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The Basketball Sneaker Trends Influencing Retail and the Runway

On Oct. 22nd, the NBA season got underway with a cross-town showdown between Lebron James’ Los Angeles Lakers and reigning champion Kawhi Leonard’s Los Angeles Clippers.

Over the next seven months, the style-centric league will influence trends across the fashion industry—especially in the world of basketball sneakers. To help understand how the various players in the sneaker world stack up at the beginning of this journey, the market analysts at Edited examined how each brand is approaching court-specific kicks as a product and the trends they’re delivering.

Edited said the average price point for basketball sneakers stands at around $65 as of October, with the exception of the Jordan brand. Each major brand outside of Jordan, including Nike, Adidas, Under Armour and Puma, offers an entry-level sneaker at that accessible price.

Nike currently stocks the most sneakers out of any major basketball brand, even when separated from Jordan, and the company’s market penetration has steadily risen over the past year. However, Adidas is hot on the its tail, adding 131 percent more basketball sneakers to its offering than the year prior.

“While the brand has found significant success in its lifestyle footwear business with Originals, Adidas is now focusing on performance categories like basketball,” Edited said, highlighting the Houston Rockets star James Harden as the “front runner” for Adidas, with his fourth shoe launching imminently.

On the other hand, Under Armour’s approach to conquering basketball involves sponsoring college programs as well as the NBA’s pre-draft combine. With an impressive host of athlete endorsements, including two-time regular-season MVP Steph Curry, Under Armour has established a solid and high-profile presence in the league.

Edited looks at the sneaker trends driving sales
High-top styles like the Nike Air Jordan 1 have had success at both retail and resale. Shutterstock

Regardless of a given brand’s standing, Edited’s report found that “activation is key” and that forging a connection to a particular sneaker demographic can be the difference between success and failure in 2019.

Nike, for example, recently signed “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks star known for mind-boggling on-court athleticism. To celebrate the Greek Freak’s heritage, his first Nike signature sneaker emphasized storytelling related to his upbringing and roots.

Adidas has also taken the cue with a special release timed for New York Comic Con that paired its big stars with characters from the Marvel cinematic universe. Under Armour and Steph Curry took the same idea in a different direction, combining the Golden State Warrior’s love of golf in a special collection that proved a sneaker sponsorship doesn’t necessarily have to revolve around basketball.

Addressing style trends, Edited made it clear that chunky sneakers are here to stay and “show no sign of disappearing” anytime soon. Classic clean color ways of white or black styles appeal to a mass-market consumer, Edited said, although color-blocking and monochromatic themes are seeing some success. Footwear brands looking to add a bit of splash should consider trendy trail-running features, the report added.

When choosing colors, Edited said brands—even runway regulars like Emporio Armani and Kidsuper—have enlivened their offerings with vivid shades of yellow and orange. Not only is color-blocking a fun way to infuse color into a silhouette, brands have found, but it can also become a method to highlight certain material or technical innovations that might otherwise go unseen.

Certain silhouettes are rising in favor, too, according to Edited. High-top sneakers have seen a bit of a renaissance in recent months, punctuated by runway appearances for Dolce & Gabbana, Neil Barrett, Phillipp Plein and others. On the catwalk, high tops are often paired with high socks and longline shorts, whereas retail versions tend to favor a more retro, utilitarian look.