Style and Substance
The NBA is a powerhouse when it comes to style in the sporting world. Once a league that despicably tried to control how players express themselves visually on and even off the court, the NBA has taken great strides in allowing freedom of expression.
No more apparent than in the NBA's new sneaker rules, for the 2018-2019 season, players are allowed to wear sneakers of any colorway on the court. It is a far cry from the 1980s, where even Michael Jordan's famous sneakers were banned.
As the end of a season comes to a close and a champion is soon to be crowned, we take a look at some of the best and worst sneakers to grace the court this season. We look at the best and worst sneakers of the 2019 NBA Season.
Top 5 Best NBA Sneakers of the 2018-2019 Season
1. Nike LeBron 2 "Beast" - Worn By PJ Tucker
Detailed look at PJ Tucker wearing the Nike LeBron 2 "Beast" in Los Angeles pic.twitter.com/A1FNmo09xU— B/R Kicks (@brkicks) October 21, 2018
PJ Tucker may just be the sneaker king of the NBA. While most wouldn't dare to wear such a bold colorway, Tucker rocked the animal print sneakers with pride. The kicks themselves are so rare, that even James himself was wondering how Tucker obtained his pair.
2. Nike Shox BB4 - Worn By Vince Carter
The 42-year-old legend Vince Carter entered the 2018-2019 season as one the NBA's most senior members. Sure to leave an impression on what might be his last season, Carter chose to wear the Nike Shoe BB4's for the entire year. It's a nostalgia hit for fans, as it is the same shoe he was wearing for his Dunk of Death in 2000.
3. Nike KD 11 "Sonics" - Worn By Kevin Durant
The Settle Supersonics haven't had an NBA team since they moved to Oklahoma City in 2008. That was more than ten years ago at this point, but Kevin Durant surely didn't forget his experience with the club that drafted him. It was a touching tribute to a forgotten market, but even more so it was one of the most stylish sneaker pairings of the year.
4. Puma Clyde Court Disrupt "Reform" - Worn By DeMarcus Cousins
DeMarcus Cousins warming up in the PUMA Clyde Court Disrupt. Soon come. pic.twitter.com/hZQjkTdgz6— SLAM Kicks (@SLAMKicks) December 15, 2018
One of the biggest stories of the NBA season was the resurgence of Puma as a powerhouse in the sneaker market. It was no more apparent than when DeMarcus Cousins rocked his pair on the court in December. The PUMA style hasn't been seen heavily on the court in a while, but Cousins sure made an impact with varying colorways.
5. Nike Adapt BB - Worn By Jayson Tatum
Style and technology made their way to the court through the Nike Adapt BB. Its debut was hard to top, as it was Nike's first use of auto-lacing technology in a basketball sneaker. Is this Back to the Future or the NBA? The NBA and pop culture have never so synonymous.
Top 5 Worst NBA Sneakers of the 2018-2019 Season
1. Nike Kyrie 5 "Ikhet" - Worn By Kyrie Irving
The Concepts x KYRIE 5 Ikhet launches December 26. pic.twitter.com/VV71I5HNpy— SLAM Kicks (@SLAMKicks) November 26, 2018
Kyrie Irving has doubled down on his personality as a sage-like figure in the NBA, sensibly done or not. Concepts and Nike tried to bring that to life with the Ikhet, but the hieroglyphics and tan and purple colorway evoke something a bit more juvenile than enlightened.
2. Adidas Harden Vol. 3 PE - Worn By: James Harden
Christmas is the time of giving, but there are times when you can give too much. Such was the case when Harden put on his Vol. 3 PE sneakers during the Rockets' Christmas Day match. The sentiment was nice, adorned with the names of his family members. However, the splatter of red, white, green, and snowflakes made it look more Jackson Pollock than NBA Style.
3. "Ultra Instinct" Air Jordan 10 Custom - Worn By Shareef O'Neal
While it wasn't worn on an NBA court during a competition, basketball phenom Shareef O'Neal caused quite a stir when he showed up to NBA All-Star weekend rocking Dragon Ball Z's Goku on his sneakers. Showing he has the same flamboyancy as his father, at least with his sneaker game, O'Neal's kicks don't lend themselves to popular consumption. Regardless if you're a fan of basketball or anime.
4. Nike LeBron 15 Lifestyle KITH Concrete Sz - Worn By LeBron James
If you're one that enjoys the combination of warmth and freedom that socks and sandals provide, you'll at the least be able to rock that look on the court with the LeBron 15 Lifestyle KITH Concrete Sz. The style is unique, to say the least, but the grey with black straps is a combination that doesn't work. Especially considering the fantastic King's Cloak colorway he wore in March.
5. Big Baller Brand ZO2.19 Madagascar - Worn By Lonzo Ball
One could say that BBB was a lost cause when it entered the ring as an apparent competitor to the world's biggest NBA equipment suppliers, but at the least, they've got us talking about them. The Madagascar ZO2.19s are the worst sneakers to grace the NBA court this season. The colorway is disastrous, while the logo placement gives no strength to the confidence of the brand. The low-cut nature of the sneakers themselves may or may not have contributed to Ball's season-ending ankle problems as well.
Which Sneakers Were Banned by the NBA?
Nike Air Ship/Air Jordan I
Sale version Air Jordan 1 Banned— kickwhofactory (@kickwhofactory) May 21, 2019
It is difficult to believe that the most famous sneaker of all time, the Air Jordans, were once banned from the NBA. The Nike Air Ships, as worn by Michael Jordan, drew a warning from the NBA while his subsequent Air Jordan's were banned due to a violation of the league's rules over colorway.
Jordan Melo M10
Black History Month begins on Saturday and the release of this BHM Melo M10 is kicking it off. Drops 2/1. pic.twitter.com/wQhiPwuQqL— Jordan (@Jumpman23) January 29, 2014
Seemingly insignificant but enough to worry the brand league, the Melo M10's were banned during the 2013-2014 season. The sneakers had a chrome overlay on the heel, which officials thought would interfere with vision and play. Jordan created a matte heel for the shoe to compensate.
Under Armour Curry 4 Customs
While the colorway and theme of the sneakers were fine overall, the fact that Curry's sneakers displayed a graphic of the Warriors' jerseys was a problem. The Lunar New Year inspired Under Armours featured graphics from a Nike jersey. A clear conflict in branding and it was quickly banned from the NBA.
Nike Hyperdunk 2016 (Custom)
Karl-Anthony Towns is known for having some exciting and unique sneakers and colorways throughout the season. However, these customs featured imagery from the Netflix series "Stranger Things". These were quickly disallowed.
Athletic Propulsion Labs
APL manufactured sneakers with an alleged jump enhancement technology that was not proven to work. The NBA was not willing to take the risk and promptly banned the sneaker before the 2011 season. The ban did, however, help APL's own future marketing campaigns.
Which NBA Top Players Have Shoe Deals?
Klay Thompson - ANTA - $80 million (10 years)
Klay Thompson's Anta commercial 😭 pic.twitter.com/PYmT3NollE— Complex Sneakers (@ComplexSneakers) October 9, 2017
Klay Thompson certainly has one of the NBA's most unique shoe deals. ALTA is small in the NBA sneaker market - the only other player to wear the brand is Rajon Rondo. The Chinese company was lucky to secure the perennial All-Star. His ANTA "Shock the Game" KT4's retail for $118 USD.
Damian Lillard - Adidas - $100 million (10 years)
The Portland Trail Blazers point guard inked a $100 million deal with Adidas in 2014. His signature shoe makes him one of the top paid athletes by Adidas in the NBA. His Dame 5's retail for $115 USD.
Derrick Rose - Adidas - $185 million (10 years)
adidas Just Released Two New D Rose 9 Colorways If you buy sneakers and supreme, stockX is recommended →https://t.co/CQ42d9Pjum Coupons, Promo Codes →https://t.co/9TMyv0mR8F pic.twitter.com/GFtCRGa9yC— SNEAKERnews_Coupon_INFO (@InfoPromocodes) February 14, 2019
Derrick Rose signed his deal with Adidas shortly after he had led his Chicago Bulls into the playoffs and won the NBA MVP Award, making him the youngest MVP in history. While a devastating injury sidelined his career, Adidas has stuck by his side to this day. His D Rose 9's retail for $140 USD.
Kyrie Irving - Nike - $8 million (per year)
A top pick out of college and NBA Champion, Kyrie Irving signed a massive deal with Nike at the age of 22. Now 27 and a free agent, Irving is expected to land an even bigger deal should he enter a market the size of New York, Los Angeles, or Toronto. The Kyrie 5's retail for $175 USD.
Russell Westbrook - Jordan - $5 million/year (until 2028)
06/06— stmr useleven (@US_11) May 20, 2019
JORDAN WHY NOT ZER0.2 GS
WASHED CORAL/WASHED CORAL-GUM YELLOW pic.twitter.com/0yrAmIoYEo
Former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook scored one of the most unique deals in the NBA with Nike subsidiary Jordan Brand. Not only did he ink until 2028, but Westbrook shares a partnership with Jordan to feature his likeness even after his retirement. His Jordan "Why Not?" Zer0.2's retail for $125 USD.
Paul George - Nike - $5.5 million (per year)
There's no greater approval than imitation and the PG3's were the most worn sneaker in the NBA. Paul George's deal makes him one of Nike's top-paid athletes, joining the best of the NBA's stars. His PG3 retails for $110 USD.
Stephen Curry - Under Armour - $12 million (per year)
Two-time NBA MVP and three-time NBA Champion Stephen Curry has a resume unlike any other. Apparently, due to a presentation mishap, he was more encouraged by Under Armour than giants Nike and Adidas. His UA Curry 6's retail for $130.
Kawhi Leonard - New Balance - $5 million (per year)
Kawhi Leonard wearing the New Balance OMN1S against the Spurs. Revenge game. pic.twitter.com/TGK9NhY1R4— B/R Kicks (@brkicks) February 22, 2019
Kawhi Leonard was incredibly coveted by the sneaker market going into this season. New Balance was able to scoop up the quiet superstar, establishing his brand after a rookie contract with Jordan. His OMN1S's retail for $140 USD.
Kevin Durant - Nike - $300 million (10 years)
Kevin Durant is likely one of the NBA's biggest stars. Now a two-time NBA Champion, Kevin Durant commands one of the biggest shoe deals in NBA history. His Nike Zoom KD12's retail for $150 USD.
Lebron James - Nike - $32 million (Lifetime)
LeBron James is not only the NBA's owner of the biggest shoe endorsement but owns a lifetime contract with Nike that could make him a billionaire by the time he is 64. He also has a library of shoes in his name encompassing all types and styles. His LeBron 16s retail for $185 USD.
Which NBA Players Have the Top Selling Sneakers?
1. Nike LeBron Series - LeBron James
2. Nike Kyrie Series - Kyrie Irving
3. Nike KD Series - Kevin Durant
4. Under Armour Curry Series - Stephen Curry
5. (Nike) Jordan Brand Series - Michael Jordan