The 10 Best NBA Players Without Signature Sneakers

  • Paul George
    10. Paul George

    If you can recall back to the fall, there was talk of PG being a viable MVP candidate and the best two-way player in the league. He fell off hard during the season’s second half, just as the Pacers did, and yet still made First Team All-Defense while also averaging nearly 22 points per game.

    A well-known sneakerhead who routinely styles on Instagram, George never sticks with one sneaker for long. Recently, we’ve seen him in the Zoom Crusader, the Hyperdunk–he will apparently be one of Nike’s leading men for the new Hyperdunk 2014–and an assortment of iD Kobes. But it doesn’t stop there. George often flourishes in social media with everything from Foams to Jordans, and has a real grasp of the sneaker culture.

    George’s deal with Nike reportedly expired this summer, but it appears he’s back with the Swoosh after Nike featured him in the new Hyperdunk reveal.

    At the same time, how much do you give him when you already have LeBron and Durant? A smaller fit might be more ideal for George if he wants the spotlight to himself. He is barely 24 years old, and still has a lot of room to grow as a player. In the end, however, knowing his love of Nike, the match makes sense. With his status just now hitting the mainstream, check back on him in a year or two.

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  • Kyrie Irving
    9. Kyrie Irving

    There’s no question Kyrie has what it takes to sell a sneaker. He is one of the league’s most exciting players, consistently turning out highlight reels and blowing up the NBA’s YouTube page—remember, he’s doing it all in Cleveland too. He’s a smaller player who is soft-spoken and well mannered. People can relate to him.

    He has a clutch gene, as well. Who can forget his abuse of Russell Westbrook and the OKC Thunder in February of 2013? Or his Batman-esque performance in MSG a few months prior?

    His Uncle Drew persona became of the league’s greatest marketing campaigns ever. And lastly, he has a name. It all seems to fit. The only thing Irving has to do now is win… and find a sneaker home.

    Kyrie has already been the leading pitchman for two Nike sneakers, the Hyperdunk and last year’s HyperRev. He got the cover of SLAM’s annual Kicks issue in 2012. But he is a sneaker free agent this summer, and leaving the big nest to become the largest fish in a smaller pond (like Stephen Curry) could appeal to him. However, what happens with Nike when Kobe retires? Cleveland’s best player since LeBron could conceivably step into that spot, and, to keep him around, there have been rumors of an Irving signature sneaker.

    Cleveland will reportedly offer their All-Star point guard a max extension this summer. With a potential No. 1 pick also on the way later this month, the Cavs could finally make a deep run in the playoffs. If that happens, Irving’s star will rise again and I wouldn’t be surprised if a signature sneaker came with it.

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  • Dirk Nowitzki
    8. Dirk Nowitzki

    The oldest player on this list and the one who has virtually no chance of getting a signature shoe before he rides off into the sunset, Dirk still deserves some credit for his longevity. He’s been with Nike forever, and is on the cusp of entering into the top six in career points. After he nearly threw up another 50/40/90 season this year, while averaging his most points since 2011, it’s obvious the German still has a lot left in the tank.

    Nike knows what it has in Dirk. He’s a loveable character that fans learned to respect over the years. He’s great in commercials, like last year’s “Kevin Durant Investigates” ad from Foot Locker. When he finally won a title with Dallas in 2011, Nike rewarded him with a custom Air Force 1 Bespoke to celebrate. Even though he’ll never get his own signature shoe, it’s fun to dream.

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  • LaMarcus Aldridge
    7. LaMarcus Aldridge

    As good a player as LMA is, he has a long way to go if he wants to garner a signature sneaker. Aldridge came into his own within the past year, driving Portland to the second round of the playoffs… but being a consistent machine on the court only gets you so far here. Only hardcore basketball fans know much about him, and while that’s a good thing for Aldridge’s sanity, it’s probably not great from a sneaker perspective.

    L-Smooth consistently gets dope Air Max Hyperposite PEs from the Swoosh, and takes advantage of Portland Chicago-esque colors. Overall, at this moment, he’s possibly a better player than his point guard. But there’s no question Damian Lillard is much closer to landing his own signature shoe. Sometimes these things just aren’t fair. For now, let’s just hope Nike keeps lacing Aldridge with dope PEs.

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  • Damian Lillard
    6. Damian Lillard

    It’s only a matter of time, right?

    Lillard helped keep the D Rose line alive when Rose went down with his first knee injury, and then last year, Dame received PE versions of a variety of different sneakers, including Kobe’s old Crazy 1 and the classic Crazy 8. This spring, adidas rewarded the NBA’s most clutch player with a gigantic eight-year sneaker deal.

    With Rose still struggling to stay on the court, and with Dwight Howard fading somewhat from the sneaker spotlight, Portland’s favorite son is the obvious choice to fill the void for adidas. It’s going to be a boon, too. Not only is Lillard a great player in a ravenous basketball city, but he has personality, he has charisma (check his #4BarFridays on Twitter), and he’s not afraid of anything. That attitude is what’s going to sell his sneakers and I think Dame has as good a shot as anyone on this list of getting his own signature shoe very soon.

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  • Anthony Davis
    5. Anthony Davis

    Davis signed with Nike out of college and since then, he’s been busy rocking a number of great Hyperposite Max PEs. The Phatman, which is one of the league’s very best/ironic nicknames, had a standout New Orleans PE this February during All-Star Weekend. He is a big man, which always makes things difficult when predicting a player’s potential as a sneaker pitchman. But there are a few things working in his favor.

    First, he has the pedigree, with a following from his time at Kentucky, and has already stared in not one, but two hilarious commercials with Foot Locker. Second, he has a unique game, long-armed and limber, and playing high above the rim on both floors. And finally, we can’t overlook the Brow, which is right up there with Harden’s beard among the most recognizable facial features in the league. If Li-Ning can incorporate Baron Davis’ beard into a dope sneaker—believe me, they were dope—than Nike should be able to do the same in some way with Anthony Davis.

    But what I’m most excited to see is what happens when Davis becomes the league’s third-best player. I’m all in on the AD bandwagon and I think he could make that leap as soon as this spring. If that happens, how do you not throw some love his way if you’re Nike? He’s not the typical sneaker salesman, but with his game and that brow, there must be some potential here.

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  • Blake Griffin
    4. Blake Griffin

    The man behind the Jordan Super.Fly 2, Griffin took his game to new heights this season, averaging career highs in points (24.1), free throw shooting (nearly 72 percent), and assists (3.9). The Clippers had one of the best seasons in franchise history. So what’s next for Griffin, outside of finally getting over the hump with Chris Paul and pushing the Clips to the Finals? Earning his own signature sneaker.

    Griffin is the funniest player in the world. I say that with no ifs, ands or buts. It’s not an opinion. It’s a fact. Between his work with Foot Locker to his Kia Optima ads, no one does dry wit like BG. It’s earned him a legion of haters, all of them still arguing he’s overrated and that all he can do is dunk (which has never been true). But sometimes, in this world at least, that’s a good thing. People care about Griffin. He’s a magnet, whether it’s for his incredible dunks or his bricked free throws or his Dr. Drain moments.

    Last summer, JB modeled the Super.Fly 2 after Griffin’s explosiveness, and the L.A. forward spent most of the season rocking the sneaker. If any big man has the potential to drive the sneaker market in the future, it’s this guy. I suspect he’ll get his chance eventually.

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  • Stephen Curry
    3. Stephen Curry

    Under Armour’s leading man is actually working toward getting his own logo and sneaker as we speak, so maybe it’s not entirely right to have him on this list. With that being said, he played all of last year in UA’s Anatomix Spawn, hitting the hardwood with a variety of slick colorways throughout the year.

    Curry says he was impressed from the start with UA, signing with them last fall after finishing up his contract with Nike. Even if he didn’t know anything about Under Armour, he knew they had experience with guards, working with names like Kemba Walker and Brandon Jennings. Curry, as the squad’s best player, is taking UA to places they’ve never been before with basketball.

    Curry’s star is rising quickly. This year, he was one of four players with at least one million All-Star votes. In 2013, he received only 170,000. And in the span of eight months, his jersey jumped all the way to no. 6 on the league’s best-sellers list, according to BusinessWeek. Under Armour hopes that rise continues now that they’ve locked him into a five-year deal. Next up: a logo and sig sneaker. It will be interesting to see how the fans respond to that.

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  • James Harden
    2. James Harden

    With images floating around the Internet of Harden in a potential “unofficial” signature sneaker this summer, it’s not hard to imagine the Beard going one step further in the future and getting his own shoe.

    Harden is one of the game’s top 10 players and has usurped the two-guard throne from a mending Kobe Bryant and an ailing Dwyane Wade. He regularly kills the commercials he’s on. (Remember the Foot Locker song? That was an instant classic.) He plays in a big city for an up-and-coming team, and he has the game that typically translates into sneaker sales. With the Beard also being one of the five most fashionable players in the league, he’s a deserving candidate. No question.

    Harden spent most of last season balling in his favored Nike Zoom Crusader and the Zoom Run The One, the shoe many are speculating will be his own next year, is very similar.

    Harden still has work to do about his on-court reputation—I don’t think anyone expelled less energy on defense than he did last year—but as far as his kick game goes, most of the heavy lifting is behind him.

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  • Russell Westbrook
    1. Russell Westbrook

    Westbrook is the NBA’s fashion icon. He puts himself out there more than Harden. He’s more confident and more willing to try something new than Kevin Durant. He’s more versatile than Rajon Rondo. And he doesn’t swing and miss as often as Dwyane Wade.

    After a postseason that saw him morph into a new age Oscar Robertson, it’s obvious Westbrook’s knee injuries are behind him. Against Memphis he almost averaged a triple-double. Versus the Clippers, he shot 49 percent while averaging nearly 28 points and nine assists on CP3. Then in Game 4 against the Spurs, he matched MJ, going for 40 points, 10 assists, five rebounds, and five steals. Physically, with Derrick Rose still not 100 percent, Westbrook is the most destructive guard in the league and has a growing fanbase willing to overlook his flaws.

    The Jordan Brand made Westbrook the leading man for the Air Jordan XX8 last year. It was a perfect match, as the shoe was the closest thing you’ll see to high fashion in the NBA. Then, this season, Westbrook was the first player to debut the XX9, featuring an all-woven upper, a first for a basketball shoe. I think it’s safe to say the Jumpman understands what it has in Russ West.

    While his style is nothing like Jordan’s smooth, flavored look, Westbrook is every bit the ferocious competitor Money was. This is a perfect match, and JB should take advantage of Westbrook’s interesting talents by giving him something unique.

    Don’t hate on the brodie.

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  • Paul George
  • Kyrie Irving
  • Dirk Nowitzki
  • LaMarcus Aldridge
  • Damian Lillard
  • Anthony Davis
  • Blake Griffin
  • Stephen Curry
  • James Harden
  • Russell Westbrook

Not everyone can be LeBron James. Not everyone can sell $300 million worth of signature sneakers. But can they be Kevin Durant instead?

After just $35 million in signature shoe sales in 2012, Durant’s Nike KD sneakers jumped to $175 million in 2013, according to Forbes. With another spectacular season under his belt, one that included his first league MVP, it’s safe to say they’ll probably soar higher in 2014.

Durant must be the model for today’s aspiring young players. He’s probably not a global icon–at least not yet. He doesn’t necessarily have a superstar personality. He’s not a high-flying aerial artist or someone who consistently drops mixtape-like moves in a game. He’s just a great basketball player with a down-to-Earth personality. Fans adore him. Players respect him. Everyone recognizes him.

While Nike still eats the majority of the sneaker pie, its smaller brethren are making headway. Everyone from Under Armour to Li-Ning wants a piece, and this’ll lead to more opportunities for players outside of the ‘Bron/KD/Kobe trifecta.

With an older generation on its last legs it’s time for new blood to step forward and take the baton. Here are 10 of the league’s best players that don’t yet have signature sneakers.