NBA Sneaker Preview: What's Dropping, What's Buzzing and More
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By Jarrel Harris/Sports Illustrated
As part of The Crossover's launch, we are ramping up our sneaker coverage in an effort to provide readers with stories from every angle of the game. Our mission is to deliver the best analysis, opinion and storytelling within the sneaker world. We'll offer a little bit of everything, including first looks at popular shoe releases, performance reviews, interviews with prominent figures and a retro look through a sneaker rewind.
With NBA opening night less than a week away, we start that mission with a sneaker preview to get you ready for the season.
Air Jordan XXX1: The Jordan Brand has a way of bringing back memories while also providing consumers with the newest technology in sneakers. The Air Jordan XXX1 pays homage to the sneaker that started it all, the Air Jordan 1, with original AJ1 elements as seen on the leather upper and the faded Nike swoosh. The XXX1 is the first performance product to combine Flyweave and synthetic leather, providing lightweight support for some of the brand's biggest athletes, such as Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard. Price — $185
Adidas Crazy Explosive Primeknit: Much of adidas's recent success on the hardwood stems from the emergence of the brand's Boost technology. The cushioning support has earned the company a new rep in the basketball world. Blend the Boost technology with the brand's other biggest advancement (Primeknit), and you have a sneaker that gives you a bit of everything you want in a performance model. The sneaker was built with an explosive athlete like Andrew Wiggins in mind and it provides players with amazing cushioning, durability and elite traction. Price — $150
Adidas Crazylight Boost Low 2016: While we await James Harden's signature sneaker debut with three stripes, The Beard has been balling out in the Crazylight. The sneaker features Primeknit, full-length Boost cushioning and herringbone traction. Price — $120
Nike Zoom KD 9:KD once again linked up with Nike designer Leo Chang towork on his ninth signature sneaker with the Swoosh. The KD9 is Durant's most complete sneaker to date, and it includes a Flyknit upper and extreme Zoom cushioning. Price — $150
Nike Zoom LeBron Soldier 10: LeBron's Solider line is celebrating its 10th year with a basketball model that won't hurt your pockets. One of the coolest assets is the no-lace strap system that offers supreme lockdown from foot to ankle. LeBron has been balling in the Soliders while we await info on his next signature sneaker. Price — $130
Nike Hyperdunk 2016 Flyknit: The Nike Hyperdunk 2016 is the eighth version of one of the brand's most celebrated non-signature sneakers. A full-length Nike Zoom air unit provides low-profile cushioning while the sock-like Flyknit upper provides breathability and support to maneuver on the court. Price — $200
D Rose 7 Primeknit: Derrick Rose was dubbed the face of the adidas signature basketball line but injuries have derailed him from tapping into his full potential. Three Stripes has remained loyal to one of its most lucrative stars, and the D Rose 7 follows along with the Crazylight Boost in regards to tech. Price — $160
Jordan CP3.X: Chris Paul's 10th signature shoe with the Jordan Brand sticks is yet another sneaker that is designed for making every kind of cut and move on the court. Perfect for a guard such as CP3, the seamless woven upper provides lightweight support, and a Zoom air unit delivers ultra-responsive cushioning underfoot. Price — $120
Westbrook 0.2: Russell Westbrook's second signature lifestyle model with the Jordan Brand draws inspiration from the Air Jordan 7. The high-top silhouette is decked out with a suede leather upper and the minimal aesthetic fits right along with Westbrook's unique fashion sense. Price — $140
Most anticipated releases
Nike LeBron 14: When it comes to signature lines, only LeBron James has somewhat entered the MJ realm of sneakers. While it may be impossible to ever pass Jordan's sneaker legacy, LeBron recently secured a lucrative lifetime deal with the Swoosh that will make him one of the highest paid NBA stars ever. Nike hasn't shared much information on the LeBron 14s, but you can expect the brand to experiment with its newest tech on any new LeBron models. Another thing to watch is news on the LeBron retro line, as James has been teasing fans on social media with hints and images of his old models. Release date — TBA
Nike Kyrie 3: Kyrie’s signature line is off to an incredible start. Both of his sneakers, the Kyrie 1 and the Kyrie 2, have achieved critical success, especially with younger fans. Much of the credit can be attributed to the popularity of Irving’s flashy game, his Uncle Drew commercials and, of course, playing for the reigning NBA champions. Kyrie said he was excited about the new sneakers but couldn't reveal much else about what he described as a dynamic shoe. During a recent interview with WFNY, Irving stated that the sneakers will be released this winter and he plans to showcase them on Christmas Day, when the Cavaliers take on the Warriors in an NBA Finals rematch. Release date — Jan. 21
James Harden’s first signature sneaker with adidas: It has been over a year since adidas and James Harden announced their partnership, and we are still waiting on his first signature silhouette with the three stripes. Photos leaked of his rumored first sneaker and were met with heavy criticism, but I advise against judging it until official images are released. The $200 million investment adidas made is a lot to spend on one person, so expect the brand to hook Harden up with a crazy sneaker. Release date — TBA
UA Curry 3: Curry’s sneakers have been ridiculed so far, but the man is still cashing in big time. Whether you want to get your jokes off or not, the two-time reigning MVP is one of the most popular athletes on the planet and his sneakers are going to sell regardless of the funny memes. Curry has been wearing his newest models, the Curry 3s, throughout the preseason and showcased them while on tour in Asia. Under Armour decided to shake up the Curry line, inserting a new midsole and outsole and getting rid of the “Charged” tech we have seen in previous models. UA has been relatively quiet surrounding the release, but it will be interesting to see how the critics react when we see more colorways. Release date — TBA
Air Jordan 1 “Black Toe”: It has been an incredible year for the Air Jordan 1. After receiving the OG Lettermans, The Air Jordan 1 "Banned" and the Shattered Backboards, we are now on Air Jordan 1 "Black Toe" watch. The sneaker debuted back in 1985 and is featured in the iconic Jumpman logo. Decked out in a classic red, black and white color scheme, this year's Black Toes are remastered and include the original Nike Air branding on the tongue. Release Date — Nov. 5
Nike Kobe 12/A.D.: One of the biggest questions when Kobe announced his retirement was whether his signature line would continue. Bryant confirmed with Sole Collector in April that there will "absolutely" be more models. The fact is that Kobe has too much influence on the younger generation to stop his line. He has reached icon status in places like China and Europe, and his popularity will continue bringing in major earnings for Nike. There are rumors that the Swoosh will unveil a new Kobe silhouette called the Kobe A.D. No word yet on an official Kobe 12 sneaker. Release date — TBA
adidas D Lillard 3: There are some photos floating around the Internet of the rumored D Lillard 3, but while adidas hasn't mentioned anything yet there is no doubt that the Portland Trail Blazers guard has one of the most underrated sneaker lines in the game. Lillard has stayed true to his low price point, and his sneakers are great for those that don't want to shell out a bunch of money on a performance sneaker. Release date — TBA
Jordan Pinnacle Footwear: Jordan Brand is bringing luxury to some of its most famous models, the Air Jordan 6 and the Air Jordan 1. The Pinnacle line is inspired by the 25th anniversary of MJ's first championship. The Air Jordan 6 Retro Pinnacle is dipped in a shiny metallic gold upper with a white midsole and a icy outsole, while the Air Jordan 1 low features a metallic silver upper with a white outsole. Release Date — Oct. 22
Air Jordan III OG “True Blue”: Dropping on Black Friday, the Air Jordan III "True Blue" will be one of the most sought-out sneakers this year. Jordan Brand announced in 2014 that it would stop producing the Air Jordan III for an uncertain amount of time. Fast forward to the fall of 2016 and we have our first retro sighting of one of the most iconic sneakers in history. The True Blue will make its return in remastered form with the classic Nike Air branding on the heel. Release Date — Nov. 25
State of the Union
Nike: Nike still remains at the forefront of innovation and personnel with a three-headed marketing monster that consists of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant. Along with rising stars Kyrie Irving, Paul George and Anthony Davis and No. 1 draft pick Ben Simmons, the brand doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Expect to see the company take it up a notch while we get closer to it taking over the NBA when the apparel deal kicks in.
adidas: What adidas has done the past year is nothing short of fascinating. After falling out of the race with some bad fortune, the brand revamped its marketing strategy to focus on quality over quantity. After deciding not to pursue an extension with the NBA on an apparel deal, adidas put all of its focus on players. James Harden's addition was the first sign that the company was committed to building its basketball brand. Along with Andrew Wiggins and Dame Lillard on the roster, the brand recently went strong after prospects in the 2016 NBA draft, where it added six of the top 10 picks. Brandon Ingram, Jaylen Brown, Dragan Bender, Kris Dunn, Jamal Murray and Thon Maker all signed adidas shoe deals. There is new excitement within the adidas basketball space.
Under Armour: Under Armour hit the lottery after snatching Stephen Curry away from Nike. The two-time MVP has helped UA's sales soar, and the brand gifted him a new deal that includes an equity stake and extends until 2024. But that is where everything stops. While the brand's basketball unit has been making waves due to Curry's superstardom, it still has a lot of catching up to do with juggernauts like Nike and adidas. UA struck out on Kevin Durant two summers ago and recently opted not to pursue Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis. Curry might be Under Armour's version of Michael Jordan, but he can't do it alone.
Notable sneaker free agency news
Kristaps Porzingis: One of the biggest sneaker free agents this past summer was the Knicks phenom. As Nick DePaula of The Vertical reported, Porzingis has signed a contract with adidas in the range of $3 to $6 million annually. It is the most lucrative shoe deal ever for a European player. Porzingis boasts elite marketing potential and has attracted an impressive fandom that spreads internationally. Playing in a big market in New York doesn’t hurt his brand either. Porzingis fits along with the adidas young creators mantra, and I can easily see him in some of the brand's biggest campaigns. The Knicks forward played in the Kobe X Elite during his rookie season and during this year's preseason. Nike has until October 20th to match the deal.
Mike Conley: Has anyone had a better summer than Conley? First, Conley signed the richest deal in NBA history to link back up with the Memphis Grizzlies. And as reported by Slam Magazine's Max Resetar, Conley has officially joined Jordan Brand. Conley spent eight years wearing adidas and wore Under Armour this past NBA season. He has recently worn the Air Jordan XXX1.
Jamal Crawford: DePaula reported the Los Angeles Clippers veteran has signed a deal with adidas after his contract with Brandblack expired.
John Wall: Wall has been one of the most interesting sneaker free agents in recent memory. The Washington Wizards guard has a complicated signature sneaker career after starting out with Reebok and later landing with adidas. Last year, when his contract with adias expired, Wall reportedly declined a deal that was in the $5 million range to return to the brand. He spent this past season wearing various Nike and Jordan models. It will be interesting to see where Wall lands after a long break without a deal. Maybe Under Armour? Perhaps a Chinese Brand like Li-Ning or Anta will unload the cash.