Sneaker Superlatives: Which Player Owns The NBA's Best Shoe Game?
- The NBA season is here and players are set to take the court, setting the stage for SI.com's sneaker superlatives and a shoe war that's sure to last for all of 2016–17.
Rejoice! The NBA season is finally here, improving a year that has already been a great for sneakers. From iconic Air Jordan retros to new signature kicks from Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and James Harden, we have received a bit of everything. A new season means that there is plenty more to come in the sneaker world, as we have already provided you guys with an in-depth sneaker preview. With Opening Night on the horizon, it's time to hand out our sneaker superlatives for this upcoming season.
Best Newcomer: James Harden
A year after announcing their massive partnership, James Harden and adidas finally unveiled the Harden Vol. 1, the bearded one's first signature sneaker. When images of the shoe leaked in August, the Internet had a blast with them; labeling them the next “Curry 2”. However, upon its unveiling, the sneakers have received a lot of great reviews. Harden was a major coup for adidas as they slowly rebuilt their basketball unit.
With more focus on its athletes, Three Stripes has allowed Harden to insert his own creativity and inspirations into the shoe.
Harden said in a release from adidas, “This was my first time creating a shoe from the ground up. With adidas, we wanted to stand for something different, be true to who we are and that’s how we separate ourselves,” Harden said. “This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and all the work we put in together is what makes this genuine. We’re open to each other’s opinions and we weren’t going to just put shoes on the shelves and say, ‘This is James Harden.’ It’s built for how I play and you’ll see my style, different moods, the little details and stories that represent who I am.”
Best New Signature Shoe: Air Jordan XXXI
Looking for a basketball sneaker that offers some of the best tech with a classic sneaker feel? Look no further than the Air Jordan XXXI. While the last few Air Jordan models were unique in their own way, the XXXI’s digs back into the Air Jordan vault to pay homage to the sneaker that started it off, the Air Jordan 1. The sneaker merges past and present with Flyweave and a leather upper, becoming the first pair of J’s to consist of the two materials. The XXXI also features a solid set of colorways that pays respect to some of Jordan’s most memorable storylines—“Banned”, “Shattered Backboard”, “Fine Print” (that signifies his relationship with Nike) and “Chicago”.
Best Sneaker Commercial Comeback: Steph Curry
As a sneaker ad nerd, I am thrilled to see Under Armour finally give Stephen Curry a great commercial. The Jamie Foxx ads were a bit corny, and they did not feel authentic to who Stephen Curry really is. Michael Jordan’s commercials, for example, always connected with his fan base because Nike didn’t have to “sell” the world about Michael Jordan. His ads didn’t feel like pitches and we got to see his personality off the court. For Under Armour, Curry is one of the most popular athletes on Earth, and it is important to showcase what got him here without focusing much on the actual sneaker. We see that in the Curry 3 ad where Steph’s impact on the younger demographic is witnessed throughout, with kids of all ages mimicking every one of his words. As for the sneaker, the Curry 3’s are a major transformation from his previous models. Despite outstanding sales, the Curry line hasn't been appreciated. UA got rid of the oversized logo and went with a minimal sleek design that may grab the attention of more consumers.
Best Retro Sneakers: Air Jordan III 'True Blue'
It is official that the Air Jordan III “True Blue” will be released on Black Friday. The brand previously put Jordan III models on hiatus, and the return will be sparked with one of the most iconic colorways in the line.
Most Fun Sneakerhead: Brandon Jennings
It wasn’t that long ago that Brandon Jennings made history when he opted to bypass college and play professionally Europe. Jennings landed an endorsement deal with Under Armour, which stretched until the end of last season. Now without a shoe deal, Jennings finds himself in New York with the Knicks trying to reinvent himself. He was one of the bright spots for the Knicks during the preseason, and if he succeeds in a big market, the sneaker brands will come calling. But until then, Brandon will keep having fun wearing different kicks from brands like Reebok and Nike.
Most Adventurous Sneakerhead: P.J. Tucker
P.J. Tucker won MVP in my inaugural sneakerhead awards last season because of a diverse selection of kicks that ranged from Kobe’s to Air Jordan’s. But what really made Tucker a fan favorite was the games he wore non-traditional performance models, such as Nike Air Yeezy’s and Doc C Air Jordan 2’s. I wouldn't be surprised if PJ laced up in a pair of Nike Mags.
Best Cause Behind A Sneaker: Sager AF1's/Nike Mag
With the NBA on TNT tipping off the regular season, it is important to note that iconic sideline reporter Craig Sager will be missed due to his on-going fight with leukemia. To honor him, the SagerStrong Foundation and NikeiD partnered to create a customized limited edition SagerStrong Nike Air Force 1 sneaker, which were designed by Sager. Only 100 pairs will be offered via online auction with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Sager’s foundation.
Nike also unveiled the Nike Mag last year by giving “Back to the Future” star Michael J. Fox the first pair. The sneakers became iconic after Fox wore them in the movie and showcased its ability to self-lace and adapt on its own. This past month, Nike and the Michael J. Fox Foundation made available 89 pairs globally through an online draw to raise awareness in the fight against Parkinson’s disease.
Surprise Signature Award: Matthew Dellavedova
Yup, that's right. The Delly 1's are a real thing.
Most Deserving Of A Signature: Paul George
Nike’s signature athlete list is one of the most exclusive clubs in history. Counting only players that are still playing, their current NBA signature roster only consists of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. I think Paul George has worked hard enough to receive his own signature sneaker with the brand. PG13 has quietly built a successful marketing portfolio after being featured in commercials for Papa Johns, Gatorade, NBA 2K and Nike. He is doing all of this while playing in a small market in Indiana. George’s storyline is Nike ad gold! After being an unheralded prospect, playing for a small basketball school and going through one of the toughest basketball injuries ever, George is now a bonafide MVP candidate. The Swoosh should strike while the iron is hot. There have been rumors circulating that the Nike PG1 will release soon.
Sneaker MVP: LeBron James
Every year the sneaker MVP category could be a toss-up because of how sneaker culture has embedded itself in the game today. Look across rosters on any given night and you will find a player rocking an exclusive pair of kicks. This upcoming season, however, is all about LeBron James. After delivering Cleveland its first NBA championship, there is not much LeBron has left to do in terms of accomplishments. However, he has mentioned to us that he is chasing the ghost of Chicago in terms of legacy. James signed a lifetime contract deal with Nike, and it is no secret he wants to become the first billionaire athlete who is still under contract. The LeBron 14’s will probably release in January, but his sneaker line is still thriving. The LeBron 13’s price point was a bit high, but his off-line, the LeBron Soldiers, are some of his best. He also has showcased some of his early signature kicks on social media, perhaps teasing a retro line to come. LeBron is in legacy mode and his sneaker game is something to follow closely this NBA season.