On feet and on court, sneaker culture has been intertwined with the game of basketball since its very inception. With a new NBA season underway, I wanted to take a quick look at the state of the NBA sneaker landscape. PJ Tucker seal of approval pending.
LeBron 15s and 16s
In its 15th iteration, Nike finally made a shoe that matched and encapsulated LeBron’s on-court style of play. It’s a shoe fit for a gladiator and a perfect embodiment of the power and pure locomotive-ness we’ve seen from LeBron for the past decade plus. It looks like armor for your foot — but in a way that still incorporates and utilizes fashion and flair. For this reason, I was skeptical of the follow-up to LeBron’s best shoe yet. While I think the 16s are a notch below the outstanding 15s, they’ve also similarly captured the essence of LeBron. The “King – Court Purple” colorway LeBron rocked in his Staples Center debut versus the Rockets is an absolute banger.
Big Baller Brand announces the “ZO2.19”
LaVar and company announced the release of Lakers Point Guard Lonzo Ball’s second signature shoe with a promotional video on SLAM last week. The biggest change from the original ZO2 and ZO2 remix? A whopping $295 price drop from $495 to a much more respectable $200 retail price. All in all, it’s a win for common sense. Outrageous price points don’t move mass product, and with a lull in LaVar Ball media chatter/hype and Lonzo moving to the Lakers’ bench, the Big Ballers made the appropriate change with the newest ZO2. Even so, it’s fair to consider how far the independent Big Baller Brand can go when it comes to carving out a name for itself in the sneaker industry. With the likes of Nike, Adidas, Puma and even the perpetually uncharismatic Under Armour, the brand built upon the Triple B’s seems to be more of a quickly fading fad than a company constructed for longevity. Here’s to hoping LaMelo fulfills his destiny of becoming the greatest basketball player ever and helps turn around the fortunes of Big Baller Brand.
Joel Embiid signs with Under Armour
The beloved larger-than-life Twitter personality turned NBA all-star center recently made the switch from Adidas to Under Armour in a move that mostly flew under the radar. If Under Armour was looking for a spark and injection of personality, they certainly got it with the 76ers star and NBA Live 19 cover athlete. The elephant (or in this case, the 7-foot-tall Cameroonian) in the room, however, is the longstanding notion that big men can’t sell shoes. Joel, if properly utilized by Under Armour, should be able to buck this trend. He has every bit of the personality needed to cultivate sales, and an all-NBA level of production on the court to boot. With Steph Curry working on his sixth shoe under the Under Armour umbrella, Embiid has enough charisma on and off the court to serve as UA’s second option.
All in all, it’s been a busy few weeks for the sneaker business in the opening moments of the NBA season. We’re still all waiting on a commemorative Smush Parker signature line, though.