ESPN is back! Multichoice made the announcement yesterday that the home of American sports will have two 24-hour channels made available on DStv’s bouquet from the 29th July, and the basketball-loving community of SA couldn’t be happier. NFL, MLB, and NHL games all have their place on the network but the Cullinan diamond in the Crown Jewels of ESPN coverage is that of the NBA.
The NBA was one of the first sports leagues in the world to suspend the season as COVID-19 infections rose, but play will begin again as the season resumes in “The Bubble”. After 34 players and team personnel tested positive, the league needed a comprehensive plan to ensure the safety of all roleplayers as the season resumed. The NBA Board of Governors approved a restart program and an isolation zone with strict rules around movement, testing, and play at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Florida, fondly known as The Bubble.
The restart program includes 22 teams playing 8 regular-season games before the standard post-season format begins. But beyond the on-court news and excitement of the season, there’s interest around some of the off-court goings-on for the players in confinement. One of those is PJ Tucker’s haul of over 80 pairs of sneakers to The Bubble with him because he was unsure of the protocols around receiving packages and “Everything needs to come [on] Day One.” One of the league’s most prolific sneakerheads, he spent nearly $200,000 on exclusive sneakers last season and wanted to make sure that he had all he needed for the possible three-month stay at the complex.
Apart from Tucker’s haul, we anticipate that there’ll be a lot to look out for on the sneaker front as players debut their signature shoes over the next three months. There will also be a few exclusive models released, and what better way to do so than with all eyes on their feet for the season restart. Before the games begin at 3 AM SAST on Friday the 31st, we’d like to take you through some of the sneakers to look out for as the NBA gets back underway.
Kobe Bryant died earlier this year in a helicopter crash and the league mourned the loss of one of the greatest players the sport has ever seen. In paying tribute to him many players have laced up his signature shoe on court since that day. DeMar DeRozan is one of the players who exclusively wear Kobes while playing, having done so since 2009 when playing his first regular-season game of the NBA in black and white Kobe 4s. DeMar debuted the Kobe 5 Protro in the “Big Stage” colourway a few days after Kobe’s death and it’s rumoured to be released sometime in August. With Kobe’s birthday on the 23rd August and Kobe Bryant Day falling the day after (a tribute to his jersey numbers 8 and 24), both the NBA and Nike have something special for the first commemoration of the day since his death.
The “Big Stage” isn’t the only colourway that the Kobe 5 Protro has come in, Anthony Davis has been spotted at The Bubble in a player exclusive; a Laker-friendly white, light grey, purple, and a soft yellow colourway. He’s also donned another “Laker” colourway at All Star Weekend that we might spot again at Disney World.
Rookie Zion Williamson has a new Air Jordan 34 Player Exclusive colourway coming up. It’s believed to be designed by his younger brother Noah. With colourful scribblings all over the shoe, it has “To Zion” printed on one of the insoles and “Love Noah” printed on the other. It will be bundled with a colouring book and a picture of the two brothers, and released on the day of the season restart. It’s not exacly the best Jordan 34 design we’ve seen but it certainly has a poignant backstory.
In his 17th year in the NBA Lebron James’ Lebron 17 is being released today in new colourways. He’s been wearing the shoe all season in other subdued colourways but the graffiti design debuted today. The shoe, “inspired by the rhythm, art, and culture of New York City’s streets”, will likely be one of those that we spot throughout the rest of the season as well.
Epitomising his on-court confidence, Russell Westbrook’s signature shoe with Jordan is called “Why Not?” In its third iteration, the Zer0.3 will release on September 17 in three new colourways; Flash Crimson, Atomic Orange, and Primary Colours. The Primary Colours design has each colour on the shoe representing a professional team that he’s played for. The green and yellow accents are a nod to his Seattle Supersonics draft, the blue and orange hues are for his long run with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the red and black are for his season with the Houston Rockets.