Sneaker Wars: Conference finals field determined through sneaker style
If sneaker style determined the winner of each second-round matchup, which teams would advance to the NBA conference finals? That question kicks off SI.com’s first Sneaker Wars segment:
For the Warriors, Curry has played the majority of this season in Under Armour’s first-ever signature basketball sneaker, the Curry One. Released in January, Curry’s signature model has design touches molded to Curry’s personality and a logo to match his initials and number. But Curry isn’t the only Golden State Warriors player with a signature shoe. He’s just the only one wearing his right now. Klay Thompson signed a deal with Chinese shoe brand Anta this February, unveiling a signature model, the KT Fire. But Thompson still plays in a blacked out Nike Hyperdunk.
For the Grizzlies, big man Marc Gasol opts for the Nike Hyperdunk 2014. Easily the most popular of the non-signature shoes in Nike’s basketball collection, the personalized colors have Gasol lacing up in a shoe worn throughout the country’s high school gyms. Courtney Lee is also a Nike guy, opting for the brand new Kyrie 1, the low-profile, angular Kyrie Irving signature that launched in December.
The Sneaker War winner: Curry’s strong signature debut gets dragged down by Thompson’s blacked out Nike selection, but Curry’s style and Thompson’s intrigue edges out the Gasol-Lee combo.
The Houston Rockets have the most underachieving pair of sneaker stars in Dwight Howard and James Harden. Howard, on the back end of his Adidas deal, still wears the D Howard 5 signature shoe in games, but has been seen donning retro Jordans elsewhere. And Adidas hardly even pushes the Howard line, not even making special edition versions like they have with the Rose, Lillard, and Wall. James Harden, a strong Nike voice, was quoted by the brand when it unveiled the new Nike Hyperchase ahead of the All-Star Game this February, but he’s been wearing a pair of KD VII Elites this playoffs.
The Clippers may represent the Jordan Brand better than any team, with Chris Paul wearing his signature CP3.VIII sneakers and Blake Griffin serving as the lead Jordan athlete on the Super.Fly 3. These two heavy-hitters for Jordan have drastically different sneaker aesthetics. The Super.Fly 3 is a hightop with a giant Jumpman logo on the back and the CP3 a lower-profile lightweight offering. Both have worn sneakers heavy on white with either red or blue accents this playoffs.
The Sneaker War winner: In a runaway, the Clippers’ top two have more sneaker dominance than the top two from the Rockets.
Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague has a sneaker collection that puts many of his NBA counterparts to shame, but on the court he sticks with what he knows provides him “comfort,” as he tells SI.com: the Adidas Crazylight Boost 2014. One of the only Adidas basketball shoes with Boost cushioning, this sleek, lightweight model is the Teague shoe of choice. Teammate DeMarre Carroll pulls on a different brand, opting for the Nike Lebron 12 Elite shoes for the playoffs, a quality choice for a forward, as the LeBron shoe is packed full of stability and support.
The Wizards have their own Adidas man, John Wall, who received his first-ever signature sneaker, the J Wall 1, which launched in fall 2014. The vertically striped shoe has some clever Wall designs—such as the map on the soles of the shoes—that give Wall a different style than other Adidas options. Teammate Marcin Gortat dons Nike, opting for the Hypderdunk 2014.
The Sneaker War winner: Possibly the tightest race of the Sneaker Wars second round, Teague’s solid off-court game gets trumped by the on-court signature style of Wall, giving the Wizards a sneakers victory.
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This is easily the strongest sneaker matchup of the second round. With three players sporting signature shoes, expect a strong sneaker test in this one.
We all know about LeBron James. After often failing to wear the LeBron 11s last season, Nike and LeBron have created a James-approved offering in the LeBron 12, a shoe the King has worn nearly exclusively all season. He has mixed and matched colorways and special editions all year and the playoffs have been no different, where he’s been seen in the varying LeBron 12 colors and the Elite version. Teammate Kyrie hasn’t been far behind. With his Nike signature shoe, the Kyrie 1, launching in December, the guard has had plenty of colorway options to choose from—albeit, no Elite version—for this signature with a unique design.
For the Bulls, Derrick Rose counts as a lead athlete for Adidas, with the D Rose 5 Boost the only of the three key signature shoes (not counting Howard’s shoe in this mix) to have the popular Boost cushioning. With a distinctly Rose design, the Bulls’ guard has a mix-and-match colorway and special edition list at his disposal. Teammate Jimmy Butler may not have a signature, but brings a strong choice to the mix, wearing the Jordan Brand’s Super.Fly 3.
The Sneaker War winner: With two signature shoes to one, we give the edge to Cleveland.
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Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.