Sneaker Culture in the Association: Playoff Push
Welcome to the playoff push. At this point in the season we can expect the theatrics on the court to match the ones off the court. Championship contenders are loading up, capitalizing on the buyout market. The middle-child teams are counting their bullets and loading their clips.
The pretenders are gearing up for the vacation and the lottery. Even big name contenders understand the summer isn't for the feign of heart. We know of those looking to fortify their rosters for championship runs come next season, key players already disappointed with their seasons thus far (looking at you Los Angeles Lakers & Boston Celtics).
The Narrative: The most storied franchises in the game of basketball are in shambles, in essence. Think back, between 2007 and 2011, we deserved a Lakers-Cavs Finals match-up. Kobe Bean Bryant against King James, the young phenom––writing down names and making a list, checking them twice and getting them hit. It never happened.
With King James donning the famed purple and gold now, we could've gotten a modern-day revelation of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry. Two teams feverishly chomping at the bit for the shiny, golden prize that is Anthony Davis, a new phenom. A prize that will surely elevate your franchise and carry it for another decade, endless attempts at the Larry O'Brien trophy.
Instead, LeBron will earn himself some “well-deserved” rest after eight consecutive Finals appearances with the Lakers likely missing the playoffs this year. “Well-deserved” because Lakers fans might not feel like they’ve gotten what they hoped for. Even his passing of MJ on the scoring list, on their home floor, didn’t feel as ceremonious as it should’ve been.
It would be the first time since his second year in the league. It’s already been made public, his chances of playing remaining back-to-backs slim. Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes reported the “cooldown”, resulting in lowered minutes for the King.
Remember Lonzo Ball will now miss the rest of the season after re-evaluation of his ankle injury. They’ve missed his tenacity and defensive prowess. Kyle Kuzma has emerged as second fiddle, the promising talent is nursing an ankle injury of his own. Brandon Ingram is expected to be out the remainder of the season with Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT) in his right arm. HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy explained via twitter it is a blood clot that has formed in his arm.
Similar to Chris Bosh, it should only be a concern if he develops a second DVT. He would not be able to perform on the blood-thinning medication and will need to take precautionary measures moving forward––compression sleeves, stretching on flights, etc.
This comes at a cost. Head coach Luke Walton, stemming from the same draft class in 2003, will likely lose his job at the end of the season. If we were left to wonder by the body language on display––or where guys sit during timeouts––Bron’s relationships have eroded into nothingness. His three infinity stones (rings), enough to merely vanquish any camaraderie or your Lakers jersey for that matter. Losing makes you grumpy when you’re supposed to be having fun and at the top of the conference. This is the first time Bron has looked like the old head-OG at the gym barking at the youngbloods, fully distressed at how things unfold before him.
Has the King lost his touch? With a dismal record, it’s tough to vehemently question if basketball is the most important thing in your life but every post on social shows your A&R role on 2 Chainz album. Yes, the intersections of hip-hop, basketball, and pop culture are thriving. Yes, 2 Chainz has cuts from his album used as promo strips for games on ESPN and ABC. Unfortunately, no one cares about it with 30-35 record between a storied franchise and generational player. LeBron will never get all the flowers he deserves.
As for Kyrie? He now understands what LeBron has dealt with for a myriad of his career, specifically in the second stint with the Cavaliers. A troubled vet, burdened by ever growing pressures to win the east. A full-court press courtesy of media firestorms pertaining to his intention and desire to stay or move, or teaming up with another superstar in that 7-foot scoring savant that is Kevin Durant.
The younger, clearly capable and promising players have struggled to find their groove in the midst of rumors and a drawn-out game of telephone. It must be frustrating to be in the mix for the same game-changing player, all ahead of the most important playoff run of your career. Uncle Drew tends to be vocal about his frustrations and visibly upset. Although Bron’s grumpiness has caught on, his master manipulation of the media hasn’t just yet.
For now, we wait as the playoff march upon us. The ripple effects of the postseason hold unforeseen consequences and reactions. The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics match up Saturday night on ABC.
Sneaker Talk: The latest iteration of the LeBron 16 was inspired by the Air Jordan III colorway on the night King James made history by passing His Airness for fourth all-time on the NBA scoring list. #LeBronWatch is en route, unfortunately not in the same manner as last season. Nike will have to roll out the signature line inspired by iconic moments and athletes a bit sooner than anticipated. Last year, a majority of the kicks were put on display during the playoffs.
The Nike Kyrie 5 displays vibrant player exclusives in which Kyrie continues to dazzle. A staple among hoopers in the association, you can catch a variation of the sneaker on almost every roster. Based on the eye test, Kyrie’s signature reigns supreme for another season, a league favorite thus far.
The Narrative: Every few days or so, you have to take a gander at the NBA conference standings. You’re in for a few surprises. The Houston Rockets are third in the west as of March 9th! Blinded by James Harden MVP-caliber season and scorching scoring tear, H-Town has quietly climbed the rankings. We’re at the point where every single game matters and has playoff implications. It’s why early season wins are so critical in closing season series. A Thunder loss to the Clippers, with a big Rockets win over the 76ers catapulted them in the standings.
James Harden finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists in 32 minutes of play, and two filthy dribble-drive moves against the 76ers defense worth watching on loop.
He did injure his right wrist falling on a drive in the second quarter. X-rays returned negative and he is slated to play on Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks. The Rockets have found their rhythm and aren’t a team you want to see at any point during the playoffs.
Sitting only a half-game back for third place in the west, the Oklahoma City Thunder are also regaining their groove with the return of MVPG. Their loss to the Los Angeles Clippers came with a scathing manifesto from the MVP candidate, loathing the referees for their performance. He’s calling for a fair shake that will likely just result in a heavy fine. Not the momentum a team wants to generate headed into the postseason. The Thunder are currently responsible for the fourth-most fouls per game and tied for the most technicals.
Paul George is posting career numbers across the board: 28.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.2 steals, and 3.8 3PM per game. He’s playing alongside one of the most dynamic players the game has ever seen in Russell Westbrook. He plays like someone took his baby brother’s lunch money. Like an unheralded hero taking down the neighborhood bully, essentially he’s Craig from Friday. OKC’s addition of Markieff Morris adds much-needed depth for the playoffs. They have a bruising rim runner and rim protector in Steven Adams, versatility in terms of defensive cohesion and shooting ability. Time will tell if they’ll elevate their play despite however the refs are calling the games.
Sneaker Talk: It must be nice being a UNC Tar Heel, given the unlimited amount of Jordan Brand exclusives to hit your locker on any given day. Unless you’re the NBA’s reigning Sneaker King––aka PJ Tucker. Recently, Jordan Brand unveiled school-specific player exclusives of the Air Jordan 4 and Why Not Zer0.2. Unsurprisingly, PJ scored his own PEs. He sat down with Bleacher Report’s Christian Pierre during All-Star weekend to discuss the state of the sneaker game.
Jordan Brand is also pumping out new iterations and colorways of Russell Westbrook’s signature––Why Not Zer0.2. His best sneaker yet, it’s still rare to catch them on the floor on anyone else’s person. They are popular in the college space. Georgetown, Marquette, Oklahoma, Florida, UNC, and Michigan will receive their own PEs designed to reflect their color palettes.
Going Up All The Way!
Puma Palace Guard OG - March 8, 2019:
Puma has already established itself as a premiere streetwear brand with collaborations from a bevy of your favorite influencers, musicians, celebrities, etc. When Sean Carter––Hov!––signed on as creative director it likely meant dipping into Roc Nation’s pool of talent. His trusted vision afforded a cool factor that is already paying off. It’s tough to sleep on some of the latest sneakers to hit the court and their colorways.
Most recently, Puma’s Palace Guard signature line has been revamped and brought back to life. The OG was made popular in the late 80s and early 90s. Head Honcho of the notorious Bad Boys, Isaiah Thomas, flaunted the kicks named after the arena those very Pistons called home––The Palace of Auburn Hills. The remixed version, Puma Uproar Palace Guard, fits the narrative of today. It pays homage to the original with a sleek design and performance-based feel.
Air Jordan VI "Millennial Pink" x Aleali May - March 15, 2019:
Aleali May has returned with her third Jordan Brand collaboration with a pair exclusively for the ladies. The iconic silhouette in which MJ captured his first ring is dipped in soothing pastel pink and boisterous crimson to add an heir of familiarity.
Don't Sleep On This!
New Balance MS997XTA:
The New Balance 997 comes in two smooth colorways for the springtime. It features the signature chunky sole courtesy of the ENCAP Reveal sole unit. Feast your eyes on these beauties.
Curry 6 “United, We Win”:
Not only does Steph Curry––the vanguard, champion, and two-time MVP––deliver on the court, he does with his word too. Earlier in the season, Riley Morrison put together a letter detailing her curiosity and disappointment in finding out why the Curry signature line was only available in boys sizes. Steph and Under Armor quickly responded and vowed to honor ladies of all ages by adding girls sizes to the line-up. Riley and her mother were also personal guests of the sharpest-shooter as the Golden State Warriors hosted the Denver Nuggets on International Women's Day.
Players Seem Particularly Moody This Year:
NBA commissioner Adam Silver sees it all, knows it all, hears it all––consistently ahead of the trend. He noted NBA players seemed "truly unhappy" during his tenure at MIT's Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. He touched on the effects of social media and potentially widespread anxiety. A multitude of players––prominent, current, and past––have voiced their journey and struggles in the spectrum of mental health.
Los Angeles Clippers:
These boys are still making noise, finally usurping the gentlemen on the other side of the tunnel. The Clippers have eclipsed the Lakers and they did it with grit, blue collar style. Lou Williams surpassed Jamal Crawford for second in the all-time scoring list for reserves. He is sitting only 28 points behind Dell Curry for the top spot. His teammate, Pat Beverly is taking every major match-up personal. In your jersey, 94 feet, and an absolute nuisance on the defensive end. Ask MVPG.
Photo Courtesy: brkicks - Collin Sexton: Nike Kyrie 1 ID
Photo Courtesy: brkicks - DeMar DeRozan: Nike Kobe 4 PE
Photo Courtesy: brkicks - Paul George: Nike PG3 PE
Photo Courtesy: slamkicks - Amir Johnson: Nike LeBron 1 AZG
Photo Courtesy: slamkicks - Rudy Gay: Puma Uproar
Photo Courtesy: slamkicks - PJ Tucker: Nike Kobe 4 "Gold Medal"
Photo Courtesy: solecollector - Dwyane Wade: Way of Wade 7
The only constant within the madness of the NBA are the dope kicks to hit the floor every night. OTG Basketball has you covered with the latest heat and breakdown.
With International Women's Day empowering so many yesterday, here is a gentle reminder to appreciate women and their power every single day. They inspire and motivate the world to be a better place.
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.
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