With the regular season kicking off, it’s that time of the year where most of the fans attention won’t be on the actual play, but what they put on their feet (see: Ray Allen and LeBron James Tuesday night). With signature shoes like the LeBron XI, KD VI, D Rose 4 and the D Howard 4 already being revealed beforehand, it leaves Kobe Bryant‘s latest installment as the last of the major sneaker releases.
While there will still be player editions of the Nike Hyperdunks and Hyperfuse, adidas adizero Crazylight 3, Crazy 8, Under Armour’s Anatomix Spawn and Reebok’s Pumpspective Omni and more, I believe that a few more players have earned the right to attach their name to their own shoe.
The depth of talent and players nearing or reaching superstar level in the past few seasons has led to one of the most competitive leagues in all of sports. So it doesn’t make sense to be able to count the number of players with their own shoe on one hand. Think back to the late ’80s and early ’90s when players like Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Grant Hill, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal, Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo were stockpiling shelves with kicks of their own. I believe we are about to set off into another big boom in signature sneakers and listed below are the players that could carry their own signature lines.
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Kyrie Irving is fresh off a year that saw him average 22.5 PPG, 5.9 APG and single-handedly take over the 2013 NBA All-Star Weekend. On the court there aren’t many point guards that can claim to be better than Irving and with the upgrades to the Cleveland Cavaliers roster, he and his teammates should be able to show off their skills to a much wider audience.
Off the court, Irving’s Uncle Drew character has taken over parks across the country and has us all freaking out over how sick the latest chapter is. Uncle Drew has become a common part of basketball vernacular in just two years.
Nike has something big in Irving and the sooner they take advantage of it the better—especially given the jump Stephen Curry made to Under Armour this season. Irving has the skills, charisma and personality to carry a signature line and the folks at Beaverton need to stop sticking him in player edition shoes ASAP. (Even though they are dope, too.)
James Harden spent last year with the Houston Rockets trying to show the world that he was talented enough to be the man on his own team. And he did just that. After pouring in 25.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG and 5.8 APG he took the Rockets to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Harden is already considered a superstar by 99.99 percent of the world — the .01 percent is Dwyane Wade, who obviously thinks we’re still in 2007 — and has shown to be very marketable. Harden has made two spectacular Foot Locker spots, here and here. (“Harden Soul” was only second to Robin Thicke‘s “Blurred Lines” for song of the summer.) It seems Harden may have already taken that leap to signature star status.
Under Armour has been trying to make their mark in basketball for a couple of years now. While the Baltimore-based company saw early success in sports like lacrosse and football, it’s taken a bit longer for them to catch on with the hardwood.
This summer they brought a fresh, baby-faced player into the fold: Stephen Curry. The baby-faced assassin and breakout performer of the playoffs parted ways with Nike and is easily the biggest name on the UA roster. His ankle issues are troubling — just ask adidas about how everything changed when Derrick Rose went down in the 2012 NBA Playoffs — but it should work out considering Curry has quickly become one of the most exciting players in the modern game.
As Jay-Z said, “Gotta get it while the getting’s good, gotta strike while the irons hot” and right now, Curry’s iron has an immense amount of popularity steam shooting out of it.
Damian Lillard is the league’s reigning Rookie of the Year and kept the Portland Trail Blazers in the playoff race through the first 50 games of the season. His web series “License to Lillard” was very highly received — as of now it totals over one million views combined for the four episodes and one bonus video. He also did an admirable job shouldering the Rose sneaker line last year with Chicago’s point guard out for the year.
Lillard’s story, from barely recruited out of high school to rookie sensation, is one that anyone can connect with and makes him one of the more relatable good players in the league now.
While the Trail Blazers are hoping for an even better year than the 19 PPG and 6.5 APG he posted last year, Damian has definitely made a name for himself in a very short time. Plus, judging from his own 4-bar Friday submissions they could use him for the music of his own commercials instead of bringing in A$AP Rocky.