6 Sneaker Trends We Want to See This NBA Season

NBA sneaker culture went mainstream last season. Here's what we want to see next.

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PJ Tucker in the Fear of God 1 / Bill Baptist/Getty Images

Last year, NBA commissioner Adam Silver let players wear any color shoe they wanted, and if year one was any indication, things are about to get weird. 

NBA sneaker culture has consumed itself, and we’re excited to see what happens next. Because once even something as integral to basketball culture as sneakers becomes this widely talked about, in order to remain cool, it must be undercut in some way.

Ugly is trendy, performance sneakers are not. Puma and Converse are signing the cool kids. Someone is going to have a laceless signature shoe, and it’s time players start talking trash with their shoes.

Adam Silver gave an inch. Time to take 5,280 feet.

NBA Sneaker King PJ Tucker Gets an Off-the-Court Shoe

Performance basketball shoes are a dying market, while streetwear continues to boom. The issue lies in the fact that the collection of young men with the most off-the-court streetwear influence are also NBA players. The Jordan brand, still king of lifestyle/basketball sneakers, has remained unfazed by trends and been reluctant to lean into hype culture. 

There’s space for a “basketball” brand to invest in a line of signature lifestyle sneakers that don’t release in the shadow of the player’s signature performance shoes like Russell Westbrook’s or James Harden’s.

Jordans are cool and timeless because they have on-court basketball clout, but are largely worn off the court. Introducing a lifestyle shoe to run parallel to any of the marquee guys like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry seems contrived. 

However, dropping a signature line by NBA’s shoe king without a performance/lifestyle designation, PJ Tucker is authentic to both shoe culture and himself. And if Tucker wears it, it’s cool.

Sneaker Underdogs Continue to Close Gap on Big Box Brands

Puma made this concept hum last year, and now it’s something we know we can count on heading into this season. Puma added RJ Barrett and D’Angelo Russell to get to 15 league signees, but it’s the young core—Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Michael Porter Jr., Terry Rozier—that will be much more visible this year. Plus, Marc Stein of The New York Times reported Puma is likely to sign IG style influencer Kyle Kuzma.

Converse inked rising star Kelly Oubre, and New Balance is making waves with Kawhi Leonard, Gordon Hayward and now DeJounte Murray.

Deep Cuts

2019 is weird. Clashing is on-trend, flaunting luxury is played out and vintage rules all. There’s white-space for semi-ironically wearing And1 Tai Chis and getting the same love you would show someone rocking a 2001 Sacramento Kings Doug Christie jersey. Latrell Sprewell Spinners, Starburys, Jamal Crawford J. Crossover 1s and even those ugly John Wall Reebok Zigtechs might be a vibe.

Vintage Vintage

NBA players have always been open-minded when choosing game shoes. And after Silver opened the gates, players flooded our feeds with rare sneakers, which means retros got a lot of spin. Montrezl Harrell wore Nigel Sylvester AJ1s, and players regularly wore re-releases of signature shoes from the 2000s. 

But this is the year we should see the rarest of shoes. Look out for someone to rock original releases from the ‘80s like this Jordan 1 OG Chicago (1985) listed on StockX for $30,000. I've got money on PJ Tucker.

V2 Laceless Sneakers

It’s a big year for shoe tech. Almost like the dunk contest in the last few years, it felt like creativity was tapped out within the current confines of shoe design. Adam Silver denied these reflective Yeezys because they were distracting, but thankfully Nike and Adidas found their Orlando Magic mascot spinning on a hoverboard in V1 of laceless sneakers.

We should be able to expect V2 of laceless sneakers, and pending popularity, should only be a matter of time before we’re copping a signature player shoe sans string.

Petty Personalization

This may not happen, but it should. This is a pitch to those in charge.

Occasion colorways have been successful in the past. Nike dropped KD 11 Sonics for Durant’s return to Seattle in 2018, and Kuzma earned some clout for rocking the Kobe 6 Grinch. The one—and I mean one—trend the NBA could build from the NFL is the shoe customization. Instead of gaudy shoe murals, we’re more interested in seeing shoemakers use their powers for pettiness.

NBA players could utilize the concept for pettiness. Obviously Joel Embiid comes to mind—imagine Under Armour commissioning a designer to paint a re-enactment of Embiid dunking on Westbrook for their first 2019 matchup, or even producing a limited run commemorating his poster. Patrick Beverley could show up to Houston with a sketch of Harden slapping away Chris Paul’s hand in the huddle. Oh, man. 

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