A Recent Sneaker History of the Men’s NCAA Championship Game

  • Converse Pro Leather Michael Jordan 1982 National Championship
    Michael Jordan, 1982

    WHAT HE WORE: CONVERSE PRO LEATHER

    Before building an empire with Nike and creating the Jordan Brand, MJ balled in Converse. With the game on the line in the 1982 championship game against Georgetown, the legacy of MJ begun with a midrange game-winning shot that will always be framed in history.

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  • Nike Air Force Max
    Chris Webber, 1993

    WHAT HE WORE: NIKE AIR FORCE MAX

    Not only did the Fab Five cement their legacy by becoming one of the most talented groups of freshmen to hit the college basketball landscape, they made an impact by being style icons during their time in college. They revolutionized sneakers in college basketball and — like how Peter Walsh described in our piece on the sneakers that defined this team — before Instagram and Twitter, kids turned into Michigan games to see what they should be copping next. Which couldn’t be more true. The squad laced up the Nike Huarache and the Nike Air Uptempo but it was Chris Webber, while wearing a pair of Nike Air Force Maxes in the title game, who will always have his place in national title history due to his famous timeout call.

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  • Nike Air Unlimited Duke Grant Hill
    Grant Hill, 1994

    WHAT HE WORE: NIKE AIR UNLIMITED

    Grant Hill brought style and grace to Duke basketball. Before him, the team really did not have that much “swag” on the court. But it was Hill who helped turn the Blue Devils into one of the most storied programs in college basketball history. He went on to become one of the most marketable players on the next level but not before donning a pair of the Nike Air Unlimited in his final college basketball game against Arkansas in the 1994 title game.

     

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  • Nike Air Foamposite One Mike Bibby
    Mike Bibby, 1997

    WHAT HE WORE: NIKE AIR FOAMPOSITE

    Let’s take it back to 1997 with one of the most defining years in college sneaker history. While the game was a matchup of two great teams (Arizona and Kansas) that really defined college basketball in the ’90s, it was really a transcending year for those who love sneakers. The reason is because Mike Bibby debuted the Nike Air Foamposite One to the world. The sneakers were never before seen and Bibby wore them before the shoe’s own signature athlete, Penny Hardaway. Bibby donned them throughout the tourney and into the title game where the Wildcats were victorious. Fast forward 18 years later and the Foamposite is still one of the most sought-out sneakers today.

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  • Air Jordan 14
    Richard Hamilton, 1999

    WHAT HE WORE: AIR JORDAN XIV

    Richard Hamilton helped UConn become one of the most prominent teams after winning the school’s first national championship back in 1999. Hamilton was impressive, hitting some big shots that led the team over Duke as he wore a pair of the Air Jordan XIV. His choice of kicks worked as he became a signature Jumpman endorser over the course of his career in the NBA.

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  • Reebok Question

    Reebok Classic

    Mateen Cleaves, 2000

    WHAT HE WORE: REEBOK QUESTION

    In 2000, Michigan State went on a great run in the NCAA Tournament to defeat the Florida Gators in the national title game. On a team with future pros such like Jason Richardson and Morris Peterson, it was Mateen Cleaves who stole the show. Cleaves and the Spartans made an impact by wearing a white and forest green colorway of the Reebok Question. And in some great news for fans of Allen Iverson‘s first signature kicks, the Reebok Question Mid “Michigan State” was released again this past Friday.

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  • Air Jordan 10
    Raymond Felton, 2005

    WHAT HE WORE: AIR JORDAN X “UNC”

    This wasn’t the first time a player from UNC donned a pair of UNC-inspired Jordan Xs. Jerry Stackhouse rocked them during his time at UNC. But Felton payed homage to MJ and wore them in the title game against Deron Williams and Illinois.

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  • Derrick Rose x adidas TS Pro Model
    Derrick Rose, 2008

    WHAT HE WORE: ADIDAS TO PRO MODEL

    This adidas TS Pro Model was designed exclusively for the Memphis Tigers during their tourney run back in ’08. D-Rose wore them as the Calipari-coached squad reached the championship game where they met Kansas and of course…Mario Chalmers. But it was the start of a relationship between Rose and adidas in which they made him one of the richest endorsers in their company’s history a few years later.

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  • Anthony Davis, 2012

    WHAT HE WORE: AIR JORDAN X

    Lately, Kentucky has been running the sneaker game in college basketball. Anthony Davis was without a doubt a beast in his only year in college and he also laced up a pair of the Jordan X in the title game against Kansas.

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  • Air Jordan 11
    Aaron Harrison, 2014

    WHAT HE WORE: Air Jordan XI “Gamma”

    Keeping up with UK’s dominance in the kicks department, Aaron Harrison wore a pair of the Air Jordan XI “Gamma” in the championship last year versus UConn. When MJ wore the XIs in the ‘95 playoffs, the sneakers became an instant classic. The Gammas follow suit in continuing the iconic tradition.

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  • Converse Pro Leather Michael Jordan 1982 National Championship
  • Nike Air Force Max
  • Nike Air Unlimited Duke Grant Hill
  • Nike Air Foamposite One Mike Bibby
  • Air Jordan 14
  • Reebok Question "Michigan State" Mateen Cleaves
  • Air Jordan 10 "UNC" Raymond Felton
  • Derrick Rose x adidas TS Pro Model
  • Air Jordan 11

The NCAA Championship is one of the best sporting events of the year. Everything that leads up to the game — from the upsets of top seeds to Twitter going off to, in the end, watching the one shining moment montage — is what makes the game very special. Whether you’re someone who’s supposed to be there, like this year’s Kentucky team, or a Cinderella as Butler was a few years ago, the game is all about cementing legacies into college basketball history. And while some have done it by hitting clutch shots, some others have done it by rocking some of the best gear, sneakers and stylish choices that people still remember to this day.

Sneakers are one of the most popular essentials in the world right now and college basketball teams have always rocked some great signature player exclusives. But when it comes to the title game, players go all out.

With the help of social media, the demand for sneakers have never been higher. And what makes people jealous of these athletes half the time is not just their God-given talent but the sneakers they receive. Depending on a brand’s relationship with a school, some players are lucky enough to get some exclusive pairs of customized sneakers that probably will never see the light of day in retail.

There has been some serious heat worn during the title game over the years. With all of the marbles going down tomorrow night, here is a Sneaker History of the Men’s NCAA Championship Game.

Follow Jarrel on Twitter at @_JarrelHarris

image via Ronald Martinez/Getty Images