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Why Is Everyone Carrying Their Shoes Around in the NBA?

The tunnel is a runway this season. Why is everyone carrying their shoes though?!

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November 13, 2018

This NBA season has already been one for the ages. The rebalanced Eastern Conference is fun again, shedding its reputation as a drag toward an inevitable outcome. LeBron going west hasn’t exactly yielded competitive plutonium, but every Lakers game is basically a major studio rom-com: Dazzling highs, reflection-inducing lows and moments of inspiration with plenty of laughs along the way.

 

However, one trend in particular caught my eye. While the tunnel to the locker room has always been the NBA's version of the runway—thanks to Russell Westbrook, more fans are watching that walk more than ever—players have been increasingly toting one accessory I hadn't seen them make the walk with before.

 

Their game shoes.

The first possible explanation for this phenomenon is baked into the NBA's offseason rule changes regarding on court shoes. By removing all of the color restrictions for footwear, players don't need to rely on monochromatic team issue shoes: They can bring their own from home and can wear whatever custom colorways they want. By wearing a pair of kicks walking through the tunnel, and by carrying an additional pair of kicks, you get two fashion statements for the price of one. DJ gets it:

I asked GQ fashion editor Sam Schube about the trend, and he brought up something I hadn't even considered: The rise of the shoulder bag. In a landscape where smaller bags have made waves in menswear, the NBA's thought leaders were quick to adopt the look. And yeah, you're not fitting size 18 shoes into a two-pocket Off-White fanny pack. In recent years, a big bag was a look, and if the NBA lifted their color restriction then perhaps players would have carried them inside of a large duffel. But this is not the style du jour.

 

Above all, the explanation for why players are carrying their shoes is as old as time: Stunting. Why blow sneaker enthusiasts away with one rare pair when you could be doing it with two rare pairs? I haven't yet seen anyone carry two pairs in, but I have a Spidey sense that moment is coming and a new NBA drip god will be crowned. (Oubre already had an interesting flip with the box carry). Watch your back, P.J. Tucker.