From the ground up

The NBA is on top of its game this year. Round one of the Playoffs has been an exhilarating ride full of tense games and insane finishes. Aside from the on-court performance, however, this year’s post-season stars have already flexed their sneaker-game muscle with plenty of unique Player Exclusives (PE). With a few more weeks to go before the NBA Finals, we take a look at some of the best Nikes, Air Jordans and adidas kicks seen so far.


15. Li-Ning Way of Wade 2 Encore worn by Dwyane Wade

Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade is in his second year of a highly lucrative deal with the Chinese shoemaker Li-Ning after sporting Air Jordans for many years. Though not comparable to the sophisticated designs of his former sponsor, Li-Ning stepped up its game tremendously from last year with multiple color editions and a more minimal design that fits a lot better to the All Star’s style of play. Don’t be surprised if you see a Wade 2 Encore on your neighborhood court this spring.

Pick up a pair here.


14. Air Jordan CP3.VII PE worn by Chris Paul

Chris Paul’s shoe line takes full advantage of special colorways and unique player exclusives this year. The CP3.VII is mid to low cut, which follows on the design of the Nike Zoom Kobe and Durant series. Its sleek design is inspired by sports cars while colors and materials can be customized to your liking. Even Paul’s teammates, like Reggie Bullock, have been spotted wearing a special version of the CP3.VII.

Pick up a pair here.


13. Nike Zoom HyperRev PE worn by Bradley Beal

Featuring Nike’s Flywire technology, Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving’s signature shoe is available in several colorways and team editions, perhaps the reason others like Washington’s Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza have been known to wear them. If you’re a quick guard or forward, this shoe has to be on your list as one of the must-have kicks in the Nike family.

Pick up a pair here.


12. adidas Crazyquick 2 PE worn by John Wall

The German manufacturer hit a home run with the release of the “Crazy” line several years back. By now, many of the young, explosive point guards in the game are under contract with adidas. John Wall is one of the biggest stars and wears a Player Exclusive of the Crazyquick 2, which have been spotted on Damian Lillard as well. The sleek design and insanely low weight makes this sneaker a great choice for fast and agile players. What makes the shoe especially sexy is the color gradient.

Pick up a pair here.


11. Under Armour Anatomix Spawn PE worn by Will Barton

Portland’s Will Barton most definitely surprised all analysts with his breakout performance in Game 4 against the Spurs and his sneaker game wasn’t looking too shabby either. Under Armour silently became one of the more visible brands on the court this season thanks to Stephen Curry’s signature Anatomix Spawn in a Player Exclusive. Patterns and colors define the design of the shoe, created for maximum swiftness and freedom.

Pick up a pair here.


10. Nike Air Zoom Generation worn by Norris Cole

This sneak, worn by Miami’s Norris Cole, is an homage to the Nike LeBron 1 from 2003 when James was a rookie. The shoe became a legend like many of the early superstar editions and unlike some of its bulkier successors, the Nike Zoom Generation is leaner and allows guards to maneuver without a hitch. Its multi-layered design and color options are still intriguing to many fans – even after 11 years.

Look for a pair from aftermarket sellers.


9. Air Jordan XX9 PE worn by Russell Westbrook

There is simply no ranking of the most stylish kicks without the name Russell Westbrook. The unanimous MVP of the Playoff Podium Game and undoubtedly the most stylish athlete of the NBA is also part of the Jordan family. Westbrook was the face of the highly controversial 28th edition of the Air Jordan last year. The 29th edition, on the other hand, focuses more on colors and patterns. As a testament to his streetwear knowledge, Westbrook’s Player Exclusive actually sports the brand’s iconic elephant pattern.

Look for them beginning in September here.


8. Air Jordan X Chicago worn by Andray Blatche

By deciding to bring back previous versions of the Air Jordan, Jordan Brand made both athletes and fans very happy. Today, it’s not uncommon to see 10 – 15-year-old Jordans on the court. The Air Jordan X, worn by Brooklyn’s Andray Blatche, was actually the shoe that Michael Jordan wore during his first comeback season in 1995. Nearly 20 years later, it’s still one of the best looking shoes in the industry.

Side-note: Ray Allen (left), sporting the Air Jordan XX8 SE Red Camo during the Heat – Nets series deserves a mention as well.

Look for a pair from aftermarket sellers.


7. Nike Zoom Crusader PE worn by Paul George

Paul George’s career season not only made him an All Star, he also became a Nike ambassador. Having a knack for the Nike Kobe 8 last year, the Pacer now wears a Player Exclusive of the Zoom Crusader, a versatile shoe that pays tribute to Bryant’s line. The low-cut comes in multiple colors, including the coveted camouflage colorway.

Pick up a pair here.


6. Nike Zoom Soldier VII PE worn by LeBron James

LeBron’s shoe line is as eclectic as his game. James is known to switch sneakers between games, one of the many luxuries afforded to the NBA champion who releases multiple kicks during the course of a season. The Soldier VII PE is not only the King’s favorite, but others as well, such as the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan. The whole concept of the Soldier is to support the bigger and more powerful athletes and their game on the court. Naturally, the Soldier comes in many different colorways.

Pick up a pair here.


5. Air Jordan XVI PE worn by Joe Johnson

We already mentioned the resurgence of classic Air Jordans. As part of the Jordan brand, Brooklyn’s Joe Johnson brought a special version to the NBA Playoffs. The original Air Jordan XVI was worn by MJ during his tenure with the Wizards and is specially designed for shooting guards. This sleek black-and-white version is a Player Exclusive for the Nets star who’s currently playing at the top of his game. What makes this shoe so compelling? You probably won’t find it in any old store.

Look for a pair from aftermarket sellers.


4. adidas D Rose 4.5 worn by Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers signed a new contract with adidas just before the Playoffs and his strong performance in the first round. Shifting between multiple editions, Lillard felt the most comfortable in the D Rose 4.5. For the post-season, adidas released a Zebra and Giraffe edition that combine the design of the shoe with a unique skin-like pattern, illustrating the quickness of the players. The orange/black and silver/black color combinations look absolutely fabulous on the court.

Pick up a pair here.


3. Nike Air Zoom Flight The Glove

Fans have waited a long time for the return of The Glove. This shoe was the pinnacle of Gary Payton’s shoe line in 1996 when the former SuperSonic battled Jordan and the Bulls in the NBA Finals. A lot of derivations have tried to copy the great design of The Glove over the years until Nike finally decided to bring it back in four distinct colorways. The black and white version, worn by Danny Green is the original one from 1996.

Currently out of stock, you can pray for a restock here.


2. Nike LeBron 11 Graffiti worn by Manu Ginobili

We mentioned bulky LeBron James shoes. The 11th edition is definitely not one of them. Worn by San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili, the Nike LeBron 11 Graffiti was released shortly before the Playoffs and sports a beautiful and unique design. During the season we witnessed multiple team editions, the Graffiti, however, is the king of them all. It fits both big and smaller players while appropriating the aesthetics of street art. You would never believe how much technology is actually implemented into its streamlined design.

Currently out of stock, you can pray for a restock here.


1. Nike Kobe 9 EM Laser Crimson worn by Mo Williams

While Kobe Bryant is unable to perform in the Playoffs himself, the newest edition of his signature shoe stands above all. When Nike decided to go low with the Kobe several years back, people were concerned that the shoe wouldn’t give enough support for the ankles. Five years later, it’s been proven how obsolete the height of a basketball sneaker with respect to ankle support. The ninth edition came out as a super high-cut version, not unlike a boxing shoe. Knowing that fans would feel growing pains with the new design, the Kobe 9 is available as a high and low-cut version (as worn by Mo Williams). It is still one of the best looking shoes on the market and comes in several different color combinations.

Pick up a pair here.


Honorable Mention

Jay Z joined the “I bring my Jordans out” game with his pair of Air Jordan VI Infrareds during Brooklyn’s home game Monday night, perfectly cementing the crossover appeal of the legendary sneaker line.

Currently out of stock, you can pray for a restock here.


Written by Robert Jerzy for

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