DM Kicks: NBA Superstars Who Elevated The Sneaker Game Landscape

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With their luxurious lifestyle, hefty contracts, and rich endorsements, NBA superstars enjoy the power and privilege of influencing a lot of people. Fans always imitate their “idols”, whether through their on-court razzle-dazzle moves or off-the-court antics and fashion. Hence, these superstars can contribute significantly to a certain culture, for better or worse.

And yes, with their multi-million sneaker endorsement deals,  these super athletes could even influence the sneaker culture. With that, here is a list of NBA icons that elevated the landscape of the sneaker game.

Michael Jordan

Who would have thought that the athletic shooting guard from the University of North Carolina will start and immortalize a sneaker brand? Well, any of that would not happen if Michael Jordan opted to sign with the German brand, Adidas, instead of its longtime rival, Nike. Of course, that is with a little help from MJ’s mother, Deloris Jordan. 

Everybody must have heard or read that the six-time NBA champion originally leaned on signing with the German brand and how the little story on how Deloris convinced MJ to listen to Nike’s offers.  

This paved the way for the birth of the Air Jordan 1 in 1985, a domino that later on changed the course of Jordan’s sneakers and sneaker culture forever. A butterfly effect as others may say.

When the Air Jordan 1 was officially released in public back in ‘85, Nike expected to earn US$3 million by the fourth year of Jordan’s contract. But just a year after Jordan 1’s release, Nike already brought in total revenue of US$126 million. 

The Air Jordan Brand’s undying prominence resulted in numerous new releases, colorways, retro releases, and even collaborations. In fact, in 2022, Nike raked a whopping US$5.1 billion which made MJ US$256 million richer. 

Moreover, sneakerheads are having a hard time copping certain Air Jordan sneakers and silhouettes as secondary market’s prices skyrocket over time.  

This 2023, much-awaited new silhouette, retro, and collaboration releases are already in line.

Kobe Bryant

If there’s another sneaker line along with the Air Jordan with a high level of difficulty when it comes to finding and purchasing, it would probably be the late great Kobe Bryant’s Nike Kobe line. 

The Los Angeles Lakers legend started his NBA career playing in Adidas sneakers before their relationship ended miserably which led Bryant to sign with Nike in 2002. This huge leap made by the five-time champion forever changed the tides of rivalry between Nike and Adidas.

Unlike other signature lines, the Nike Kobe line’s popularity and demand among professional basketball players, fans, and sneaker enthusiasts don’t decrease. In fact, in the NBA alone, Nike Kobe sneakers are the most worn sneakers during the season. 

Well, it is no secret that the 2008 MVP has inspired a lot of NBA players and fans with his game. Moreover, his sneakers are considered one of the best-performing, and best-looking, and had Nike’s cutting-edge technologies.    

But in April 2021, just a year after the tragic death of the Lakers legend, Bryant’s luxurious contract with Nike officially ended and a new deal was put into jeopardy. Fortunately, Nike and Kobe Bryant Estate agreed to a new deal to continue the relationship. 

Hence, players, fans, and sneaker enthusiasts will get to witness more Nike Kobe releases in the future. Hopefully, with a lesser difficulty in copping.

Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving’s relationship with Nike may have ended miserably, but no one could change the fact that the Nike Kyrie line was one of the most glamorous and in-demand sneakers in the market. 

Not only did the Nike Kyrie line boast some of the best technologies and on-court performance Nike could offer, the sneaker line was also prominent for donning the best designs, silhouettes, and collaborations any sneakerhead could dream of. 

The oozing flamboyant colorways in addition to the cutting-edge performance were enough for this line to dominate the hard court. Moreover, Nike and Irving also partnered with some icons to release some of the best collaborative silhouettes out there. 

Some of the sneakers from Irving’s shoe line were featured in some of the most coveted collaborations such as Concepts, Krispy Kreme, and Nickelodeon’s Spongebob Squarepants. 

Nike also released some of the most expensive Kyrie shoes in the secondary market such as the Confetti, Mamba Mentality, Samurai, and the Cereal Pack to name a few. 

Unfortunately, the sneaker community may no longer enjoy new Nike Kyrie sneakers, and sneakerheads could only wait if where the shifty guard will sign his next sneaker deal.

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