Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Milwaukee Bucks to their first NBA Finals win in half a century Tuesday night.
The basketball superstar scored 50 points in the final game, in a stunning performance that came little more than a week after back-to-back 40-point finishes in Games 2 and 3. Shortly after the championship-winning match, Antetokounmpo was crowned the NBA Finals MVP.
In spite of these technical achievements and bouts of basketball wizardry, the sneaker community emerged from the game less concerned with the shoes the Nike athlete wore on the court—his signature Zoom Freak 2s, according to B/R Kicks—than the black Air Force 1s he donned before Game 3 last week.
“[A]fter Giannis brought out the black [Air Force 1s], the Bucks went 4-0 and the freak averaged 37 points,” Complex Sneakers tweeted.
The Greek Freak originally attracted the attention of sneakerheads when the Milwaukee Bucks tweeted an image of their star player wearing the storied sneakers before Game 3 on July 11. “Giannis really pulled up to Game 3 in Black AF1s,” tweeted NBA on ESPN. After the game, Overtime, an up-and-coming sports network backed by Jeff Bezos and Drake, commented, “We shoulda known what was coming with Giannis pulling up in them black AF1s.”
The comments play off a trope that has solidified in the sneaker community in recent years that associates black AF1s with nefarious behavior. “Basically, if someone is wearing black Air Force 1s, they’re not [expletive] around,” Highsnobiety explained. As Antetokounmpo and the Bucks notched one win after another, Twitter users were quick to see a correlation.
“The Bucks haven’t lost since [Giannis] pulled up to Game 3 in Black AF1s,” ESPN wrote Sunday. “Giannis hasn’t lost a game since he brought out the black AF1s,” Bleacher Report echoed before Tuesday’s game. After the Bucks’ win, retailer Champ Sports tweeted, “We should’ve known this series was over the moment Giannis showed up in black AF1s.”
Antetokounmpo’s commanding win arrives weeks after the global debut of his latest Nike shoe, the Zoom Freak 3. The basketball sneaker features two Zoom Air units under the ball of the foot to absorb energy and provide responsiveness. The shoe keeps the wearer low to the ground, meaning closer contact with the floor. Meanwhile, an over-the-laces strap locks down the forefoot.
“One of the hallmarks of [Antetokounmpo’s] athleticism is transferring energy quickly from leg to leg to maneuver his body through gaps,” Ross Klein, senior creative director for men’s performance footwear at Nike, said in a statement. “Giannis works his foot like a gas and brake. He also works all different angles of his foot as he’s driving to the basket, so we wanted to contour the design to fit the way he transitions from step to step.”
The Zoom Freak 3 debuted globally in black-and-purple and orange colorways July 1. The former has arrived in the U.S. as well, but the latter is still listed as “coming soon” on Nike’s site. A third white-and-black colorway has been teased as well.
Though Antetokounmpo hasn’t yet been seen on the court wearing the shoe, at least one high-profile basketball player has. Arike Ogunbowale wore the shoes just last week to the WNBA All-Star Game, earning herself the title of All-Star MVP.