We're in the midst of one of the most diverse sneaker years in NBA history. It feels like the league has fully embraced sneaker culture under the helm of Adam Silver. We have seen just about everything this season, from two Curry signature sneakers to LeBron’s sneaker resurgence to P.J. Tucker’s continued dominance to the explosion of sneaker customization.
Players are showing more creativity and the league is promoting #NBAKicks more than any other year. With spring here and the summer approaching, it is time to dive into a few of the biggest sneaker questions that will impact the industry. The Crossover has opened the sneaker mailbox to provide you with storylines and new signature sneaker info to keep an eye on.
Is Giannis Antetokounmpo getting a signature sneaker?
In a recent episode of 60 minutes, Steve Kroft profiled Giannis Antetokounmpo’s rise from a young Greek street hustler to an international superstar. Kroft mentioned that the Greek Freak would become the first foreign player to have a Nike Basketball signature sneaker—a milestone that would be huge in the brands’ history.
Prior to the NBA season, Antetokounmpo was the biggest sneaker free agent in the NBA. He eventually re-signed with the Swoosh but not before flirting with Adidas. The sneaker deal just confirms Antetokounmpo’s global reach. He possesses once in a generation type of talent and checks off just about every credential you want in a modern superstar. He's charismatic, funny and relatable.
There was no way Nike was letting Antetokounmpo walk out the door after airballing the Stephen Curry situation. The Greek Freak is only 23 years old and just scratching the surface of his potential. With a possible 'Air Greek Freak' sneaker on the horizon, he will join an exclusive list of current players who have signature sneakers with the brand such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Paul George.
Is Drake leaving Jordan Brand for Adidas?
No, Drake is not an NBA player despite this crazy NBA 2K simulation, but over the years there has been a dramatic shift in the sneaker biz, where entertainers have become equal as influencers. In the 1980s Michael Jordan changed modern advertising for athletes and had kids wanting to be like him, dress like him and fly like him.
In this day and age, it is kind of more spread around with the emergence of streetwear within sporting apparel brands such as Nike and Adidas. Companies are not limiting their reach with just basketball players because celebrities have huge followings—think how Nike has used Kevin Hart for training/running or the Rock with Under Armour or even Pharell Williams with Adidas. And when it comes to this streetwear model, no one has influenced a generation more so than Kanye West. West was once signed with Nike then made the switch to Adidas to where the brand has found a new spark. There are several arguments about who deserves the credit for Adidas's newfound life, but downplaying West's influence is just plain dumb.
There is not denying Drake has become one of the most powerful entertainers in the world. The world stops when he releases music or fashion and not too many people could gather a fan base like he can. Drake signed with Jordan in 2013 and has found success with his OVO apparel and sneakers. Sole Collector reported that he may leave Jordan for Adidas for more creative control, joining West and Williams to create a massive trio.
Adidas has developed a mantra that allows creators to create and basically do them. While there has been no official report about Drake signing with Adidas, this will definitely impact the sneaker market in more ways than one. NBA players love and respect Drake. He treats college players like they are his best friends and casually wears top prospects like Zion Williamson's jersey. So imagine being a kid in high school and perhaps the biggest musical act in the country is wearing your jersey. That gesture alone could persuade a kid to sign with a brand that he is endorses.
Does Kobe Bryant have a new signature shoe?
If anyone thought Kobe Bryant was going to fade away after his playing days was over, they were dead wrong. The Oscar winner is prepping to release the third iteration in his A.D. line, the KOBE A.D. NXT 360 on April 13th. The NXT 360 comes two months after the release of his first retro silhouette, the Zoom Kobe 1 Protro.
Bryant’s popularity still remains on a high. His sneaker presence will continue to be strong as his protégés, Antetokounmpo, DeMar DeRozan, Isaiah Thomas and Devin Booker keep wearing his kicks.
The KOBE AD NXT 360 features a Flyknit upper that wraps the foot with a 360-degree construction for a secure fit. The sneaker is also equipped with a drop-in foam midsole made of Nike React technology and Lunarlon to maximize cushioning and response. The 360 Flyknkit is just another example of Bryant's demand for having the most innovative sneaker in the business.
Who are the best signature sneaker duo in the NBA?
This question was inspired by a conversation with Complex’s Russ Bengston and it is really tough. Back in the day it was easy to point out that Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen had the best shoes for teammates. Shaq and Penny were not bad either. In this era, there is a plethora of players who have signature models, but does any tandem stand out? LeBron James and Kyrie Irving held the title before Irving's departure to Boston. So who is left?
James Harden and CP3 boasts one of the most dynamic backcourts in the NBA, but both have sneaker lines that have faced criticism for poor aesthetics. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson both have signature lines. They are still figuring out a way into the top rankings, though. Russell Westbrook and Paul George may be the answer, though it is still too early to tell based on the age of their lines. George has released two signature models and both have faired well in reviews. Westbrook debuted his new signature, the Why Not Zer0.1., which is still trying to gain traction in the basketball sneaker market. Maybe if LeBron joins the Lakers and teams up with Lonzo Ball this will be a different conversation.
Are we going to see a Louis Vuitton basketball sneaker in the NBA?
Why this question? Well, Virgil Abloh, the creator of Off-White and Kanye West's creative director, was just named the first African-American men's wear designer for global fashion house Louis Vuitton. Abloh and his Off-White brand has been one of the hottest commodities in style circles, and he has sneaker collaborations with Nike and Jordan Brand. Abloh's new deal doesn't really mean the end to his relationship with Nike, but I wouldn't be surprised if there is a Louis Vuitton sneaker on the foot of P.J. Tucker or Montrezl Harrell in the near future.