the navy AJIIIs that he wore the final week of the season or the player edition “Why Not?” crazy-looking AJ XX8s he broke out against the Spurs, that blows the minds of sneakerheads.
While there’s certainly a fall-off from the top-two players on the Thunder, Serge Ibaka does his part to keep the love of sneakers going. He wears Adidas CrazyGhost and has been known to sport some player edition colors and logos, all while keeping up on the latest Adidas trends, such as collaborations with Pharrell. Dion Waiters, meanwhile, brings the Thunder back to another Nike signature line—the Kobe line. He mixes in a variety of Kobe shoes, giving a nice four-player balance to the Oklahoma City sneaker repertoire.
Sneaker Wars winner: We appreciate what Curry has done in his signature, but it still lacks the off-court style other signatures have found. And the Thompson signature isn’t exactly a household name in America. That said, Green and Igoudala bring plenty to the table to help round out the top four. But you can argue that Waiters and Ibaka cancel out those two and the Durant and Westbrook pair is too hard to overcome. Strictly from a sneaker perspective, this battle has to go to the Thunder.
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Cleveland vs. Toronto
It isn’t often that LeBron James gets upstaged in the sneaker conversation, but what the folks at Nike have done for Kyrie Irving this postseason has been incredible. Not only did the conference finals start with the Ky-rispy Kreme version of the star’s second signature shoe, complete with a decked-out Krispy Kreme-style truck making a stop in Cleveland, but Nike also released the Kyrachie, a take on the Huarache-joins-Kyrie. All that aside, Irving’s second year of a signature shoe has proven impressive with an ever-increasing rotation of colorways in a fun-to-wear, cool sneaker. With Irving in tune right now, don’t leave out James and his 13 signature shoes from Nike. Only Michael Jordan has more signatures with one brand. James also loves to mix it up, playing in an always-changing mix of colorways and one-off designs from the LeBron 13 to the LeBron 13 Elite to reaching back into the dozen past lines.
To help fill out the top-four, Kevin Love recently ditched his deal with Chinese brand 361 Degrees and now wears the Nike Hyperdunk. Also a Nike guy (a common theme we’re seeing from the Cavs), J.R. Smith has his choice of what to wear, but most often dips into the signature LeBron line. A major sneaker collector, Smith doesn’t stick to one shoe long, a welcome addition to those watching sneakers as much as they’re watching the Cavs.
The up-and-down play of Toronto stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have created ebb and flow in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but at least the two All-Stars have kept their sneaker game on point. Lowry, an Adidas player again as he was early in his career, wears player editions of the Crazylight Boost 2.5, giving him personalized attention on one of the brand’s key sneaker lines. DeRozan has loyalty elsewhere, having worn Nike’s Kobe shoes since his days playing high school ball in California. DeRozan still sports the latest in Kobe looks in a variety of Nike iD designs.
Center Jonas Valaniunas, hopefully healthy, has played in a variety of Nike shoes over the years, including past Hyperdunk models. Most recently, though, the Lithuanian has opted for the Nike Air Max Body U, a unique selection in the NBA that gives him a slightly different look than the norm. DeMarre Carroll switched to Adidas this season, wearing everything from the Crazy 8 to the D Rose VI, but also sporting the Light Em Up 2.0 in the playoffs.
Sneaker Wars winner: While we appreciate the mix of sneakers from the Raptors, without a signature shoe and the expansive colorways that come with, they simply can’t keep up with the heavy-hitting Cavaliers, the winner of this round.
Tim Newcomb covers sports aesthetics—stadiums to sneakers—and training for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.