The Biggest Sneaker Storylines of the 2019-20 NBA Season
The NBA made its long-awaited return only a few weeks ago and has already provided fans with the buzzer beaters, scuffles, memes, and superstar performances they had been yearning for during the offseason. The new-look Los Angeles Lakers are dominating thus far as expected with the duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat sit atop the Eastern Conference at 5-1, and plenty of perennial All-Stars like Kyrie Irving and James Harden have already put up insane point totals in the roughly two short weeks the Association has been back.
We care about a little bit more than just wins, losses, and statistics when we watch the NBA. The sneakers laced up on a nightly basis are just as important. Even the pregame footwear choices matter now. It’s become a subgenre all its own, and there are a handful of things to make sure you are honing in on as you watch all of the NBA action this season.
Whether you are laser-focused on PJ Tucker’s feet to see what he will break out next, wondering when if the Yeezy Quantum will finally debut on the hardwood, or eagerly anticipating Nike’s LeBron Watch to start back up with the LeBron 17, here are some of the biggest sneaker storylines of the 2019-20 NBA regular season.
What’s Next for Nike’s LeBron Watch?
The NBA’s relaxed sneaker policy has given players more freedom than ever before when it comes to the footwear they lace up on gameday. Sneakers no longer need to correspond with team colors, so the possibilities have become limitless. One of the best examples of this has been LeBron James’ “LeBron Watch” program that kicked off two years ago with the LeBron 15.
James has laced up various versions of the 15 and 16 over the past two seasons inspired by some of the most notable pairs from his signature catalog and beyond like the “South Beach” LeBron 8, “Watch the Throne” LeBron 9, and Nike Air Zoom Diamond Turf to name a few. Nike obviously is having fun with its lifetime endorsee’s footwear, and we can’t wait to see what sneakers from its seemingly endless archive the Swoosh decides to draw inspiration from next.
With the added focus on the Lakers this season given the addition of Anthony Davis, it’s safe to say Nike might be making sure James’ footwear lives up to the hype as well. LeBron Watch isn’t your thing? No worries. The veteran has already showed off a mismatched pair of Lakers-inspired LeBron 7s and the “Red Carpet” colorway got the retro treatment, a trend that will continue as the season chugs along. He’s also guaranteed to always be wearing the latest hyped-up lifestyle drops from Nike in the tunnel too, so make sure to pay attention.
New City, New Sneakers
This past summer seemed like one of the busiest offseasons in recent memory for the NBA. Tons of All-Star caliber players found new homes, many of whom also have popular signature sneaker lines. One of the biggest names is Kyrie Irving who jumped ship from the Boston Celtics to sign with the Brooklyn Nets. The Kyrie 5 seemed to have gotten the most attention out of any of Irving’s sneakers to date last year with multiple collaborations with everyone from highly-heralded boutique Concepts to Nickelodeon for a substantial pack inspired by SpongeBob SquarePants. With an even bigger market in New York City to call home, don’t expect the momentum to slow when the Kyrie 6 finally debuts on the hardwood later this season.
Russell Westbrook also has a new home in Houston as his Why Not Zer0 line enters its third installment. If it is anything like the Why Not Zer0.2, the Brodie’s young signature catalog is looking strong. Jordan Brand has also been keeping Westbroook laced up in some special colorways to start the season too. He has already debuted multiple pairs of the Why Not Zer0.2 inspired by ’90s cartoons, mummies for Halloween, and Good Burger.
Perhaps the most intriguing move is third year shooting guard Lonzo Ball who was traded from the Lakers to the New Orleans Pelicans. He also will be looking for a new sneaker team this year. Big Baller Brand seems to be no more following an unfortunate fallout with co-founder Alan Foster that even made Lonzo cover his “BBB” tattoo and throw his own signature model in the trash on Instagram last season. Given Zo’s new sneaker freedom, it will be interesting to see if he sticks to Nike Kobes, a frequent go-to for the 22-year old in the past, or mixes it up from night to night like we see many players doing these days.
Will We Finally See the Yeezy Quantum?
The 2018-2019 season came and went with no sign of Kanye West’s basketball shoe, since confirmed to be called the Yeezy Quantum, getting laced up on court. Many speculated the sneaker would be debuted by Nick Young, but Swaggy P remained a free agent last year. If the rumor mill is any indication, this will finally be the season that Kanye’s performance basketball sneaker makes it to the NBA.
Who will be the first to wear it? We don’t know. James Harden, the face of Adidas Basketball at the moment, could be a good guess. Not only is he one of the league’s biggest stars, but he is also known to care about his off court style as well. He even had an official project with Y3 release in 2018. Maybe the most obvious choice to do the honors is the NBA’s resident sneaker king PJ Tucker. He did similar things with Nike last season as the first player to play in Jerry Lorenzo’s Air Fear of God 1. Now that he’s a sneaker free agent, it would only make sense for him to break out the Quantum before anybody else.
As polarizing as West’s antics are these days, there is no question that new Yeezys still move the needle. The long-awaited debut of the Quantum could be one of the biggest moments the Adidas Yeezy brand has had to date when it eventually happens. Hopefully it just actually does this season.
What’s Next for Puma?
Last year, Puma made its much talked about return back into the performance basketball market. They hired JAY-Z as a creative director, they debuted the retro-inspired Clyde Court, and signed a slew of young talent including Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III. The brand was back in a big way, but they lacked a true face. DeMarcus Cousins, who can’t seem to stay healthy, was their biggest acquisition, but he is once again looking to be sidelined for a significant portion of the season.
The brand made its biggest splash to date earlier this month with the signing of another Los Angeles Laker, third-year forward Kyle Kuzma. While Kuz isn’t on the caliber of say a LeBron James at Nike or James Harden at Adidas, he is certainly the most marketable star Puma has signed on. He plays under the lights in Los Angeles, and will be helping James and Anthony Davis in their efforts to secure an NBA title this season. His off the court style is also something that many fans have taken notice of.
Offseason rumors pegged number one overall pick and highly-touted rookie Zion Williamson to join Puma as well, which would have been a huge get for them. As we all know, Williamson ultimately signed the dotted line with Jordan Brand. Despite the lack of a marquee star, Puma looks like it is trying to get its footwear on as many players as possible at this point before making its biggest splash. The recently-revealed Clyde Hardwood, another updated take on Walt Frazier’s classic ‘70s silhouette, will be laced up by a fair amount of players this season. It will be interesting to see the brand’s next move, but it seems as if all signs are pointing upwards for now.
What Will PJ Tucker Wear Next?
There probably is not a single basketball fan who would argue against PJ Tucker being the NBA’s resident sneaker king right now. The list of sneakers he has played in thus far is flooded with grails ranging from super rare LeBron IIs to Nike Air Yeezys. It seems impossible for Tucker to continue this run, but he continues to find ways to pull out pairs that make you wonder how the hell he even got his hands on them in the first place. So that poses the question, what’s next? Best believe the Tucker sneaker watch will be in full effect for all 82 games this season. He knows, and he continues to track down pairs that are far from the everyday options you see most players in.
The attention is solely limited to the pairs laced up on court anymore either. Cameras are capturing players’ tunnel outfits on a nightly basis as they arrive to the arena as well meaning to take the “sneaker king” crown you better be coming correct with at least two pairs a night. Tucker has even bee known to switch pairs at halftime on occasion meaning that his clip of sneakers to show off is borderline limitless at this point.
With all of the praise Tucker has gotten for his sneaker choices though, there will certainly be some other names trying their best to take the crown. Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell is another player known for his eclectic sneaker rotation. Taurean Prince is also guy known to break out some good pairs on the court. Will there be a new sneaker king this season? You never know.
Will the NBA/China Relationship Impact Sneakers?
One of the more recent storylines to touch the NBA has been the controversy surrounding Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey’s tweets supporting protests in Hong Kong. It immediately impacted the league’s relationship with China, one of its biggest foreign markets. LeBron James even faced some backlash for his comments in response to Morey’s tweets shortly following the incident. Commissioner Adam Silver has even said that the Chinese government requested Morey be fired, something Silver denied the NBA would be doing.
The implications of this rift could be monumental for the league, but sneaker companies are also going to be impacted. Anta, a Chinese performance brand who represents Klay Thompson, has already announced it would no longer be working with the NBA moving forward. Chinese promotional tours are also a huge part of the offseason with James and Nike, Stephen Curry and Under Armour, and James Harden and Adidas all taking annual tours to host camps for their fans overseas. The NBA is very much a global brand, and while it might be a little early to predict exactly how everything will ultimately play out, it will certainly be interesting to see the extent of the impact a single GM’s tweet could have on the footwear industry at large
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