Sneaker Wars: Picking NBA Finals winner based on sneakers
We’ve come this far picking each NBA series winner based on sneakers with an uncanny success rate, and Sneaker Wars is 12–2 in the playoffs with the only two misses coming on the Blazers upset of the Clippers and the Warriors come-from-behind magic against the Thunder. For the first round, we looked at each team’s star, before digging into the top two for the second round and the top four for the Conference Finals. We will go seven deep for the Finals, pitting the Cavaliers, who have blasted the sneaker competition, against the Golden State Warriors, the sneaker favorites throughout the first two rounds until upsetting Oklahoma State. What will transpire in the final Sneaker Wars?
The West was a tightly contested sneaker battle, with the Thunder predicted to outlast the Warriors based on the impressive signature sneakers of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant (obviously the Warriors made that dramatic on the court). Cleveland, though, had an easy road through the playoffs, sweeping the sneaker rounds almost as easily as they did the teams faced in the arena until they met up with the Raptors in the Conference Finals.
The top six for Golden State will all fall in line behind Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Curry leads the Warriors with his signature line from Under Armour. While playing all year in an ever-increasing array of special colorways of the Curry Two, Under Armour introduced the Curry 2.5 at the end of Golden State’s 73-win regular season. Curry has impressed with his mix of 2.5 options, a burgeoning basketball sneaker in terms of popularity.
Thompson brings a second Golden State signature sneaker to the floor for the Warriors. Thompson signed on with Chinese brand Anta, wearing the KT1, complete with a conservatively growing mix of colorways, including a 73-win special edition.
Beyond the two main 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 during the season (we’ll have to wait for Game 1 to see what he straps on against LeBron). 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. The Nike-sponsored athlete has worn the HypderDunk and HyperRev, but most recently has worn the Nike HyperChase. Shaun Livingston also wears Nike, opting for a more traditional line: the HyperDunk. Big man Andrew Bogut gives us the Nike Air Max Audacity and Harrison Barnes mixes in a fourth brand in the lead seven athletes, offering us sneakers from both the Adidas CrazyQuick line and the Light Em Up 2.0, as seen during the playoffs.
While LeBron may lead the way on the court for the Cavaliers, Kyrie Irving takes the sneaker lead. Backed by his second signature shoe from Nike, the Kyrie 2, and the brand’s improved efforts to promote it, Kyrie has made the most sneaker noise of any player this playoffs. The Ky-rispy Kreme player edition—complete with a Krispy Kreme truck selling shoes in front of Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena—has impressed, a shoe Kyrie pulled on for the Game 2 conference finals win in Ohio. But that isn’t all. Nike has released the Kyrachie, a take on the Huarache line, all while giving Irving an ever-growing bounty of special edition colorways to wear. Kyrie has certainly led the way.
But LeBron is never far behind.
While the 13th signature shoe for James—only Michael Jordan has more signature shoes with a single brand—had a slow sales start to the season, mixing in the LeBron 13 Elite has given James a nice boost. Plus, LeBron, who has a lifetime deal, will change up his nightly footwear regularly, mixing in shoes from past iterations while showing off the latest player edition options.
The four who follow the power two don’t slouch either. 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 line of teammate LeBron James. 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.
Center Tristan Thompson hasn’t strayed too far from the LeBron line, either, often wearing the Nike Zoom Soldier VIII. And with Matthew Dellavedova with Nike—he wears the latest from the Kobe Bryant line—you have to look to Iman Shumpert to mix in something beyond Nike. An avid shoe collector, wearing an array of shoes on and off the court, Shumpert most often wears the Adidas Crazy 8 sneaker in games. He was recently used by Adidas to help launch the Originals release of the NMD_R1, providing a single Adidas foil to the Cleveland Nike dominance.
Sneaker Wars winner: The Golden State Warriors were sneaker underdogs in the Western Conference finals and had to pull out some tricks to grab the win. It will be the same here, in terms of sneakers. The power of the two signature lines from the Cavs is simply too much for the two signature lines from the Warriors, and the remaining five from each side leans to Cleveland too, giving the Cavs the Sneaker Wars win.
Tim Newcomb covers sports aesthetics—stadiums to sneakers—and training for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.