Sneaker free agency is one of the best moments during the NBA season. Though it’s an awkward period where a player is looking to find the right fit with a shoe brand, it inspires creativity. Players opt for rare shoes, eschewing the same current models that everyone else is wearing. Sneaker free agency has led to Gilbert Arenas wearing Dolce & Gabbana shoes. Kobe Bryant spent the 2002-2003 season as a sneaker free agent in various Jordans.
Soon, there will be other players added to the list. Draymond Green and Karl-Anthony Towns have shoe deals expiring soon. John Wall might be joining this list next year when he returns from injury. Here’s a look at what the top sneaker free agents are wearing.
Notable Shoes Worn: Nike Zoom Kobe 4 Protro “Fade to Black,” Under Armour Curry 7 “Sour Patch Kids,” Nike Kyrie 6 Preheat Collection “Miami,” Nike PG3 “Lure”
Before the start of this season, Luka Doncic’s two-year deal with Nike expired, making the bonafide superstar a sneaker free agent. Doncic still has spent much of his time in the checkmark, wearing the Nike Kyrie, Kobe and PG models. He did pull a major surprise this week, wearing the Under Armour Curry 7 “Sour Patch Kids” colorway against the San Antonio Spurs. It was Doncic’s first time in a non-Nike shoe.
Averaging 29.9 points, 10.6 rebounds and 9.4 assists, Doncic is likely headed to his first All-Star appearance. After Zion Williamson signed a five-year, $75 million deal with the Jordan Brand, Doncic will surely command a hefty sum for his services.
Prediction: Though he donned Under Armour recently, Doncic is a Nike guy all the way. The only hold up will be if Doncic is looking for a deal that includes an eventual signature shoe. Nike already has five active players as signature athletes. Would they welcome a sixth? Doncic’s meteoric rise to superstar status and the MVP race will lead to a massive shoe deal coming soon.
Notable Shoes Worn: Nike LeBron 3 “Fairfax,” Travis Scott x Air Jordan 6 “Cactus Jack,” Air Jordan CP3.XII PE “Cracker Barrel,” OFF-WHITE x Nike Air Max 90
The NBA’s resident sneaker god is up for sneaker free agency and is expected to garner massive interest from shoe brands. Though he is a role player, Tucker has built his profile as the top shoe collector in the association. The rarer the grail, the more likely you will see Tucker rocking it on the court. In 15 games this season, Tucker has already brought out exclusives, including two different Travis Scott collabs with Jordan, a couple of early year LeBrons and a pair of Jordan CP3s designed for Tucker by Chris Paul himself.
Prediction: It seems as if Tucker is on the path to sign a six-figure deal with Nike. Expect him to re-up with the brand. Since he already sticks to Jordan and Nike on the court, don’t expect much to change.
Notable Shoes Worn: Undefeated x Nike Zoom Kobe 4 Protro, Nike Zoom Kobe 4 Protro “Fade To Black”
Lonzo Ball is looking to reinvigorate his career with a new team. Entering his third season, Ball is trying to establish himself as one of the top point guards in the NBA. Ball is coming off of the shocking dissolution of his partnership with Big Baller Brand cofounder Alan Foster earlier this year. With BBB a thing of the past, Ball is in an intriguing spot with potential shoe deals looming. Let’s just hope he can have a shoe that doesn’t explode after a quarter.
Prediction: Though his dad Lavar Ball protests that his sons will never sign with Nike, the tale of the tape is in the swoosh’s favor. Lonzo Ball has worn Nike Zoom Kobe 4 Protros in every game he’s played this season and it doesn’t look like he will be changing anytime soon.
Notable Shoes Worn: Li-Ning Way of Wade All City 8 PE
After his contract with Nike expired, Russell had the profile to sign with any shoe brand he wanted to. An All-Star appearance and a brief playoff run with the Brooklyn Nets last season aided Russell in building his brand.
Now a Golden State Warrior, Russell has been decked out in Chinese brand Li-Ning exclusively during this season. Wearing multiple colorways of the Way of Wade All City 8 PE, Russell could become the athlete to take the Dwyane Wade shoe line into the future of basketball with Wade recently retired from the NBA.
Prediction: It’s nearing 100 percent that Russell is signing with Li-Ning and the Way of Wade brand. The tea leaves are there. Russell has worn Li-Ning exclusively this season amid the recent reports that Russell and Li-Ning are closing in on a deal. (Note: After this was written, Russell signed a deal with Way of Wade).
Notable Shoes Worn: Air Jordan 1 Gatorade “Orange Peel,” Jordan 10 Custom “Proud Family,” BBC ICECREAM x Reebok Answer V, adidas Crazylight Boost 2.5 “James Harden All-Star PE”
If any player comes close to P.J. Tucker in the NBA sneaker game, it’s Montrezl Harrell. The Clippers center has developed a unique flair on the court. Known for his custom shoe designs and variety of kicks, Harrell originally signed a deal with AND1 this summer, but quietly revealed that the partnership mysteriously ended. Back to his previous sneaker showcases, Harrell has already rocked adidas, Reebok, Nike, Jordan, AND1 and Li-Ning 15 games into the season.
Prediction: Sneaker free agency is the path that Harrell sticks with. He’s one of the few players who embraces the custom shoe design on a regular basis. Also, no other player switches shoe brands more in-game. Freedom and style might cause Harrell to ditch a shoe deal until the right offer arrives.