Sneaker Wars: Picking the winner of the NBA Finals based on shoe styles
Sneaker style has hit a competition crescendo on the maple hardwood in Oakland and Cleveland. While Christmas, Easter and other holidays give players a chance to break out wild and crazy colors for their feet, the NBA playoffs send players back to tried and true sneaker style for the biggest games. As SI.com’s first-ever Sneaker Wars series continues, Golden State and Cleveland have held on to their favored status through each round, winning on the scoreboard as they have in style. For the second round we looked at the top two players on each team and we went four deep for the conference finals. To determine our Sneaker Wars Finals winner, let’s look at six players from each squad.
While we watch Stephen Curry drop buckets from long distances, the focus remains on his quick release. But don’t overlook his quick feet, clad for 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. The build of the Curry One doesn’t deviate too far from the Under Armour styles he wore in the past, but having a signature model that has shown well bolsters his shoe game.
Klay Thompson has the most confusing signature model around, though. Thompson signed a deal with Chinese shoe brand Anta in February, unveiling his signature KT Fire during the three-point shootout at the All-Star Game. But Thompson still plays in a blacked out Nike Hyperdunk model.
Andre Iguodala has hundreds of shoes in his collection, so choosing what to wear for a game can prove a tricky endeavor. Long a Nike wearer, Iguodala has player edition colorways of Nike Zoom models, such as the Hyperrev, but has commonly opted for the Hyperdunk this season. Big man Andrew Bogut has also worn Nike for years, most recently wearing Nike Zoom Hyperfuse in the playoffs.
James leads the Cavaliers ... and that includes with sneakers. James has a signature model from Nike and has pulled out a dizzying array of LeBron 12 colorways this season, mixing and matching colors with the Elite version all season and playoffs.
But LeBron isn’t the only Cavaliers player with a signature Nike shoe. Teammate Kyrie Irving doesn’t have an Elite line to fall back on, but with the lowtop Kyrie 1 launching this past December, the guard has his own signature line and plenty of colorway options to choose from. J.R. Smith adds to the LeBron love, donning a pair of LeBron 12 lowtop shoes for the playoffs, a nice addition to the hightop version his teammate and the shoe’s namesake wears.
Iman Shumpert, though, adds an entirely new realm of interesting to the Cavaliers’ sneaker world. Shumpert wears Adidas, but he does so with some style, donning an array of different styles and colors. He has even pulled out the Crazy 8, originally a signature Kobe shoe. The Crazy 8 has made its comeback for Adidas in a variety of styles and colors, some of which Shumpert customizes for his game when he decides to mix it in.
Two of Cleveland’s playoff stars, Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova, give Cleveland a return to Nike. Thompson is the third player on this Cavaliers-specific list to don a LeBron shoe, opting for the Nike Zoom LeBron Soldier VIII (the one with the strap). Dellavedova, though, picks a different Nike signature, wearing the Nike Kobe 9 low, last season’s signature shoe for Kobe.
The Sneaker Wars winner: Curry leads a strong Warriors sneaker game, but Thompson’s question mark brings them down. The other four sneaker wearers for the Warriors show a strong mix of three Nike shoes—including a LeBron signature—and an Adidas. For Cleveland, LeBron dominates with three of his sneakers on the six players. But all three are different from each other, adding some extra style. Add in Irving with his own signature shoe, Shumpert’s array of Adidas models and a Kobe signature thrown in for good measure, and the NBA Finals Sneaker Wars goes to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.