All-Star Weekend, which kicks off tonight, has always been a barometer of how far the NBA has come as a brand. This is where powerful forces meet (media, celebrities, advertisers, old and new guards of the league) and, sometimes, they are reminiscent of fallen icons like Kobe Bryant.
But it’s also the biggest party of the year of basketball. And that means one thing: players will be in full-swag mode until Sunday’s 69th annual All-Star game at the United Center in Chicago. It is likely that we will see most, if not all, of taking the field in an ultramodern and affirmative shoe.
Professional b-ballers are extremely competitive and a bit glitzy. By now they have realized that they are not only highlighted reel pinches and three long-range pointers that can arouse ooh and aah from the crowd. It’s also about how you look in action.
This is why, in the last decade, Russell Westbrook (feet pictured above), Damian Lillard and others have become global ambassadors for sportswear giants – Westbrook for Nike, Lillard for Adidas – elevating their game of style and essentially acting as important marketing pawns for these brands to stand out and generate hype on social media.
James Harden wore Adidas sneakers modeled during last year’s All-Star game. Credit: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images
During the warm-ups of the last All-Star game in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Houston Rockets dynamo James Harden had reached fans for their phones to take pictures of his Adidas deliriously modeled
, which featured a checkered flag design (a nod to the host city racing scene). He wore LeBron James Nikes
with a golden swoosh and a Givenchy-inspired motif on the laces. Kawhi Leonard – who was still a Toronto bird of prey at last year’s event – unveiled a New balance
sneakers that (seriously) made the impression of a dinosaur claw. It wasn’t exactly like watching the catwalk in a high fashion show, but honestly who would blame you for thinking it?
This is basketball in the Instagram era. “A lot has changed in the sneaker industry, but companies still recognize the value of getting shoes on top athletes,” said Matthew Kish, who covers Over $ 180 billion in addition to the sportswear industry
for the Portland Business Journal.
“These exclusive editions for NBA All-Star game players give brands a touch and visibility. Consumers want to wear what elite athletes wear.”
Nonetheless, US sales of basketball shoes have been falling since the middle of the last decade. This decline is based only on retailers who share their data, however – it does not take into account direct sales to the consumer or “suppressed” data (when a shoe is only available at a retailer), not to mention the sneaker resale market , which is reported
expected to grow in a $ 6 billion industry by 2025. On online markets, such as StockX, a coveted shoe that sells by the hundreds can sell by the thousands.
LeBron James’s shoes pictured in the All-Star Game 2018 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images
This weekend in Windy City, all the boutiques and major sports brands are organizing enough events in the city to fill the calendar of a thirsty collector. Adidas kicked off the show last Friday, reopening Tony’s Sports
– a popular local sneaker and clothing destination in the 90s and 2000s – as a pop-up shop selling exclusive All-Star Weekend (ASW) clothing.
There are also dozens of drops for sneakers. A new iteration of Nike Kyrie 6
, named for Brooklyn star Nets Kyrie Irving, features a translucent forefoot strap and a New York taxi appears to have collided with an abstract artwork. The Puma x Def Jam Clyde
is a new version of the OG hip-hop low sneaker made famous by NBA legend Walt “Clyde” Frazier. And that’s just a taste.
(In keeping with tradition, new All-Star games or “ASG” shoes are normally kept hidden until the time of the game.)
All-Star Weekend may be less of a social event than a great sneaker brand marketing moment, but not everyone is complaining. “The NBA has only recently started giving sneakers the shine they deserve,” said Sean Williams, who has a YouTube talk show called Obsessive Sneaker Disorder. “Ten or 20 years ago, TNT or ESPN cared which sneaker someone was wearing except Michael Jordan?”
Michael Jordan pictured during the NBA All-Star Game in 1997. Credit: Brian Bahr / Getty Images
In fact, no other player has had a greater impact on sneaker culture. In 1985, Nike staked the house on Jordan. The brand even donated its distinctive shoe to the young phenomenon: the Chicago Bulls Air Jordan 1 themed coloring, which literally broke the color barrier of the league’s shoes. (At the time, the NBA’s “uniform uniformity” required that the shoes worn in the games be 51% white.)
The kicks have revolutionized the marketing of shoes, inaugurating a new wave of sneakers and a lot of fandom – sometimes at the edge of the craze – around them (Air Jordans is still so hot that a re-release of the originals has been sold out in a few minutes after they were published on sale
earlier this month).
Over the years, more and more players have started showing off multi-colored kicks, all the more so over the star weekend. Eventually the NBA gradually eased the ban removal
all the restrictions on the color of the shoes in the 2018-19 season – which led to a series of field games of who-can-break-the-internet-one-up-upgrade.
Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid sported a colorful pair during the NBA All-Star Weekend 2019. Credit: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images
But it doesn’t stop who is using multiple shades in the crayon box. Players like Harden and his teammate Westbrook from the Rockets are also closely involved in the design process, sharing ideas for shapes and concepts.
We have come a long way since the 70s, when Converse Pro Leather became a fashion accessory after ex-player Julius Erving (known as Dr. J) I jump high
from the foul line in a dunk contest.
“Designer shoes are definitely a collaborative process nowadays,” said Duane A. Lawrence, deputy director of design for the Chinese shoe company Anta, whose clients include Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors. “It is important to obtain detailed information from the athlete during the design process to make sure that the shoe meets all its needs in terms of performance and style preferences. I cannot imagine that this happened in the time of Dr. J.”
A short history of high fashion sneakers
For many players, having their own shoe is a visible symbol of league status, as well as a very profitable business move. Second Forbes,
nearly a dozen NBA stars – including Westbrook, Harden and New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson – earn at least $ 10 million a year from shoe sponsorships.
Many do it without even having to play in them. Last summer, after a bidding war between Li-Ning and Puma, Williamson signed an agreement
with Nike’s Jordan brand worth $ 75 million in seven years, then retired from the first half of the season to recover from knee surgery. Another Nike customer, Kevin Durant of the Nets, who does
$ 26 million a year, will likely miss the entire 2019-20 season after breaking the Achilles tendon in last year’s NBA finals.
His former teammate, Warriors superstar Stephen Curry, who is paid $ 20 million by Under Armor, has been out of service since October with a hand injury. But that won’t stop him from launching a limited edition shoe on Saturday. Put it all together and begin to understand why sneaker brands are rushing to gain a foothold in the All-Star game, which according to the NBA will be broadcast live in more than 40 languages.
The Under Amour sneakers worn by Stephen Curry during the All-Star 2017 game. Credit: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images
“Considering the size of some of the shoe offerings, brands must take advantage of the athlete’s marketability whenever they have the chance,” explained sneaker historian Chad Jones, before adding that the players have become running and jumping Adversting board.
In Spike Lee’s Mars Blackmon’s words, “Money, it must be shoes!”