Basketball shoes are fundamental to the sport of basketball. Since the sport’s growth into a global game over the ages, basketball shoes have also evolved to become better and more significant.
Besides the essential elements such as comfort, price, and performance, other elements such as style, personal statement, and ergonomics became increasingly important in the engineering of basketball sneakers.
In this compilation article, we take a deep dive into the world of basketball shoe brands and explore the range of NBA players who endorse each brand.
A relatively young brand established in 2006, Q4 is based in Los Angeles with a humble slate of four NBA players endorsing the brand. These are generally recognized as steady role players, including Langston Galloway from the Detroit Pistons, E’Twaun Moore from the New Orleans Pelicans, Darren Collison from the Indiana Pacers, and Quinndary Weatherspoon from the San Antonio Spurs.
Former NBA endorsers include Mareesse Speights who went on to play for Guanzhou Lions and Ty Lawson who shifted to play for Shandong Golden Stars.
According to co-founders Aaron Sokol and Quintin Williams, the brand aims to provide high-quality products for the tough, hardworking player without all the hype. The brand targets elevation to the athlete’s performance, especially in the fourth quarter, and hence, the name Q4. The trademark design component, KOMpress foam cushioning, utilizes acceleration and deceleration pore-like cavities for superior missile cushioning.
A comprehensive sports goods company started in China in 2003, 361° signed Aaron Gordon in 2020.
Former brand partners of 361° include NBA star Kevin Love, as well as CBA super stars Stephon Marbury and Jimmy Fredette. Aaron Gordon is now the new face of the brand’s basketball division.
361° has big plans for this multi-year partnership with Aaron Gordon, promising to release signature shoes, an apparel line as well as provide support for Aaron Gordon’s charitable initiatives and foundational work.
The most prominent NBA superstar to sign a deal with Reebok was Allen Iverson, who clinched a lifetime contract with Reebok. Reebok reportedly pays Iverson $800,000 annually.
John Wall was the next superstar to have endorsed Reebok, raking in a five-year $25 million contract. He has, however, severed ties three years into the contract to join rival brand Adidas.
Over the years, the Reebok brand got acquired by Adidas. As it attempts a reboot, news started coming out for its basketball apparel. This year, Reebok managed to add another NBA player to front their endorsement, Josh Richardson. The Philadelphia 76ers player is a rising role player known for his offensive firepower. This is a timely addition as Reebok looks to reintroduce its basketball sneakers to the new generation of basketball players after a relatively quiet period post-John Wall.
Founded in 1989 in Quan Zhou, China, the Peak brand first signed Shane Battier to its maiden NBA endorsement partnership in 2006.
Peak then proceeded to sign NBA champions like Tony Parker and Matthew Dellavedova.
Besides the above-mentioned veterans who formed the pioneering list of NBA endorsements, there were two NBA role players who have previously endorsed Peak. They were Carl Landry from the Philadelphia 76ers (currently playing for the Hiroshima Dragonflies) and former NBA player Anthony Morrow from the Chicago Bulls.
Current NBA players who endorse Peak include Lou Williams, Dwight Howard, and George Hill.
George Hill has established himself as a defensive-minded, coachable, and dependable veteran leader. His great skill set landed him quality minutes in Playoff teams from the past like San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz, and Cleveland Cavaliers to the present Championship contender, Milwaukee Bucks.
Lou Williams is dubbed the ‘Underground G.O.A.T.’ for his impressive offensive prowess and unguardable scoring ability. For his steady veteran presence and incredible offensive specialty, Lou won the Sixth Men of the Year award three times, in 2014/2015 with the Toronto Raptors, as well as in 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Dwight Howard is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year award winner. In his hay days, his post presence alone is enough to steer the direction of coaches’ decisions, gameplays and outcomes. Despite his tumultuous chemistry issues with his former teams, Dwight seems to have rejuvenated his career with a second stint at the Los Angeles Lakers, serving as a reliable rim protector, finisher, and critical part of their defensive strategy.
AND1 was founded in 1993 and began with the basis of the ‘All ball, nothing more’ philosophy. It became a very popular brand, especially with streetball culture. Known for sponsoring tournaments worldwide, signing marquee NBA players, and the widely popular AND1 mixtapes, the brand was synonymous with style, performance, and basketball creativity.
The company was first being bought out by American Sporting Goods in 2005. Next, it was sold to Brown Shoe Company in February 2011. Shortly after, on August 25, 2011, AND1 was sold to Galaxy Brands. The New York-based brand management company merged with Sequential Brands Group, a publicly-traded brand management company while retaining the personnel managing AND1.
Early endorsers of AND1 include marquee players such as soon-to-be Hall-of-Famer Kevin Garnett who played for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics, the flamboyant All-Star Stephon Marbury, and the tough competitors
Latrell Sprewell and Lance Stephenson, who all played for a range of NBA teams. Another low key NBA signing was Rafer Alston, also known as ‘Skip to my Lou’ to the streetball junkies. That marked the golden era of AND1 and streetball culture with the relatable players and cool persona of the brand. In the mid-2000s, AND1 had a quiet period when its popularity declined.
In the last few years, AND1 is attempting a resurgence. In 2018, AND1 went on to hire Kevin Garnett to helm the creative director and global ambassador post to help propel the brand into the future.
The most recent signings of AND1 prove that they are making a comeback for the basketball kicks market share. These include crossover master and three-time Sixth Men of the Year award winner, Jamal Crawford who now plays for Brooklyn Nets, recently retired Slam Dunk champion Vince Carter, Jevon Carter from the Phoenix Suns, as well as NBA champion Fred VanVleet from the Toronto Raptors.
Founded in 1994, the company produces sports apparel and accessories and holds 25 sub-brands under its umbrella.
Previously, the main NBA figure sponsored by Anta was Kevin Garnett from Boston Celtics, back in August 2010, after the All-Star left Adidas sponsorship. Kevin Garnett was a widely acclaimed winner, with a championship, Most Valuable Player award, Defensive Player of the Year award, and is a multi-year All-Star. His endorsement helped Anta break into the basketball sneakers scene and gave consumers another stylish option.
Looking into the future, the marquee player currently being the face of Anta basketball shoes is Klay Thompson from the Golden State Warriors. Klay has signed with Anta since leaving Nike in February 2015. The five-time All-Star, Three-Point Shooting champion, and three-time NBA champion are hugely popular among the Chinese fans. With Klay’s help, it brought the Anta global brand awareness to a higher level.
Besides the big names, Anta has also signed several key players such as Gordon Hayward from Boston Celtics, Kevon Looney from Golden State Warriors, and Jacob Evans from Minnesota Timberwolves. These players serve to bolster the growing presence of Anta in the NBA world.
New Balance has long been synonymous with reliability, durability, and no-frills product performance. Popular among the middle age group and the general population, the working-class persona and relaxed style it portrays has given it many sales in the mass market.
Historically, New Balance has primarily produced quality running and casual walking shoes.
Last year, fresh off his second championship season and second Finals Most Valuable Player award, Kawhi Leonard signed an endorsement deal with New Balance, thereby instantly becoming the brand’s top athlete to open the market into the basketball sphere.
Touted to be the dynasty killer, Kawhi has successfully stopped the threepeat attempt of the Miami Heat and the Golden State Warriors. Kawhi is a quiet, productive, and consistent winner on both sides of the court, an epitome of the reliability and quality that New Balance exemplifies. His no-nonsense style and amiable nature make Kawhi exude the same low key simplicity and attraction that New Balance products have. Kawhi’s signature shoes, OMN1S, bear unique simplicity and functional advantages, just like himself. Widely hyped thanks to his recent championship and the innovative commercials such as the one featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger making Terminator references to Kawhi (how apt for the robotic reliability and machine-like excellence), the products were highly searched on the internet and popular with sneakerheads.
Besides Kawhi, Darius Bazley is another latest signing. His rookie deal includes an internship experience, which is the first of its kind. Darius opted out of college basketball and out of G-league. Instead, he took his road to New Balance where he learned the inner workings of the shoe business from product creation to marketing. This truly bucks the trend and now that Darius is officially in the NBA playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder, it seems this is a new potential route for endorsees wanting to chalk some working experience.
Dejounte Murray is the third NBA player to sign with New Balance in the modern era. The young 23-year-old player fits the blue-collar mold that New Balance has established for the kind of athletes they want. His unique road to becoming a starter in the San Antonio Spurs, putting in the work to earn his place for the five-time champion Spurs was sprinkled with hurdles. He’s overcome injuries and developmental stints in the G-League while rehabilitating and polishing his game to become an All-NBA defender.
Before the revival by Kawhi, the New Balance also sponsored other players. Though not on full endorsement deals like other shoe brands, New Balance did offer free shipment of shoes for Matt Bonner, the ‘Red Mamba’, of the San Antonio Spurs for four years since 2010.
Going way back down memory lane, ‘Big Game’ James Worthy was the New Balance endorsee, which also made news because it made him the biggest earning basketball athlete in the shoe endorsement department. He earned one million dollars, which was a huge amount in the 80s. It is ironic that a Los Angeles Laker would sign with a Beantown-based New Balance and even receive his first signature shoe, the P740 Worthy. Thanks to New Balances resurgence, nearly 35 years later, we can still see P740 being available as the retro shoes.
Founded in 1908, Converse became a subsidiary of Nike in 2003. In its early history, Converse was the oldest in the sneaker game and has sponsored some of the early legends of the game, including the trio who broke the color barrier by being the first few black athletes to play in the NBA. Chuck Cooper, Earl Lloyd, and Nat Clifton played in the 1950s and laced up the Chuck Taylor All-Stars shoes from Converse back then.
In 2003, Converse made headlines by signing a slew of rookies such as Chris Bosh, selected fourth overall by the Toronto Raptors, Dwyane Wade, selected fifth overall by the Miami Heat, Kirk Hinrich, selected seventh overall by the Chicago Bulls, Mike Sweetney, selected ninth overall by the New York Knicks, and Troy Bell, selected 16th overall by the Boston Celtics and traded to the Memphis Grizzlies.
More NBA players took on endorsement deals after that, including Carlos Arroyo and Maurice Evans, who both left the NBA. Nine further Converse players would eventually switch to Nike: Acie Law, JJ Barea, Kirk Hinrich, Luke Harangody, Larry Sanders, Elton Brand, Louis ‘Lou’ Williams, Kyle Korver, and Chris Andersen. Some of those ten players made further brand switches, such as Lou Williams to Peak. Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade were the last two prominent players who switched away from Converse, both to Li-Ning.
By November 2012, Converse disappeared from the NBA scene as the endorsees ended their NBA stint or jumped ship to other basketball shoe brands.
In this modern-day era, Converse has successfully rejuvenated their basketball division, having wooed young stars like Shai Gilgeous Alexander from Oklahoma City Thunder and the fashionable Kelly Oubre Jr from Phoenix Suns. Converse also added veteran defender and three-time champion, Draymond Green, to boost their staple of NBA players. The brand seems to be on the hunt to extend its reach in the coming years.
Founded in 1989 by Olympic gymnastic gold medalist, Li Ning, the company has its roots in China, producing a range of sports-related merchandise. In 2005, Li-Ning joint ventured with French sports apparel company AIGLE and obtained exclusive rights to distribute its products in China for 50 years. In 2010, Li-Ning set foot in the United States by opening its regional headquarters in Portland, Oregon.
Former players like Baron Davis, Shaquille O’Neal, Damon Jones, Evan Turner, and José Calderón have endorsed Li-Ning before.
Most notably, Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat was the first bona fide superstar to become the figurehead of the brand at the peak of his fame. Three-time champion and former Finals Most Valuable Player, Dwyane has brought the brand into the forefront of the mass market. Li-Ning also began the ‘Way of Wade’ brand exclusively for the star to capitalize on its progressive popularity among western consumers.
Planning for the future, Li-Ning signed the up and coming to All-Star from Minnesota Timberwolves, D’Angelo Russell, under the wing of the ‘Way of Wade’ brand. After bouncing from Los Angeles Lakers to Brooklyn Nets to Golden State Warriors, the star proved that he could provide quality minutes as a starter as well as provide clutch buckets in the fourth quarter. The fast and creative offensive style of D’Angelo suits the persona of ‘Way of Wade’, characterized by its predecessor. The offshoot band is likened to the Jordan brand from Nike, giving consumers more options and also a subtle way of expanding its market share to other strata of consumers.
Other current players sponsored by Li-Ning include Glenn Robinson III of the Golden State Warriors, Michael Carter-Williams of Orlando Magic, and C. J. McCollum of the Portland Trail Blazers. The future looks bright as the brand continues to expand its reach.
Established in 1996 and headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, Under Armour is the new age sports brand whose popularity grew thanks to a wide range of popular sports sponsorships ranging from traditional sports like basketball and football, to track and field, to others like auto racing and skateboarding.
The most prominent figure in Under Armour’s basketball endorsement has to be the prolific scorer and two-time Most Valuable Player, Wardell Stephen Curry. His meteoric rise to stardom helped catapult Under Armour into mainstream sports brands’ titanhood. The very first unanimous Most Valuable Player of the NBA, Stephen Curry’s unassuming, jovial and debonair demeanor, plus his on-court supreme shooting and cool dribbling skills, makes him an instant hit with fans globally. That helped rake in record sales for Under Armour.
Shoe sales at Under Armour jumped 64% in the first three months of 2016 as fans snapped up the Curry signature basketball line. In fact, that year Curry joined, overall sales leapfrogged by a whopping 30%, buoyed by strong global demand. Under Armour had generated sales growth above 20% for each of the past 24 quarters since that signing.
The next upcoming superstar to sign with Under Armour was Joel Embiid. The social media troll king and the widely popular Philadelphia 76ers center is built for the spotlight and is a natural entertainer with his humor and antics. His on-court dominance draws the attention of those who gravitate towards the new age big men, able to operate at the post and able to switch out to shoot at the perimeter as well. The number three pick in the 2014 draft has accumulated three All-Star appearances and gotten into two All-NBA teams and two All-Defensive teams in his young career.
Apart from the biggest All-Stars, Under Armour also sponsors several good NBA players across the league, including Seth Curry from Dallas Mavericks, Mohamed Bamba from Orlando Magic, Patty Mills from San Antonio Spurs, Emmanuel Mudiay from Utah Jazz, and Dennis Smith Jr from New York Knicks.
Founded and headquartered in Herzogenaurach, Germany, Adidas is the second-largest sportswear manufacturer in the world and the largest one in Europe.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the pioneering NBA player to endorse Adidas. Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett, Gilbert Arenas, as well as Chauncey Billups form the next wave of endorsees. However, Kobe left in July 2002 with the Adidas Equipment KB8 as his last signature shoes. Gilbert Arenas left in 2010 and Kevin Garnett also opted out of his contract in the same year.
A wide range of other prominent NBA players signed with Adidas, including Brandon Knight, Eric Gordon, Josh Smith, Andrew Wiggins, Tim Duncan, Jeremy Lin, Iman Shumpert, John Wall, and Nick Young.
Adidas scored a huge victory in August 2015, when James Harden left Nike for Adidas by signing a 13-year contract reportedly worth US$200 million.
The superstars that endorse Adidas in this modern era include Damian Lillard from Portland Trail Blazers, James Harden from Houston Rockets, and Derrick Rose from Detroit Pistons.
Derrick Rose was once the prodigal youngest Most Valuable Player with an explosive guard play that dazzles every time he steps on the court. His winning plays and clutch performance makes Derrick one of the quickest rising popular star.
Derrick’s grit, determination, and high-flying plays are factored into his signature shoes. Like his tendency to dominate the court, his shoes are built with Bounce cushioning in the midsole that returns energy as you cut across the hardwood and leap towards the rim.
As a Most Valuable Player, James Harden has established himself among the historic greats in the triple-double department, as an unstoppable offensive whizz and one of the top-scoring guards in the world. He perfected the step-back jump shot and the ability to draw fouls from anywhere he likes.
His born persona, craftiness, strength, and control of the offensive game helps Adidas drive sales in his exclusive line of Harden signature sneakers, which are built for speed and stopping on a dime. The proprietary Lightstrike midsole provides the lightweight, snappy return with every step and jump, without compromising on cushioning. Targeted to provide agility with control, the Harden shoes are also wide-ranging in colorways and styles, giving the user a swagger that is characterized by ‘the Beard’.
Damian Lillard is fast establishing himself as a top point guard in the NBA, right behind Stephen Curry. In this season, he delivered numerous clutch performances and buzzer beaters that wowed all the professionals and fans alike. Named the NBA bubble Most Valuable Player, Damian plays with calm, quiet composure and amazing consistency. His 6 feet 1.75 inches height, cold offensive efficiency, and long-range make him a popular choice with young fans around the world. His off-court moniker of ‘Dame D.O.L.L.A.’ as a rapper is hugely popular and received raving reviews even from professional musicians.
That swag, cool and elite element of Damian Lillard is infused into the design of his signature shoes in the form of brilliant colors, cool graphic prints, the proprietary Lightstrike midsoles, carrying the fastest and most lightweight cushion technology to date. The shoes give stability via lock-down of speed with mesh uppers that support your foot through every move.
Puma is headquartered in Herzogenaurach, Bavaria, Germany. Puma is the third-largest sportswear manufacturer in the world, behind just Adidas and Nike. Rudolf Dassler founded the company in 1948. In 1924, Rudolf and his brother Adolf Dassler had jointly formed the company Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik (the English name is Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory). Due to the souring of the brotherhood, the two agreed to split in 1948, forming two separate entities, Adidas and Puma. Both companies are currently still based in Herzogenaurach, Germany.
In the forgotten history books of basketball sneaker culture, Puma used to sponsor some of the biggest names in NBA history. Ralph Sampson, Walt “Clyde” Frazier, Isiah Thomas, Cedric Ceballos, and Alex English were the brightest superstars of the yesteryears who flew the Puma flag. Other figures who briefly wore Puma are players like the seven feet seven inches Manute Bol, All-Star Terry Cummings, Paul Pressey, A.C. Green, and Buck Williams. Their winning style and great production on the hardwoods helped Puma enjoy several years of fame and sales. The longest and best serving Puma NBA star is perhaps Ralph Sampson, who helped carry at least 12 signature shoes during his five years with the brand. Only Terry Cummings remained the sole endorsee by 1989 before Isiah Thomas jumped ship from Converse to Puma.
In between the vintage past and the modern-day present, the only prominent player to have endorsed Puma is the prolific Slam Dunk champion, ‘half-man half-amazing’ ‘Vinsanity’, Vince Carter. However, the high soaring star terminated his ten-tear fifty million contracts just one month into their partnership.
After a twenty-year hiatus from NBA sponsorship, Puma returned to the scene. In 2014, Rihanna was appointed creative director to oversee the direction of womenswear creation in Puma. In 2018, Puma hired Jay-Z as their creative director to provide strategic advice to open up new paths.
Puma is currently fronted with Kuzma Kuzma as their star endorsee. The Los Angeles Lakers player came into the league as a ready scorer and dynamic offensive player. In his short career, he has won the Summer League Finals Most Valuable Player award and Rising Stars Challenge Game Most Valuable Player. As the third option in the Lakers roster, behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Kyle is never short of confidence on the court. Off the court, Kyle is a fashion icon who is daring to showcase his taste and strut his stuff, making him a naturally popular choice to lead the trendy comeback of Puma into the mainstream basketball shoe universe.
DeMarcus Cousins is a veteran player who also signed with Puma. Once a top center in the NBA, DeMarcus used to be a nightly 25-points, 12-rebounds threat. After a slew of unfortunate season-ending injuries, the former superstar of the Sacramento Kings migrated from the Kings to New Orleans Pelicans to Golden State Warriors and then to Los Angeles Lakers. As he was cut from the roster before the season ended, DeMarcus faded away from the Puma frontline.
Besides stars, Puma has also added two steady veteran players, Rudy Gay and Danny Green, to bolster their athlete pool.
Projecting into the future, the new wave of young players continuing the Puma endorsement includes Deandre Ayton from Phoenix Suns, Marvin Bagley III from Sacramento Kings, R.J. Barrett and Kevin Knox from New York Knicks, Terry Rozier from Charlotte Hornets, Micheal Porter Jr from Denver Nuggets, as well as Zhaire Smith from Philadelphia 76ers. One thing certain is that Puma is seriously preparing to claim back more of the market share in basketball shoes and more creative additions will be coming in the future.
An offshoot brand from Nike, Air Jordan brand (commonly known as Jordan) was created for Micheal Jordan in 1984. The six-time Finals Most Valuable Player, a six-time champion, five-time regular season Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, two-time Slam Dunk champion, and widely acclaimed Greatest of All Time basketball legend is superbly successful with this brand.
Despite not having watched Jordan in his prime, many young consumers do support and buy Jordan basketball shoes, thanks to the great performance, never-ending variety of designs, smart marketing campaigns, and strategic endorsement.
The players who were selected to endorse Jordan all carry a common theme of excellence, popularity, and potential.
Russell Westbrook, the triple-double machine and Most Valuable Player of the league is one prominent player with Jordan. Russell earned his own signature Jordan shoes, the Why Not Zer0.1 in early 2018. In-line with Russell’s love for fashion, explosive on-court persona, and high production, his shoes are daring in design and solid in performance.
There are four new NBA stars, one to two of whom might eventually become a Most Valuable Player or the face of the league, chosen as the rising stars for Jordan brand. These are Luka Doncic from Dallas Mavericks, Jayson Tatum from Boston Celtics, Zion Williamson from New Orleans Pelicans, as well as Rui Hachimura Washington Wizards.
Jayson Tatum is a bona fide superstar and All-Star who has shown huge improvement every year since his rookie season. In a short span of three years, Jayson was handed the keys to the franchise and became a leader for the Celtics and a clutch closer for them. With his level of offensive prowess, defensive mind, and competitive spirit, Jayson is touted to be one of the few young stars to take over the league once the current slate of superstars like LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Stephen Curry retire into the sunset.
Luka Doncic was the Slovenian Wonder Boy who amazed the European crowd being the youngest Most Valuable Player at 16 years old. His long list of championships with the Euro leagues has already given him much more winning experience than some of the veterans in the NBA. Luka successfully led the Dallas Mavericks into the Playoffs after a three years drought and made some noise giving the Los Angeles Clippers a run for their money in the first-round series before exiting with a 2-4 record. In just his second season in the NBA, he is breaking records everywhere. Being named a starter for the All-Star game in just his second season and being the top five in the Most Valuable Player conversation puts Luka in rare air. He is indeed a rare gem uncovered early by Jordan’s brand.
Zion Williamson’s showcase has been limited by frequent injuries. However, in his short and few showings, Zion showed flashes of his explosive dynamism and ability to sway the game in a transcendent manner. If his hype from Duke University and his high school highlight reel were any indications, Zion promises to be a phenom that we have never seen for a very long time. Only time will tell if he delivers.
In addition, Jordan sponsors proven veterans like Chris Paul from Oklahoma City Thunder and Kemba Walker from the Boston Celtics, both of whom are steady contributors in established franchises.
Apart from the above shining stars, the Jordan brand has also a solid contingent of NBA players under its belt or previously sponsored, including LaMarcus Aldridge from the San Antonio Spurs, Carmelo Anthony from Portland Trail Blazers, Caleb and Cody Martin twins, Bismack Biyombo, Nicolas Batum, Devonte’ Graham, Cody Zeller and Dwayne Bacon (seven players) from Charlotte Hornets, Harrison Barnes from Sacramento Kings, Mike Conley Jr from Utah Jazz, Andre Drummond from Cleveland Cavaliers, Blake Griffin from Detroit Pistons, Jeff Green from Houston Rockets, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Tim Hardaway Jr from Dallas Mavericks, Francis Stanley Kaminsky III from Phoenix Suns, Victor Oladipo from Indiana Pacers, Jabari Parker from Sacramento Kings, as well as Moe Wagner from Washington Wizards.
The natural big name that resonates worldwide when it comes to stylish, comfortable, and performance dependable basketball shoes has got to be Nike. Being the biggest manufacturer of sports apparel and gear has its perks. The brand boasts of the largest talent pool in the NBA and only looks to expand its already huge grasp on the sport.
Founded on January 25, 1964, as Blue Ribbon Sports, by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight, the company officially became Nike on 30 May 1971 with its Headquarters set up in Beaverton, Oregon.
Perhaps the latest into the game among the top three brands, Nike has quickly solidified its status in sneaker royalty by its strategic signing of NBA players. The biggest and earliest star that kickstarted Nike’s rise to fame is Michael Jordan. In fact, the success of Michael Jordan has allowed Nike to create a new brand under the Air Jordan trademark, which was discussed earlier. Besides the royal Airness, Nike has since signed more and more NBA superstars, thanks to its astute talent scouting and forward-looking company directions.
Hall of Famer Jason Kidd and All-Star dunk champion Vince Carter were two earlier endorsees of Nike. Jason Kidd is known for his pinpoint accuracy in playmaking, as well as his incredible basketball IQ. Vince Carter is a nightly highlight reel with captivating dunks and unbelievably acrobatic plays. These two retired NBA veterans did help Nike reach a wider range of consumers.
The untimely death of Kobe Bryant, the ‘Black Mamba’, in 2020 puts an asterisk on the tumultuous year. Kobe is the most accomplished NBA player who had sold more shoes than any other player who switched endorsement shoe company mid-way through his career. A two-time Finals Most Valuable Player, regular season Most Valuable Player, five-time champion, record four-time All-Star game Most Valuable Player, two-time scoring champion, and Slam Dunk champion, Kobe is the ultimate competitor and the closest we have seen since Michael Jordan. Kobe belongs to a jaw-dropping 15 All NBA teams and 12 All-Defensive teams. He had won two Olympic gold medals and one FIBA World Cup gold medal too.
Originally an endorsee for Adidas, Kobe was already popular and selling shoes like hotcakes in Adidas. Thanks to his early Slam Dunk championship, threepeat in NBA championship, as well as his flamboyant and cool style, set in the backdrop of glamorous Los Angeles, the Kobe signature line of shoes was incredibly popular with sneakerheads. The Nike Kobe 4 Protro shoes were the most popular shoes among NBA players in 2020. Kobe has 11 iterations of his signature shoes with Nike. With the success of the recent revival of the Protro series of Kobe shoes, Nike is set to help the Kobe shoes make a comeback to satiate the hungry desire of basketball fans worldwide.
LeBron James from the Los Angeles Lakers has long been the face of the NBA. Even before he dominated the NBA with his cerebral plays, freight train style of driving to the basket, and amazing assists, the ‘King’ was signed to Nike. The four-time league Most Valuable Player, three-time Finals Most Valuable Player, a three-time champion, leading vote-getter for 2019/2020 All-Star game, and top ten leaders in more statistical categories than any active player, is a miracle in the physical sense, basketball sense, and economic sense.
Nike coined the slogan “We Are All Witnesses” when he signed with Nike. Similar to “Air Jordan”, LeBron’s brand became massively popular. The slogan allowed fans and consumers to establish a relationship with the brand as common witnesses of LeBron’s ascension to NBA royalty, to be the new king of the NBA.
In 2015, Lebron signed a lifetime endorsement deal with Nike. The deal is said to pay him over $1 billion by the time he is 64. The boy from Akron is Nike’s biggest investment since Michael Jordan in the NBA and has helped rake in sales that amount to greater return on investment than any of Nike’s modern-day NBA endorsement. His signature shoes have reached its 18th iteration and are still going strong.
Touted to be the best scorer since Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant from Brooklyn Nets holds the most scoring titles among active NBA players today with four. Although his popularity is lesser than LeBron and Gianni’s, Kevin is a legitimate future Hall of Famer, having won two NBA championships, an NBA Most Valuable Player Award, two Finals MVP Awards, two NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Awards, the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, and two Olympic gold medals.
The ‘Slim Reaper’ or ‘Durantula’ is silky smooth, dangerously stealth, and coldly accurate in shooting. The slick and lightweight shoes have found its place among fans and ballers who love to shoot. Nike created up to 13 iterations of the KD basketball shoes thus far and is not showing any signs of slowing down.
No one is a more creative and shifty ball handler in the NBA than Kyrie Irving. He is arguably the best point guard finisher under the rim and one of the top clutch scorers in the NBA today, when healthy. The young NBA champion has achieved numerous accolades in his short career. In addition to six All-Star game appearances, Kyrie has won the three-point shooting contest, claimed one All-Star game Most Valuable Player award, and picked up the FIBA World Cup Most Valuable Player award under his belt.
Nike and Kyrie co-created one of the most groovy and popular basketball shoes when they started a signature line for Kyrie. Often a product of creative ingenuity, practical performance, and price attractiveness, Kyrie made a point to have a big input in the design process. His shoes pay homage to the OGs (original gangster) in the sneaker culture, infused components that meet basketball players’, in particular the guard position’s needs, and opened many doors to collaborations between designers or other content creators. Thanks to the relatively more affordable price point compared to the other counterparts, the Kyrie signature shoes are easily in the top five best selling rank across the globe.
The league-wide most dominant player since Shaquille O’Neal, Giannis Antetokounmpo from Milwaukee Bucks, is the latest superstar who endorses Nike. Leading all Eastern Conference players in All-Star votes in the 2019/2020 season, Giannis is the first player in NBA history to have won Most Improved Player, Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year and led Eastern Conference All-Star votes.
His meteoric rise to superstardom results in Nike’s quick move to design an exclusive line for ‘Greek freak’. Nike successfully capitalized on the ‘Greek Freak’s nickname and generated huge sales for his signature line of shoes, apparel, and accessories.
Besides these future Hall of Fame players, Nike also signed numerous All-Star caliber players, such as Paul George from Los Angeles Clippers, as well known NBA sneakerhead, PJ Tucker from Houston Rockets.
Nike affirmed its dominant position in basketball in 2015 when it was announced that the company signed an 8-year NBA endorsement deal. The deal provided all franchise team members with the Swoosh logo jersey kits, beginning with the 2017/18 season.
In summary, every brand of basketball shoes does have its own strengths and appeal. With the improvement of technology, understanding of sports science, and body mechanics, the shoes of this era are able to have their own specialty whilst delivering more reliability at performance, comfort, aesthetics, and price.
Having discussed the biggest basketball shoe brands around the globe, it is safe to say that the realm of basketball sneakers is as vibrant as the NBA world. The flourishing of brands gives consumers more choices, comparisons, and benefits. The best thing we can conclude from these is that the fans, NBA players, and amateur ballers are in the best time to enjoy the spoils of this buffet spread of quality basketball shoes while supporting their favorite NBA stars.