It’s been a huge year for sneakers on the hardwood during the 2019-20 NBA season. The Jordan Brand inked deals with once in a generation talents Zion Williamson and Luka Dončić, PUMA signed livewire Kyle Kuzma and Slam Dunk Contest winner DerrickJones Jr, and New Balance managed to land the hottest sneaker free agent in the league: Kawhi Leonard. We also saw the arrival of Damian Lillard's baddest signature sneaker yet (the adidas Dame 6), the universe-expanding Nike Kyrie 6, a performance and lifestyle mashup as nasty as Kevin Durant’s crossover (the Nike KD 12), and LeBron James’ kingmaking LeBron 17.
These are our top five signature sneakers of the 2019–20 NBA season.
5. New Balance 'Kawhi'
The most unassuming killer in the game, Kawhi ‘Fun Guy’ Leonard embodies steez in the purest sense of the word: style with ease. Shocking the sneaker world back in 2019 when he signed with New Balance, the label was quick to cash-in, especially after Leonard produced the kind of Playoff performance that’d make His Airness blush. The Klaw continues to bling-out his trophy room, picking up the inaugural Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP award in Chicago, while wearing his maiden signature sneaker: the New Balance ‘Kawhi’.
Yes, the new kid in Los Angeles is already flexing his sneaker credentials.
With a slow pulse signifying Kawhi’s laid-back lethality, the ‘Kawhi’ is a mid-cut silhouette with a technical mesh base and heat-welded overlays. Featuring Keith Haring–esque embroidered patterns on the midfoot, it’s perhaps the icy rubber outsoles that transcend all the other design choices, the luminescent blue most likely corresponding to the icy bloody running through Kawhi’s veins.
4. Nike LeBron 17
Even when he’s balling for the Monstars (Mr Swackhammer, to be specific), LeBron James is still delivering some of the most supersonic colourways in the game. Flexing an Odyssean sneaker catalogue in his new home of Los Angeles, the Nike LeBron 17 is perhaps best epitomised by the kaleidoscopic ‘I Promise’ colourway, a mesmerising design providing financial support for the LeBron James Family Foundation. A silhouette with innumerable options, the LeBron 17 combines knit and heat-moulded yarns, and crowns the collars with a jagged line once again lionising King James. In Cleveland, Miami or La La Land, the sneaker king still sits on his throne.
3. Nike KD 12
While we’re still waiting for #easymoneysniper to return from his heart-breaking achilles injury, Nike nevertheless continue to roll out damn clean colourways of Kevin Durant’s Nike KD 12. Arguably the most aesthetically versatile design in Nike’s basketball catalogue, the KD 12 steps seamlessly from the hardwood to the street, with plenty of exclusive colourways to get excited about. Built with four-way directional Flywire cables and full-length Air cushioning, the KD 12 is a killer in comfort, combining Durant’s love of vintage tees and 90s nostalgia with a technical facelift for the future.
Our bet for MVP? The Nike KD 12 ‘Aunt Pearl’.
2. adidas Dame 6
The metronomic brilliance of Damian Lillard has translated well into his footwear of late. Dialling up the fabled ‘3:16’ for a Stone Cold Steve Austin colourway, Lillard also bolstered his fledgling hip hop career with a Pusha T colab, the design coming alongside a new track dubbed ‘Check the Scoreboard’ (our favourite lyrics? ‘No splash brothers, I slash brothers’). Ultra-light with layered textile uppers and a webbed lacing system, the Dame 6 is the best adidas sneaker in their signature line, channeling all the laid-back, ice-cold killer attitude of its creator.
1. Nike Kyrie 6
You don’t need an omniscient eye to see the tour de force that is the Nike Kyrie 6. Combining conceptual mastery with aesthetic grace, the Nike Kyrie 6 silhouette casts a shadow across basketball sneakers in 2020, Ben Nethongkome’s design seeing some of the highest rotation in the NBA.
Like the mercurial point guard himself, the Kyrie 6 colourways exist in another dimension entirely. Launching in 11 city-inspired colourways for its worldwide debut, the Kyrie 6 uncovered yet more gold in ancient Egypt with the Concepts colab. Taking cues from Kanye West’s mythological Nike era, and the eye-watering re-emergence of Nike’s SB division, Kyrie Irving’s sixth signature shoe is designed specifically for his explosive, unpredictable first step.
Ice in the veins and rainbows on the feet, Kyrie Irving continues to take storytelling to new, radical heights with his signature line (whether he’s on the court or not).