This post is meant to be read with the following instrumental playing gently in the background:
The long game for shoe companies pursuing the next big star that begins with AAU middle school tournaments turns up another notch on NBA draft night. This is the moment when companies find out if their gamble turns into the next Lebron, Kevin Durant, or Derrick Rose to carry their shoe line. So which players in the class of 2012 fit the aesthetic of which shoe company?
First, a brief recap of the 2012 basketball shoe climate:
- Jordan Brand needs a signature athlete to carry the brand into the next decade and beyond
- with a title under his belt and Kobe Bryant nearing the end of his career, Lebron’s shoe is Nike’s most important line
- Players have a plethora of options that aren’t Nike, Jordan, Adidas, Reebok including Under Armour, Spalding, and Chinese options including Li-Ning, Peak, and 361
- players who played for AAU teams/colleges sponsored by a certain shoe company are likely to stay with that company
- The Golden State Warriors already have a popular colorway. With an open lineup of Steph Curry/Klay Thompson/Harrison Barnes/David Lee/Andrew Bogut, Warriors can rival the Hornets for potential colorways.
I’ve organized all the first round picks into various categories of shoe potential. First, let’s start with:
Jordan Brand Shooting Guards With Potential To Carry a Line
The ability to jump over another human survived the social media era and shooting guard remains the glamor shoe position. The following shooting guards (and Harrison Barnes) have the game and demeanor that is required to wear the premier shoe in the industry.
Dion Waiters (4th pick, Cavs) – One hot John Hollinger sentence comparing Waiters to Dwyane Wade got him drafted at #4. Look for Hollinger to compare Waiters’ shoe to Jordan 3’s in the near future. Also be on the lookout for the Air Waiters Hollinger ESPN Insider colorway.
Harrison Barnes (7th pick, Warriors) – The brand conscious Barnes didn’t have articles in The Atlantic to sign with anything less than the best.
Terrence Ross (8th pick, Raptors) – Ross is my Jordan Brand Sleeper of the Draft with the smooth Jordan game.
Jeremy Lamb (12th pick, Rockets) – Lamb can jump over people so…
Jordan Brand Guards Who Will Wear Fly Wades/Melo’s
This category is for guards with nice game but not quite “carry a line” potential. They include:
Kendall Marshall (13th Pick, Suns) – The Greg Maddux of basketball doesn’t fit into the explosive two guard category. But similar to Barnes, guards don’t go to UNC to wear Adidas in the future. Marshall is known to have an extensive shoe collection so he could use the Gilbert Arenas blueprint and play with a different pair of J’s every night.
Moe Harkless (15th Pick, 76ers) – St. John’s is a Jordan Brand farm system so Harkless will wear Melo M8’s/M9’s.
Lebron Disciples aka Kentucky Basketball
The Lebron 9 hit another level this Spring and Summer with new colorways selling out every couple weeks at $250 a pair. And that was before Lebron won a title. The next variations of Lebron’s will set the tone in basketball sneakers, and they will be worn by the following Wildcats:
Michael Kidd Gilchrist (2nd Pick, Bobcats) – John Calipari does not risk his coaching reputation every recruiting season so his former players could wear anything less. Unless Adidas throws nine figures your way and makes you the face of the company.
Marquis Teague (29th Pick, Bulls) – Do not stand between a Kentucky player and his swag. Look for Teague to wear all colorways as well.
This category of player has the potential for their own shoe line ala Kevin Durant.
Anthony Davis (1st Pick, Hornets) – I see Davis breaking the trend of post players not getting their own line at Nike for the following reasons. First, the Hornets have one of the best colorways in all of sports. Two, there is a lot of history/personality in New Orleans that could be incorporated into a shoe. Three, Nike designers will find a way to put his signature unibrow on a shoe. That adds up to myself camping out overnight.
The Kobe Bryant Category
This category is for players who modeled their game after Kobe aka the Austin Rivers. But the thing about growing up wanting to be Kobe is that you think you are better than Kobe and wouldn’t want to wear his shoe.
Austin Rivers (10th Pick, Hornets) – Rivers’ confidence is well documented. There are stories of Rivers holding himself like an NBA player way back in 2nd grade. I could see Rivers wearing Kobe VII’s/VIII’s with the Kobe logo taped over with “Rivers Systems” written over it.
Jared Cunningham (24th Pick, Mavs) – Cunningham is my Kobe Systems Sleeper of the Draft because, well…
Blake Griffin Technology (BGT) Wearers
This category is reserved mainly for post players who will wear the latest in Nike/Blake Griffin Technology, whether it be hyperhyperdunks/superflywire/lunarairs/jet pack technology.
Tyler Zeller (17th Pick, Cavs) – Something about Tyler Zeller tells me that he will wear BGT.
Andrew Nicholson (19th Pick, Magic) – St. Bonaventure is a Jordan Brand school but I can’t imagine Nicholson in a pair of Melo’s. BGT it is.
Evan Fournier (20th Pick, Nuggets) – I see a lot of French basketball players wearing Nike.
John Jenkins (23rd Pick, Hawks) – John Jenkins is the All American name BGT needs to fill its roster.
Miles Plumlee (26th Pick, Pacers) – He has a 40 inch vertical. I’ve never believed in fate until now.
These athletes have two choices – either be a cog in the machine at Nike wearing Hyperdunks in their team colors, or try to be the big man at Under Armour.
Bradley Beal (3rd Pick, Wizards) – Beal’s got a quiet/nice game that would complement Brandon Jennings. Beal could surpass Derrick Williams/Kemba Walker to become UA’s #2 basketball player and have a unique silhouette to complement his Ray Allen comped outside game.
Thomas Robinson (5th Pick, Kings) – Under Armor made their foray into bigs with Derrick Williams. Williams showed flashes last season but Robinson could develop into UA’s main post player.
Creative, Outside the Box Reebok
Reebok always comes with wild designs and silhouettes. This type of player has to have a certain flair and wildness to their game to justify the creativity of the shoe.
Terrence Jones (18th Pick, Rockets) – Jones will most likely wear hometown Nike shoes but his combination of versatility, explosiveness, and unpredictability are Reebok qualities.
Tony Wroten (25th Pick, Grizzlies) – The less fuck you give, the better your Reebok shoe is. Tony Wroten fits this category.Wroten can either turn the ball over or have the assist of the year every time he has the ball. In short, he has Reebok game.
Adidas Explosive Posts Who Aren’t Quite Dwight Howard – The Serge Ibaka Mold
As the title explains, Serge Ibaka created this archetype this latest playoffs by being an athletic post wearing the adiZero Shadow. Adidas is carving a niche as the home for athletic bigs who don’t get the attention of Blake Griffin.
Andre Drummond (9th Pick, Pistons) – A raw, athletic post who flashes dominant potential from time to time. This is the Adidas gambit.
Jared Sullinger (21st Pick, Celtics) – Sullinger doesn’t have the athleticism of Ibaka or Drummond required for the AdiZero. However, Adidas does have Tim Duncan and his “Big Fundamental” shoe in the archives for more technical posts.
Arnett Moultrie (27th Pick, 76ers) – Moultrie averaged 10 rebounds a game in college. If that doesn’t scream Adidas post, then what does?
Big Man on the Chinese Campus – The Baron Davis Outsider Archetype
This spot is reserved for guards who respond to the riches of China and have a different personality. This is very similar to the Reebok archetype in that a player has to be on the outside looking in, but in a less flashy manner.
Damian Lillard (6th Pick, Blazers) – Lillard is already an outsider coming from a small conference and will have that chip on his shoulder. Li Ning would be wise to pick him up and place him with their other outsider PGs on the roster (Baron Davis, Jose Calderon). Li-Ning made Calderon one of the best shoes of last season and if Lillard lives up to the hype of being one of the best pick and roll players in the league, his shoe could carve a niche amongst those who want something new. His logo should either be a picture of Lamarcus Aldridge setting a screen or be a silhouette of a pull up jumper
Perry Jones (28th Pick, Thunder) – Although OKC’s two best players are Nike, Jones has the type of potential for a Chinese company to throw a lot of $$$ to. I see a signature Perry Jones line from Peak in the future.
This spot is reserved for posts who are either 1. technically sound but not very athletic or 2. very athletic and not technically sound.
Meyers Leonard (11th Pick, Blazers) – Leonard is nice but raw. He will develop his game wearing Peak.
Festus Ezeli (30th Pick, Warriors) – Ezeli could be the face of a Diadora or Puma basketball shoe (if they decide to get into basketball shoes).
John Henson (14th Pick, Bucks) – It’d be funny to see Henson averaging 3 blocks a game wearing Spalding.
Royce White (16th Pick, Rockets) – he’s an outside the box thinker and Spalding is an outside the box company.
Fab Melo (22nd Pick, Celtics) – I think he’s wearing Nike but Melo with Spalding is much more interesting. It will also be interesting the first time he gets yelled at by KG for blowing a defensive assignment. Also with Henson, White, and Melo in tow, Spalding is the Daryl Morey of shoe companies.
Draymond Green (35th Pick, Warriors) – He’s got the Reebok unique smooth game as perfected by Shawn Kemp and Shaq before him. Picture the 6-7, 230 pound Green bringing the ball up the court for the Warriors in Reebok Questions. His impact on the shoe game is limitless.
Scott Machado (Undrafted) – He’ll get a signature Li-Ning shoe once he breaks all assist records in summer league. Look for Jose Calderon to undercut him in a game.
Most likely to wear Galaxy Foams during a game (aka the Nick Young Award) – Tony Wroten, no question.
Most shoe potential in this draft – Barnes or Ross. One of them will lead Jordan.