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  • Olivier Auguste

Sneaker Culture in the Association: New Year, Same Heat

A new year and dynamic media firestorms––you have to love NBA basketball. Anthony Davis is testing his pre-agency, James Harden has declared his stake for MVP, the Denver Nuggets are first in the west, and Boogie Cousins is set to return this month.

Jimmy Butler is still speaking his mind, even before being offered the extension. Giannis is on the rise, pushing the Bucks to the top of the conference, on pace with the Toronto Raptors. Let's catch up with the latest heat on the hardwood and current NBA storylines.

adidas Signature

Photo Courtesy: IG - solecollector Adidas Harden Vol. 3/adidas D.O.N. Issue No. 1

The Narrative:

James Harden is making quite the case for securing his second MVP trophy, nearly ousting Giannis midway through the season. He is the favorite and averaging a shade over 40 points per in the last 13 games––first to do so since Kobe Bean Bryant in the 2006-07 season. He is a marvel to witness on the basketball court. Surely, Stephen Curry––the league's only unanimous MVP remains the vanguard as he revolutionized and essentially ushered in a new era of basketball. The numbers don't lie. At his size and frame, blended with his strength and athletic ability, The Beard is a savant in his own right. He has the ability to lead the league in 3 PT FGM, free throws attempted and made, total points and assists. In fact, he's done it.

The greatest scorers in NBA lore each had their deficiencies. Shaq, Kareem, and The Dream and famed big men did it with a bruising post play and finesse. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, T-Mac, LeBron each did it on the drive and in the post. Not as many threes, excluding Jelly Bean Bryant. Steph Curry and KD have the three ball and Giannis dominates the lane, but none compare to the ripple-effect and calculated, sure-fire bucket that is James Harden.

One action leads to another beginning with his dribble, which he's done more than anyone else so far this season. Despite having a Hall of Fame general at his disposal, he doesn't need the assistance. He leads the association in isolation possessions and completes them at the highest clip. Over 80 percent of the league's 3-pointers are assisted, even the sharpest shooters favor the trend. Again, he is the anomaly with only 15 percent of his threes coming from an assist. He leads the league in unassisted three-pointers. Last year he set the record with 196 3 PT FGM and is on pace to hit 325 this season. He already has 150 unassisted.

A phenomenal ball-handler, the defense is at his mercy with every possession. The results yield a lay-up, dunk, free-throw, an assist, or worse––the signature step-back three. Calculated chaos mixed with a series of proactive and reactionary moves second to none. His ability to decelerate on any given move is top tier, giving him the advantage on any defender.

CP3's groin injury and Eric Gordon's bruised knee have kept them off the floor but the Rockets have flourished under Harden's recent play. Can't guard that man, period.

Sneaker Talk:

Donovan Mitchell becomes the latest young phenomenon to score his own signature shoe. adidas recognized the potential and rewarded his early play with the D.O.N. Issue #1––Determination Over Negativity, his mantra. The issue number is a play on his nickname, Spida, and the comic book standard.

The visual imagery mimics the iconic Spiderman silhouette in color palette and web design on the tongue. The three-stripe sigil reflects web patterns as well. Donovan and adidas also went with a unique alternative route with its debut. The two collaborated with the Jazz star's alma mater, Greenwich Country Day School in Connecticut. Young sports writers Rory Ashmeade and Blaise New interviewed Donovan in NYC for the unveiling, giving them an opportunity to explore what the moment meant for he and his family.

Jordan Brand Signature

Photo Courtesy: IG - brkicks Jordan Why Not Zer0.2/Clot x Air Jordan XIII

The Narrative:

Russell Westbrook and Paul George believe in each other and their OKC team and their 25-15 record is currently good for 3rd in the west. PG signed the enormous extension to remain in an OKC uniform alongside Westbrook, quelling rumors that no other superstar athlete was willing to play with an alpha of Russ' nature.

Despite their slow start and Andre Roberson's rehabbing, the Thunder have adjusted and converted their struggles into wins. Russell remains in MVP form, on pace to average a triple-double for a third consecutive season––currently 21.2 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 10.3 assists. His shooting percentages have taken a hit but his newly minted committment to the defensive end has provided far more value. Paul George's influence is a gift. The pair lead the league in steals, Russ with 2.53 and PG with 2.18.

So, are the Thunder contenders or pretenders? They could use more shooting to help spread the floor but have surrounded their electric superstars with capable veterans and defensive threats. This combustion is proving effective while boasting a top-tier defense in the association.

Sneaker Talk: The Jordan Why Not? Zer0.2 is easily the best signature Russell Westbrook has ever laced up. Purpose, function, style, and flair all compiled into one. It resonates deeply with the triple-double machine, representing family and serving as an inspiration for kids all over the world. Its official launch will provide full family sizes, pushing the next generation to be great.

Russ incorporated his story and DNA throughout the signature's vivid color display and design. Each represent a moment in life, the pallets mashed together represents the conglomerate of teams he's played for––Leuzinger High School in Lawndale, California, UCLA and OKC. The Westbrook family crest rests on the inside of the tongue and his signature sigil on the heel. He also pays homage to late best friend and HS teammate, Khelcey Bars III with "KB3.

Going Up All The Way

Photo Courtesy: IG - brkicks adidas Nite Jogger/Nike PG 3 "NASA"

adidas Nite Jogger - January 12th, 2019

A retro-feel lighting up the present and future. The adidas Nite Jogger revisits 1979 when it first experimented with reflective, high-visibility fabrics. The modern version pays homage to the original with its hints of orange throughout the sneaker. Boost cushioning, a touch of suede, and fluorescent three stripes make up the first-ever high-vis sneaker for the year. It's built for training, but fit for casual wear.

Nike PG 3 "NASA" - January 19th, 2019

Paul George's signature line with Nike has taken the NBA by storm and the basketball universe altogether. Its sleekness and comfort have earned a win, its style and design captivates. The standout series just got better with the Nike PG 3. His recent play also helps, the two-way superstar is scoring and winning alongside Russell Westbrook––26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists and top two in the league in steals.

The first iteration taps far beyond our atmosphere with the NASA-inspired aesthetic. The American flag rests on the right tongue opposite the PG insignia on the other shoe. The color scheme reflects the OKC uniforms and the legendary orange hue NASA's astronauts are known to sport. The footstrap from earlier models have been scratched, but anticipate it'll make its return. A visually pleasing sneaker, it seems like the rare occurrence it can transcend the court and into athleisure wear.

Sneaker Talk:

Collaboration and product integration has revolutionized the sneaker culture––Off White and Nike, Adidas and Dragonball Z, Fear of God and Nike, etc. Nike and Adidas understand how to tap into the culture we live everyday, with touches of nostalgia providing enough meaning to relate to what's being worn. They've managed to prioritize authenticity amidst clever marketin, creative liberty, and effective storytelling.

Superstar athletes and celebrities supplement the cause and often lead the creative brigade. Masterminds like Ronnie Fieg cherish history and value authenticity. The culture is pure. It lives and breathes. Make it what you want, as it suits you.

Don't Sleep On This!

Minnesota Guts Coach Thibs: Ah, the residual effects of the Jimmy Butler saga proved to be stronger than perceived. With his leadership in question, the Wolves organization decided a midseason fire was the best decision, finally cutting ties with Coach Thibs. Assistant coach Ryan Saunders, son of the late great Flip Saunders will replace as interim head coach.

The Wolves overlooked veteran assistant coach Ed Pinckney. Speculation has placed Fred Hoiburg and Chauncey Billups in the fold for coaching and General Manager positions. Although, franchise owner Glen Taylor has reiterated his support in Ryan Saunders, doubling down on his belief as coach. The Wolves are edging out of the playoff picture and they have very little margin for error especially at this point in the season

Lakers Need Some Wins: The Lakers are struggling without the Lebron James, riddled with injuries after making a push in the western conference. They've been usurped by the Los Angeles Clippers who are currently steady and climbing the rankings. the three headed monster consisting of owner Steve Ballmer, special consultant Jerry West, and head coach Doc Rivers have managed to grab the top spot in the west with journeyman and blue-collar hoopers.

This is an opportune moment upon LeBron's arrival in LA. The young upstarts have to step up, who will step up in this moment and keep this team above .500? Who will rally and audition to stay with this Lakers team? With pressure riding and the carousel trading block, they need to build value and perform. Kyle Kuzma stepped up last night with a career-high 41 points in three quarters in a victory over the Detroit Pistons––solidifying his case as the second best player on the team. It's easier than it seems for players to fade into obscurity while playing alongside King James, Lakers be weary.

The Joker's All-Star and MVP campaign:

The Nuggets are still first in the western conference, one game ahead of the Golden State Warriors with their 27-12 record. To put into perspective, last season the Nuggets lost their bid for playoff contention in their last regular season game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. At 19.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 7.5 assists a night. The last time the league saw a center pass at this rate, it was Wilt Chamberlain over 50 years ago.

Boogie's Return:

It's going to take time for Boogie to get into game shape him integrate into the Warriors style of play.He has more points than any player in the league too never participate in the playoffs. Coming off this achilles injury and playing for his next big contract, he has everything to prove.

AD's pre-agency:

Anthony Davis' contract is up after the 2019-20 season, but he is eligible for a super-max extension this summer. The Brow is looking at an otherworldly $239 million over five seasons, but he's already made clear it's about his legacy and not the money. This is the first time AD has expressed his frustration after relatively keeping it cool among trade rumors and happiness in New Orleans . He did balance the equation, disassociating himself with the notion of playing with LeBron in Los Angeles. AD is playing the part and forcing his hand in a way we've seen before––Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, and Lebron James.

🔥 Heavy Heat 🔥

Photo Courtesy: brkicks - Air Jordan XIX "Bred" - Lance Stephenson

Photo Courtesy: brkicks - Way of Wade 7 PE - Dwyane Wade

Photo Courtesy: solecollector - Nike Air Max 90 - Thabo Sefolosha

Photo Courtesy: solecollector - Nike Air Max LeBron 7 "China Moon"

Photo Courtesy: slamkicks - Puma Clyde Court Disrupt - Terry Rozier

Photo Courtesy: br kicks - Nike Zoom Vapor X Kyrie 5 - Kyrie Irving

The only constant throughout the league are the kicks that hit the hardwood every night. OTG Basketball always has you covered with the latest kicks and breakdown.

ESPN insight contributed to this report

Olivier Auguste is an NBA lifestyle writer based in New York City. Follow him on Twitter for more insight on hoops, music, and the culture we love.

#OlivierAuguste #SneakerCulture #HoustonRockets #LosAngelesLakers #Nike #Adidas #JordanBrand #GoldenStateWarriors #NewOrleansPelicans #DenverNuggets #OklahomaCityThunder #MinnesotaTimberwolves

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