Sneakerheads, rejoice — the dawn of a new NBA season is here. And with it comes new storylines. Will the Clippers or Lakers emerge in the battle for Los Angeles? Who will emerge from the wide-open Eastern Conference? Has the Warriors dynasty actually been dethroned? While that all will play out over 82 games, for now, fans have a lot to look forward to off of the hardwood. A new season brings a lot more than just a clean slate for all 30 teams, it brings a canon of new jerseys and sneakers as well.
Any basketball fan will tell you that sneakers embody what the game is all about. They act as a canvas for self-expression every bit as much as the open court. Just as players define themselves through their style of play, their signature shoes are a testament to their personalities. In advance of opening night’s tip-off, we took a look at some of the hottest kicks that will grace the court over the course of the 2019/2020 NBA season.
The Air Jordan XXXIV
Any discussion on basketball shoes starts off with the newest pair of Jordans. Still, they’re far from just an obligatory mention. The Air Jordans paved the way for what sneakers mean to basketball today and have more relevance than any other line. Knowing what we know today, it’s crazy to think that MJ’s first shoe deal with Nike wasn’t taken for granted. When he signed the deal over 30 years ago, it was contingent on him either winning NBA Rookie Of The Year, averaging 20 ppg, being named to the All Star Team, or selling $4m worth shoes in the first year of the contract. All Jordan did was go onto win Rookie Of The Year, average 28.2 ppg, make the All-Star team, and sell over $100m of his first signature shoe. The rest is history.
The Air Jordan XXXIV looks to write its next chapter of that legacy. Who better to debut the newest edition than Zion Williamson, the first-overall pick in last year’s NBA draft? Zion goes into the year with more than expectations for his dominating style of play. Nike signed him to the richest deal for a rookie in its history. So it’s no surprise that he would debut the newest shoe. With a side panel built with an Eclipse Plate, the Air Jordan XXXIV is astoundingly light, weighing just 13.3 ounces. instead of having a stiffer fabric feel, the shoe more accurately adjusts to the curve of each individual wearer. To help with on-court performance, the shoe uses a herringbone traction pattern, that curves with the shoe. All that comes with the bold styling that makes Jordans perfect whether you’re looking to start your Rookie Of The Year campaign or make a bold fashion statement.
Nike Air Force Max II
Since the first Air Force was released in 1982, it has gone on to become a quintessential basketball sneaker with versatility making it perfect for both performance and casual wear. It’s become defined by its iconic midsole air pocket which provides superior cushioning for durability and improved comfort. In many ways, the Air Force has been a blank canvas for Nike through the years, as it has been redesigned in casual, athletic, and even high-end leather versions.
The Nike Air Force Max II is the latest version designed for the hardwood. This rendition of the Air Force Max uses a foam midsole for toe-to-heel impact cushioning while constructing the body of the shoe from mesh material that’s extra lightweight. Its rubber outsole uses a circular pattern for enhanced traction to make it the most agile edition of the Air Force yet. This new approach is designed for the modern game where players run the fast break more than ever. With line-ups around the league going small leading to a faster pace of play, the Air Force Max II is a basketball shoe that has evolved to fit the modern NBA.
Kyrie x SpongeBob SquarePants Collection
Kyrie Irving has always done things his way. From winning a national championship in college to becoming the missing piece that helped LeBron finally bring an NBA Championship to Cleveland, Irving has cemented his legacy. His storied yet still burgeoning career is what made him one of this offseason’s most prized free agents, before he ultimately signed with the Brooklyn Nets. As one of the NBA’s most eccentric personalities, his way is as unique as his latest line of signature shoes – the Kyrie x SpongeBob SquarePants Collection.
The Kyrie x SpongeBob SquarePants Collection has all the flair that one of the league’s best handles shows off when he’s slicing through defenses at will. If getting your ankles broken from his crossover isn’t bad enough, defenders are going to have images of Bikini Bottom burnt into their minds thanks to his newest shoes Spongebob Squarepants inspired design. Like Patrick Star, Kyrie is truly an enigma. Nothing captures the Nets point guard’s imaginative style play like a signature shoe that fuses the Kyrie 5 and Kyrie 2 editions colorways that pay homage to his favorite childhood cartoon.
Giannis Antetokounmpo Nike Zoom Freak 1
If 1 word sums up Giannis, it’s “freak.” And we mean that in the best way possible. The 6’11” reigning NBA MVP is so good that he turns the term into a compliment. With the body of a center, the defensive mobility of a swingman, and the handle of a guard, the Greek-born star of the Milwaukee Bucks is unlike anything the league has ever seen. Giannis also embodies the global reach of the sport, being the first Greek player to take the nation’s proud basketball heritage en route to winning the MVP. In fact, the only thing harder than pronouncing his name is keeping him from dominating the game.
Giannis’ rapid ascension to the highest of highs in the NBA led Nike to produce his first signature shoe. The Nike Zoom Freak 1 emulates everything about him. The shoe is sleek and agile with colorways that are as bold as his thunderous dunks and morale-destroying blocks. The double-stacked Zoom Air midsole is the base of the shoe drawing upon previous signature lines given to Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant. It’s also extremely lightweight, weighing in at just 12.2 oz. The low top sneaker comes in 4 different colorways and can even be customized on the Nike website.
While Zion, Kyrie, and Giannis are a few of the players who are undoubtedly on their way to becoming the next wave of all-time greats, LeBron James is still the NBA’s past, present, and future. If any current player deserves the term ironic, it’s him. From coming onto the scene in 2003 as one of the most anticipated prospects ever, the Los Angeles Lakers small forward took the league by storm from the jump. In a care over 15 years, James has cemented himself as one of the GOAT. Going into his 17th season, Lebron has already cemented himself as one of the top 5 players of all time.
The LeBron 17 embodies James’ style of play with a sneaker that uses strong Flyknit construction to be agile while maintaining durability. Despite approaching 35, James has yet to slow down even though he’s been playing in the NBA since he was 18. Even with all those years under his belt, the 3-time champion is still one of the most dominant forces in the NBA, typically at the top of the league in minutes played each season. With a soft foam pod placed directly under the sole, this sneaker provides extra cushioning so you can hit the boards, run the break, and pull up from beyond the arch without the impact taking its toll.
From signature shoes from all-time greats to iconic lines like the Nike Air Max, this NBA season is set to debut a canon of new sneakers. Regardless of whichever pair you choose to don, there’s no shortage of options. With NBA Opening Night upon us, it’s worth keeping your eye out for new releases coinciding with the upcoming season. Those, along with the aforementioned shoes are sure to be at the core of this year’s highlights, buzzer-beating thrillers, and championship winning-performances.