LeBron James. James Harden. Carmelo Anthony. Stephen Curry.
These elite athletes are more than just All-Star level NBA players. They’re members of a small group of players to ever have signature shoes.
Out of the 494 players that were members of an opening-day roster at the beginning of the season (according to the NBA), only 21 of those have a signature shoe with a brand. From those 21 players, the honor of having a signature shoe is split up among nine different brands: Nike, Jordan, Adidas, K8IROS, Big Baller Brand, ANTA, Under Armour, Li-Ning and Peak. Those nine brands represent the 4.6% of NBA players with a signature model.
Nike leads the pack with a star-studded lineup of Oklahoma City Thunder’s Paul George, Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant, Boston Celtics’ Kyrie Irving and Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James who represent the Swoosh on the hardwood night in and night out.
Tied for second are Adidas and Peak with four different athletes. Peak hosts players such as Los Angeles Clippers’ Lou Williams, Cleveland Cavaliers’ George Hill, Washington Wizards’ Dwight Howard and Charlotte Hornets’ Tony Parker. As for Adidas, it’s Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard, Minnesota Timberwolves’ Derrick Rose, Washington Wizards’ John Wall and Houston Rockets’ James Harden who are proudly wearing the Three Stripes on their shoes.
Jordan has a trinity of potential hall of famers within its ranks. Houston Rockets’ Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony (who is on currently on waivers after his short stint in H-Town) and Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook are all part of the Jordan legacy.
Miami Heat legend Dwayne Wade and Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum represent Li-Ning as the brand’s only signature endorsers.
Lastly, we see Spencer Dinwiddie with K8IROS, Lonzo Ball with Big Baller Brand, Klay Thompson with ANTA and Stephen Curry with Under Armour as the faces of said brands.
The impact these athletes has transcended on how players and even brands approach signature deals and expectations. For example, this summer PUMA relaunched its basketball campaign by signing rookies DeAndre Ayton, Michael Porter Jr., Marvin Bagley III and even most notably Golden State Warriors’ DeMarcus Cousins. Despite all the talent on the roster, PUMA isn’t looking into developing signature models any time soon, according to the Nice Kicks podcast.
Most recently, former Jordan athlete Kawhi Leonard is rumored to have signed a deal with New Balance as they also appear to relaunch its basketball line.
Although signature athletes are a small group, the shoes are worn by a vast majority of the league. Despite that, however, basketball sneakers aren’t selling like they used to. According to Matt Powell, sales on basketball footwear in the U.S. have dropped from 13% to just 4% over the past five years.
Nonetheless, the impact of the sneaker models and the athletes behind them will continue to grow both on and off the court.