Iconic NBA Finals Fashion

  • Michael Jordan
    Air Jordan 1

    Who: Michael Jordan

    When: April 20, 1986

    What: 63 points in the Air Jordan 1
    Michael Jordan announced his global arrival during Game 1 of Chicago’s first round series against Boston in 1986. Dropping 63 points in the Garden during an overtime loss, he did it all while wearing the Air Jordan 1. Afterward, Larry Bird professed no. 23 in red was actually God disguised as Michael Jordan.

    This masterpiece would’ve been the perfect marketing tool for the first sneaker… if the NBA hadn’t already provided that fuel by banning it the year before. As it stands, it’s probably the sole on-court highlight of the sneaker that started this whole thing.

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  • adidas Pro Model

    Who: Willis Reed

    When: May 8, 1970

    What: 4 points with a major thigh injury
    Rocking the adidas Pro Model during Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, Reed probably had no clue his 4-point performance would one day be the stuff of legends. But now whenever someone “pulls a Willis Reed” and shows up unannounced to a big game (a la David Lee), we can’t help but think back to this moment, and that walk through the tunnel, with the adidas sneakers on his feet.

    With a capacity crowd of 19,500 cheering him on inside the Garden, Reed provided just enough of an emotional lift to push New York over the Lakers. This one meant so much to Reed–who hadn’t won any championship at the professional level–that he was going to play no matter what, even if he had to crawl.

    “When it comes down to the seventh game of an NBA championship,” he once said, “there was no way that team was going on the court without me. If it meant the end of my basketball career, so be it.”

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  • Nike LeBron 9 PS Elite

    Who: LeBron James

    When: June 21, 2012

    What: his first NBA championship
    LeBron James’ first NBA title in 2012 was significant for a variety of reasons but none probably more so than because he’d spent so many years chasing one.

    “It’s about damn time,” the man of the moment said just after posing with both the Larry O’Brien trophy and the Finals MVP.

    While annihilating Kevin Durant and the Thunder with three back-to-back-to-back monster games in Miami, including one triple-double and another where he returned from cramps (sound familiar?) to secure a win, James wore a white, gold and black accented version of his Nike LeBron 9 PS Elite, an upgraded version of that year’s original signature sneaker. In just a few short years, it’s already become a major collector’s item, as every ring he wins increasing the worth of the first.

    You see how we gloat over the Jordan 6? Twenty years from now, you don’t want to be the man who doesn’t have LeBron’s first championship shoe.

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  • Air Jordan 11

    Who: Michael Jordan

    When: June 16, 1996

    What: championship on Father’s Day

    Ask any hardcore sneakerhead what their favorite Jordan is and you probably won’t often get the 11 as an answer. It’s not that it isn’t a revolutionary sneaker, in both design and status. It’s just that it’s become so popular that it has lost its edge. Some really do love other shoes more, but some of us just want to be different. If you ask a random fan about their favorite Jordan, more often than not, you’ll find them referencing the sneaker that put patent leather on the map.

    Jordan’s championship on Father’s Day plays a big part in that, as it completed a long odyssey back from baseball that saw him defeated and down before rising again.

    No one remembers that MJ played poorly in Game 6 (22 points, 6-for-19 shooting). They only remember the finish.

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  • Julius Erving
    Converse Pro Leather

    Who: Julius Erving

    When: May 16, 1980

    What: the best shot ever

    Julius Erving’s surgical procedures on the court were often borderline absurd. But this was just too much. The Sixers lost this series in six games to the Lakers, but the 29-year-old Dr. J put up 25.5 points per game, as well as the one of the best highlights you’ll ever see. Most players couldn’t even dream of making this shot. Unless you have Kawhi-sized hands, there’s no point in even trying.

    As one of the first players to put the Converse Pro Leather on the map, Erving was a trendsetter. He wore these shoes for his entire career, and always stuck to the hi-tops.

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  • Air Jordan 12

    Who: Michael Jordan

    When: June 11, 1997

    What: the Flu Game
    Everyone remembers what Jordan did that night, scoring 38 and bringing the Bulls back from a double-digit first half deficit in a must-win game on the road… all while battling severe flu symptoms.

    But everyone forgets about Scottie Pippen. He had 17 points, 10 boards, and the biggest assist of the game by helping to carry Jordan off the floor after Money’s dagger three-pointer broke a tie score in the last 30 seconds. That iconic image of Jordan huddled against Pippen’s chest shows up in every highlight video. The Red and Black Air Jordan 12s that Jordan wore that night will forever be associated/named for this game, but let’s not forget the Nike Air Pippen 1 that Batman’s Robin was wearing that night. One of the most stylish signature shoes of the late ‘90s, they were just as much a part of this as anything.

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  • Allen Iverson
    Reebok Answer IV

    Who: Allen Iverson

    When: June 6, 2001

    What: the Tyronn Lue step-over
    Back in 2001, Iverson wasn’t some washed-up former superstar. He was on magazine covers. He was the subject of television stories. He was the leader of a generational revolution. That year, he was everywhere and it’s no wonder the Answer IVs became, by far, the most talked about and revered sneakers among his decade-plus line with Reebok.

    The crowning moment of a season of crowning moments came in Game 1 of the Finals when he hit a shot over Tyronn Lue and then literally stepped over him right in front of the Lakers bench. It was typical Iverson: disrespectful, hot-headed, and yet we ate it up. That 48-point game was so good if often overshadows the rest of AI’s storied career.

    This is one of the most talked-about shots in the history of the league, and single-handily shaped the Answer 4s legacy.

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  • Michael Jordan
    Air Jordan 14

    Who: Michael Jordan

    When: June 14, 1998

    What: the Last Shot

    It was a perfect ending to the perfect career. Seriously, not even Hollywood could’ve made this finale any more cliché.

    In his final game as a Chicago Bull, Jordan broke out the Air Jordan 14s and gave us what should’ve been the capper to maybe the most dominant career in sports. That image of Jordan taking Bryon Russell off the dribble, then pushing off, then unleashing the game-winning jumper has to be the most recognizable shot in basketball history. The original 14s will forever be known as the Last Shots because of that moment.

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  • Michael Jordan
  • Julius Erving
  • Allen Iverson
  • Michael Jordan

You know you’ve watched too much basketball when you can recite–word for word–an announcer’s call from some game that happened 20 years ago. Inevitably, if you are that big of a fan, you start associating everything with that moment. You remember the game, where you were, the refs, pivotal plays, and even the sneakers. Over time, the basketball play becomes something more than that. It’s a piece of history, an iconic part of someone’s childhood.

The first time this happened for me was during the 1996 NBA Finals, watching Chicago beat the Sonics for their fourth title of the decade. I remember Michael Jordan breaking down in the team’s locker room, head in the corner, crying on the floor because he had won a title on Father’s Day in honor of his murdered dad, James. On his feet were the Playoff 11s.

Basketball sneakers matter, and some are launched to legendary status by what a player accomplishes in them. Today, we’re breaking down the most significant fashion and sneaker moments in NBA Finals history.

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