Skip to main content

As the NBA Prepares to Tip Off, Can Basketball’s Top Sneaker Brands Capitalize?

With the NBA season making its triumphant return Thursday after a four-month hiatus, it’s hardly a coincidence that top footwear brands from Nike and New Balance to Puma, Adidas and Reebok are all dropping new sneakers to fete the long-awaited occasion.

Rarely outshined in the sneaker game, Nike is launching several new sneakers throughout the remainder of the season and playoffs, with the centerpiece being new variations of the Lebron 17, which will be worn by none other than LeBron James himself when teams resume playing basketball in Orlando, Fla.

The new Lebron 17 Graffiti renditions come in either cold blue and fire red, and release July 28 on the SNKRS appin North America, building on the original Graffiti edition released in June. As the name entails, the shoes bear a graffiti-style script.

The Lebron 17 Low Titan is the second collaborative Lebron colorway with Titan, a Manila-based basketball concept store. The shoe is flooded in red and features an all-over graphic on the upper emblazoned with logos and symbols that represent moments in Titan’s 10-year history.

Last week, Nike unveiled the Zoom Freak 2, the second signature shoe built on the unique athletic prowess of 2018-2019 NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Nike has a full slate of releases ahead with Kevin Durant’s KD13 Nike Nationals dropping on July 30 in North America, as well as of Paul George’s PG4 Gatorade and PG4 PCG2. The PG4 Gatorade will be released in two colorways, with the green option releasing on July 31 and the orange option following on August 8.

Related Stories

Nike also will release Kyrie Irving’s Kyrie 3 Low in two colorways: Eclipse and Inner Harmony, in August and September, respectively.

While the sneaker drops come at an opportune time, what awaits is whether the brands will get a major boost the NBA restart, and whether the new releases can improve basketball sneaker sales overall.

With NBA basketball rebooting after a COVID-19 hiatus, Nike, New Balance, Puma, Adidas and Reebok are dropping new sneakers for the moment.
Nike’s Lebron 17 Low Titan is the second collaborative Lebron colorway between the athleticwear giant and Titan, a Manila-based basketball concept store. Nike

As one event has recently shown, a bit of exposure can certainly drive a lot of eyeballs, and dollars, toward a brand.

In its fourth-quarter earnings report, Nike revealed that the Jordan Brand was a major success driver in an otherwise down quarter, largely due to the airing of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” docuseries, which the covered the final championship run of Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls. For the full year, Jordan Brand products saw sales climb 15 percent, while all six other main categories saw sales sag.

In a July 21 blog post, Matt Powell, vice president, senior industry advisor, sports at NPD Group, wasn’t as bullish about the sustained future of sneaker sales on the whole.

“June was an outstanding month for sneaker sales, but we should be careful in how we interpret these results,” he wrote. “Brands were releasing an extraordinary amount of limited shoes in a month that typically does not see this happen. The results were jaw dropping increases in sales growth, but it is a strategy that is unsustainable for the longer term. After three months of lockdown, there was pent-up demand to just get out and buy something. That spike in therapeutic shopping is not sustainable either.”

Beyond Nike’s launches, New Balance revealed the first low-silhouette sneaker to its basketball product family with the Omn1S Low. In late 2018, New Balance made its biggest splash when it signed then-Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard, now a powerhouse for the L.A. Clippers, as the brand ambassador of the first Omn1S.

The Omn1S Low in Berry Lime was developed for players like Team New Balance basketball athlete and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Darius Bazley, who completed a three-month internship at the athletic firm's headquarters, where he worked directly with product design and development teams.
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Darius Bazley worked with New Balance product design and development teams to create the Omn1S Low sneaker. Courtesy

The Omn1S Low in Berry Lime was developed for players like Team New Balance basketball athlete and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Darius Bazley, who completed a three-month internship at the athletic firm’s headquarters, where he worked directly with product design and development teams.

The low silhouette is designed to enhance Bazley’s particular style of play, allowing for increased maneuverability for quick turns and explosive speed.

“This silhouette was born out of a direct request from our consumers,” said Jonathan Grondin, New Balance’s design director for basketball. “Whenever we’d introduce a new Omn1S colorway on our social media platforms, our followers would always ask to create a low version. I’m really excited to see it go from comments on Instagram, to Darius wearing on court to finally into our consumers hands.”

The new release comes as New Balance opens a new concept shop, New Balance T-HOUSE, on the east side of Tokyo. The New Balance T-HOUSE is inspired by the spirit of hospitality within Japanese tearoom culture and will be the home of the Tokyo Design Studio.

T-HOUSE will have special releases from a variety of the brand’s global collaborations and the Tokyo Design Studio, which will feature the latest technology and concepts, accompanied by a range of original products exclusive to the shop.

And Reebok and Adidas are even collaborating to get in on the end-of-season sneaker mix, celebrating both a star of today and a legend of the past. The newest version of Reebok’s Question Mid, set to launch on Aug. 7, is dubbed the “OG Meets OG,” honoring basketball hall of famer Allen Iverson by relying on his iconic first signature shoe while adding key iconography of current Houston Rockets superstar James Harden. Most notably, the “3” medallion that was once on the sneakers’ heel is replaced with Harden’s official Adidas logo while the All-Star’s name is featured on the interior lace eyelets.

Hip-hop star J. Cole inspired Puma's RS Dreamer basketball sneaker.
Hip-hop star J. Cole inspired Puma’s RS Dreamer basketball sneaker. Courtesy

Puma also launched the RS-Dreamer, the signature basketball sneaker of hip hop star J. Cole. Intended to be worn on and off the court, the RS-Dreamer is a new silhouette that leverages the brand’s running system “RS foam” and RS technology for superior on-court mobility.

“Over the years, basketball shoes have progressed greatly in their level of technology and comfort but have strayed too far away from designs stylish enough for cultural relevancy,” Cole said. “The Dreamer hopes to change that reality. The highest level of on-court performance meets the highest level of aesthetic design for daily wear. Once again, you can hoop in the same shoes you wore outside.”

RS-Dreamer will be available exclusively in store and online at the Foot Looker Inc. family of brands (including Foot Locker, Kids Foot Locker, Champs, Footaction and Eastbay),, and Puma stores starting Friday, July 31.