Where would we be without a little controversy? The sneaker industry was embroiled in scandal this year, with backdooring allegations, cheap knockoffs and dodgy credit cards filling more courtrooms than the Roy family. So lawyer-up and take to the stand: these are the most controversial sneaker moments of 2021!
Blood is the New Drip: Lil Nas x Air Max 97 ‘Satan Shoes’
The Internet had a complete meltdown when Lil Nas X gave birth to the diabolical Air Max 97 ‘Satan Shoes’. A collaboration with the Brooklyn-based team MSCHF (and unofficial collaboration with Nike), the Georgia rapper injected real human blood into the Air Max unit, leading to an outcry in America’s more conservative circles.
Affixed with pentagram-shaped charm and a quote from Luke 10:18 (a biblical passage that reads: ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven’), the fiendish release was quick to draw ire of Nike HQ.
Nike sued MSCHF in a U.S. District Court over the shoes, alleging that MSCHF’s ‘unauthorized “Satan Shoes” are likely to cause confusion and dilution and create an erroneous association between MSCHF’s products and Nike.’ Regardless of the commotion, the limited 666 units sold out instantly.
Joe Hebert Hoards Limited Sneakers (on His Mum’s Amex)
Imagine using your mum’s credit card as a veteran Nike executive to slap $132,000 on limited sneakers so you can flip them for a $20,000 profit.
Joe Hebert (AKA West Coast Joe) the founder of West Coast Streetwear resale company, found himself in hot, hot water when it was reported that he was using his mum’s American Express corporate card to capitalise on thousands and thousands of dollars worth of sneakers.
The spending spree cost his mother, Ann Hebert, her job at Nike, and was forced to resign as vice president and general manager of Nike North America. She had been working with the brand for 25 years.
The Backdoor is Allegedly Left Wide Open at Trophy Room
It’s hard to forge your own flight path when your dad’s the GOAT. Still, backdooring your own Air Jordans is a sure-fire way to hit the mountain. In February, Marcus Jordan was reportedly selling his Trophy Room x Air Jordan 1 weeks before the release for a hiked price, essentially reselling his own sneakers.
Limited to around 12,000 pairs, Jordan sold the pairs for between $850 and $1200. When the colab did the rounds on social media early, he blamed thieves at the Nike distribution centre (a classic knee-jerk response to the allegations) – only further adding to the affront for sneakerheads desperate for a chance at the Jordans.
Let’s hope 2022 makes things a little more democratic for us!
Kanye West Sues Walmart Over Fake Foam Runner
The year wouldn’t be complete without a few high profile lawsuits involving Kanye West. Despite being on the receiving end of multiple litigations (regarding Yeezy shipment delays and a reported $30 million in damages for Sunday Service practices), West lawyered-up to take on Walmart and their knockoff Foam Runners.
Priced at $20-$30, the nearly one-for-one reproduction allegedly cost the Yeezy brand ‘hundreds of millions of dollars,’ and were ‘virtually indistinguishable’ from the original. Having seen the photos, it’s hard to argue otherwise. Sometimes, imitation doesn’t involve flattery!
Responding to the claim, Walmart distanced themselves from the product, saying the knockoffs were sold ‘by third party Marketplace sellers.’
Kyrie Irving Labels His Own Shoes ‘Trash’
Well, that’s certainly one way to put it. Embattled baller Kyrie Irving raised eyebrows this year when he referred to his own Nike x Kyrie 8 as ‘trash’, saying that he had no hand in the design process or outcome of his seventh signature sneaker.
One of the more popular signature lines in the NBA, the social media comments were one of the more shocking statements from Kyrie, the mercurial Brooklyn Net dominating headlines this year for his stance on the vaccine.
Still, Nike went ahead with the release, although it’s unclear what the future of the sneaker deal will look like (Irving is yet to take to the court after being sidelined by Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks).
Big Baller Brand Launch ‘Luxury’ Sneakers
The Big Baller Brand certainly no strangers to controversy. Rattling the cage once again in October, LaVar Ball enthusiastically launched the four sneakers ‘designed and inspired by LiAngelo Ball.’ Priced between $695 and $895, the insane price tag certainly comes as no surprise, the much-maligned ZO2s originally hitting the market in 2017 for $495.
Need a recap on the ‘Kardashian’s of the NBA’? Make sure to check out our extensive feature charting the rise and fall of the Big Baller Brand.