Sneaker Culture in the Association - Summer Heat
QUEENS, NY – Summer, summer, summer time. LeBron James makes his way to Hollywood to team up with the Hall of Fame mogul, Magic Johnson. This is the ultimate power move extending far beyond the hardwood. Elegantly put by The Undefeated’s Martenzie Johnson, the collaboration is “the utopian example of black capitalism and economic self-sufficiency.” The NBA has been storybook. The Golden State Warriors’ signing of Boogie Cousins solidifies their Monstars squad.
The summer league has been the most electrifying in years. The neophytes have already showcased otherworldly athleticism, making it very clear they are well worth the hype. Young guns are also displaying their business savvy, inking deals on and off the court.
Front office executives are flexing their muscles amidst free agent frenzy. This summer has already shown the leverage athletes hold when it comes to inking a deal. It's clear organizations only have their best interest, whether for the immediate future or long-term. Players are recruiting, pundits are talking, and there’s an overabundance of highlights. It’s as though the season never ended. The icing on the cake? All the summer heat on display. Let’s see what you’ve missed since the NBA Finals.
Nike LeBron Signature Series
The Narrative: LeBron James shook the universe once more with his decision to join the Los Angeles Lakers. Although, this time around it felt much more subdued. A mastermind at facilitating deals off court, in the mesmerizing manner he does on the court, this move runs deeper than basketball. Considering he is closing in on being a billionaire-dollar athlete performing at elite levels, the move to LA affords a big marker and greater return of investment.
Magic, Rob, and Bron have taken note of the Miami and Cleveland runs. They are cognizant of the monster in the Bay and plan meticulously. Paul George opted to stay in OKC for $137 million over 4 years. Kawhi Leonard whispered about heading to California, but found himself north of the border instead.
The San Antonio Spurs agreed to trade their Finals MVP and Danny Green for franchise player DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poetl, and a protected 2019 first round pick. Toronto's first-round pick to San Antonio is protected 1-20. It becomes two second-round picks after one year. An All-Star and All-NBA performer, DeRozan has three years and $83 million left on his contract. He spent 8 years with the franchise (2010-2018). He is the Raptors' all-time leader in points scored (13,296), games played (675), field goals made (4,716) and attempted (10,532) as well as free throws made (3,359) and attempted (4,277). He also ranks third all-time in assists (2,078) and second all-time in steals (655) [via NBA.com].
He lifted himself as a top tier star in the East, notching four career All-Star berths. When he had the opportunity to test his value via free agency, he didn't even bother taking a meeting with other teams. Instead, he was fully invested in the city of Toronto.
The storm brews near the River Walk. With coach Pop at the helm for the unforeseeable future, the Spurs culture lives on. Even with the current roster in the west, they remain a playoff contender. The storied organization always seem to know something the rest of the basketball universe doesn't. They were unwilling to trade Kawhi in the same conference, and rightfully so. There's a serious amount of disdain with the star players involved in this trade, and it would be remiss to neglect Pop's limited days post-Olympic competition.
A somber Popovich addressed the media regarding the trade, and spoke highly of Kawhi Leonard. He'll be coaching his former superstar next week in preparation with Team USA. He reiterated their constant dialogue and communication throughout the process. When mentioning the quick reunion, Popovich quips "I look forward to it." He quickly embraced DeRozan with high praise for his play, growth, and involvement in the community. With a warm welcome into the organization, he stated "I couldn’t be happier - I think this trade is going to work out great for both teams."
The Spurs, specifically Pop, are in a position where they're buying face value. Despite the civil unrest that transpired in the Kawhi-saga, the manner in which they illustrate one of their all-time franchise player delivers value across the league. They want to reaffirm their reputation in cultivating great players who can find success after SA. Their notion for respect and dignity go a long way.
Kawhi has an opportunity to replace LeBron's reign in the eastern conference, although he might prefer just playing with him in LA. With a healthy Leonard, the Raptors significantly improve with the addition of Danny Green at the two-slot. Poetl was a serviceable big, and will improve under the tutelage of seasoned veterans Pau Gasol and Lamarcus Aldridge. There was a log jam of frontcourt players in Toronto.
Their slightly revamped roster keeps them slender, agile, and with versatile players who can play multiple positions between the front and back court. An excellent defensive threat and hyperaware, they'll be better in transition. Plug in another three-point marksmen, and the Raptors give the Celtics a serious run for the Finals. Is the allure enough to retain Leonard in the same fashion PG chose OKC?
The Lakers have their eyes set on next year’s free agent class. This pool includes Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Deandre Jordan, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Boogie Cousins, Marc Gasol, Hassan Whiteside, Jimmy Butler, KAT, and Kawhi Leonard. It's certainly clear he wasn't interesting in joining the Toronto Raptors, the Spurs move was partly out of spite. The move will have to grow on him, it has in recent days. According to ESPN's Woj, Kawhi has warmed up to the the Raptors' contention for the Eastern Conference crown. Masai Ujiri has a tough sell to lock Leonard for the long term. His heart still lies with Los Angeles.
There will be even more shape shifting this time next summer. The Lakers have money to spend and an all-time great in LeBron James still in his prime. The promise of a respectable season might be enough of a good impression on the league’s best players to come join the fun.
Sneaker Talk: The Nike LeBron signature series has been a favorite throughout the league(s) this year. They grace the hardwood in the WNBA in all colorways, exclusives, and PEs. The summer circuits, Pro-Am, and summer runs boast the King’s signatures too. Nike does a terrific job of leveraging their marketing and storytelling ability, specifically with the LeBron signature. LeBronWatch has been a hit all year, blending vintage hits with the modern day silhouette we’ve come to recognize and adore.
Nike’s Vice President of Innovation and luminary Tinker Hatfield shared with TMZ: “I think we're all excited about the fact that LeBron is really still interested in winning more championships," said Hatfield. "He's coming to LA to do that. We're all excited to participate. If we can help him do that by, first of all, designing a product that helps him play at his highest level, that's job one. Job two, of course, is how can we leverage his personality moving to LA and kind of build a nice story around that. And then, of course, from that, style can be unique and interesting and it can be what I would call a groundbreaking kind of product.”
Nike KD Signature Series
The Narrative: Kevin Durant scored another MVP Finals trophy in an impressive 4-0 run over the Cleveland Cavaliers. In his second stint with the Warriors, he averaged 26.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists. He shot well from the field too; 51 percent from the field, 42 percent from 3-point range and 89 percent at the free-throw line. KD was an All-NBA performer (First Team) for the sixth time in his 11 years in the league. Dubs GM Bob Meyers made clear he could sign whatever deal he wanted while facing another free agency decision.
Meyers on KD signing: “I'd love to have him for 10 years. Kevin Durant, look what he did for us last year. He did us a great service. He's earned the right to sign whatever deal he wants. I just want him to sign a deal. But want him to be happy and want him to know that we want him as long as he wants to be here. He's earned that, to kind of lay out the terms. He can do whatever he wants.”
KD signed a two-year deal worth $61.5 million with a player option for the second season. The series of one-and-one deals helps him maintain control of his future, and it was another lob to the Warriors front office. The savings from the KD signing allowed Golden State to sign DeMarcus Cousins with the $5.3 million mid-level exception. The Warriors locked in the core of the team for the immediate future.
Boogie has an opportunity to recover in a first-class organization and nurture his image around the league. KD will soon loom in free agency again, rumors already swirling despite the recent signing. He soon turns 30. With Boogie’s signing, his growing collection of rings, and relatively young age – he might wander. He would have to walk away from the Warriors unearthly $221 million supermax extension when eligible. The Dubs have bought in. Their core remains unbothered and continue to focus on running up the numbers.
Sneaker Talk: KD didn’t lace up the latest iteration of his signature line until after the NBA Finals. Already, there’s been a slew of colorways to hit the market and court. Breanna Stewart has built a reputation for throwing on the most recent kicks on a nightly basis. The KD 11 EYBL looks like your favorite summer punch. Its design honors the annual Peach Jam Basketball Tournament in Georgia. The silhouette resembles the recent Kobe signature line. Low cut, it features a mix of Flyknit, Zoom-air, and React cushioning. The new-look should resonate with hoop fiends and sneaker hype altogether. It transitions into athleisure wear much easier than previous KD kicks.
The Narrative: Earlier this year, Puma thrust themselves back into the basketball universe with their somewhat disruptive roll-out. Top-notch prospect and number one overall pick, Deandre Ayton opted to run with the vintage brand instead of Nike, Adidas, or Under Armor.
He shared with Bleacher Report, “Nike is Nike. Adidas is Adidas. I’ve played in their circuits and stuff like that, but now it’s a business. You don’t just want product, you’re not a kid anymore. You’re really trying to get bank. That’s about it.”
The competitors in Nike and Adidas have utilized their celebrity star power to remain relevant, and its paid off. There is a more concentrated effort on athleisure wear, compared to generations past focus on functional basketball sneakers. The worlds have merged, it’s common to find some athletes rock the streetwear on the court at times. Nike has highlighted superstar collaborations with the likes of Virgil Abloh and Ricardo Tisci. Adidas is thriving with Kanye West and Pharrell. These are in addition to the league’s elite-level talent on the court.
Sneaker Talk: Puma has tapped Jay Z has Head of Basketball Operations. Your network remains your net worth. Puma poached Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, and Zhaire Smith. You might’ve seen Scary Terry during a recent UCLA run with Brandon Jennings and company, sporting some new Puma gear.
Rudy Gay has also jumped ship over to Puma, as well as Michael Porter Jr. Hov does present a cool factor, and an extensive roster of popular athletes. Don't sleep on Jalen Rose signing on as a creative consultant as well, he's deeply entrenched in the hip-hop culture, music and entertainment. After their first relaunch and attempt at the market with Vince Carter in the late 90s and early 00s, they plateaued. They've immediately filled out their roster with young talent and will seek sneaker free agents this fall.
If the money is right, it might be enough to keep them relevant while attracting star power. Design and future iterations should improve. The look is vintage and presents classic feel, but still too basic to appeal to younger consumers. This applies on and off the court.
Photo Courtesy: IG – brkicks Air Jordan IV “Cactus Jack” – Ben Simmons
Photo Courtesy: IG – brkicks Air Jordan I “Pass The Torch” – Kyrie Irving
Photo Courtesy: Twitter - brkicks Nike Kyrie 4 Custom PE - Simone Augustus
Photo Courtesy: IG – slamkicks Air Jordan I Off-white – Greek Freak
Photo Courtesy: Twitter - brkicks Nike Kobe NXT 360 - Kevin Knox
There was a great amount of hype over the Nike React Element. If you were able to snag a pair, you're probably one of the lucky ones. There are a slew of summer releases worth keeping an eye on. The black Off-white Nike Air Presto is set to release on July 27th. The Nike Vapormax 2.0 in a Light Cream & Vapor Blue colorway release on August 2nd. The Off-white Nike Air Presto in a white colorway is set to release on August 3rd. Adidas continues their push presenting a refined silhouette of the fame three stripes. They've issued a global release for the Sobakov, set for July 21st.
Lace up your favorite kicks, and get your runs in. Fresh heat has released almost every week - happy hunting. The summer runs, highlights, and breaking news have filled the timelines and feeds.
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