Which Sneaker Ruled the NBA Courts in 2018-19?
Much like the Championship-winning Toronto Raptors, the performance basketball market roared back into relevance in 2019. As expected, there was plenty of above-the-rim action from the players, but the big brands assured there were also plenty of highlights below the knees.
Team Swoosh continued to flex its heavyweight player roster, the Big Cat resharpened its claws, and New Balance entered the market riding high on Kawhi. Safe to say, in the constant hustle to dish up the perfect balance between performance and panache, the brands delivered some seriously clutch plays.
So, which sneaker ruled the NBA hardwood in season 2018–19? Here’s our top five.
5. Nike KD 12
Twelve signature sneakers in, Kevin Durant and Nike are still going as strong as ever. The Playoffs may not have gone to plan for the ‘Slim Reaper’, but the team at Beaverton fortunately didn’t miss a beat with the latest instalment from the KD line.
The design team reimagined construction norms by tweaking the ‘strobel’ – the thin woven textile between the sockliner and midsole that traditionally provides structure and support for the shape of the upper – into a dynamic performance driver. By replacing the traditional strobel with a full-length articulated Zoom bag stitched directly to the upper, the sneaker achieves responsiveness never-before-seen in Nike’s performance basketball lineup.
They pushed the boundaries with this one, and the progressive approach certainly earns the KD 12 a spot among the year’s best performance ballers.
4. Jordan Why Not Zer0.2
The Jordan Why Not Zer0.2 is arguably one of the most ambitious designs the Jumpman has ever released and, with Russ involved, we can’t say we’re too surprised. In typical Westbrook fashion, his latest signature sneaker combined nuclear athleticism with plutonic performance and aesthetics.
A two-piece Zoom sole and a quirky exposed midfoot plate don the sole unit, while the upper goes for a deconstructed look with exposed stitching, lofted midfoot strap, double-layered heel, and exterior TPU at the heel.
The sneaker goes hard, delivering a triple-double plus some. Good luck topping this one next season, Jordan Brand.
3. PUMA Clyde Court
PUMA’s re-emergence in the performance basketball market was keenly observed throughout 2018-19. People were asking whether the Big Cat would roar again, or would it all just amount to a ‘meow’?
Enter the Clyde Court Disrupt. While most modern performance silhouettes look to the future, PUMA’s first performance basketball sneaker in over 20 years paid homage to the past. A contemporary reinterpretation of an OG silhouette – NBA legend Walter ‘Clyde’ Frazier’s beloved signature sneaker – the Clyde Court is blessed with a sock-like upper and comes powered with IGNITE foam and NRGY beads for next-level cushioning and stability.
Emblazoned with the iconic Formstripe on its side, the Clyde Court may have established itself as a modern court classic in its debut season.
2. Nike Kyrie 5
The Kyrie 4 was one of Nike’s most versatile and comfortable signature sneakers ever, so a lot was expected from Uncle Drew’s follow-up.
The quirky aesthetic certainly wasn’t for everyone at first, but the Kyrie 5 has certainly managed to become a platform for diverse storytelling, as witnessed by the plethora of colourways we’ve already seen.
‘With the colourways, and the stories these relay, I’m trying to be more honest,’ says Kyrie. ‘Whether people pass judgment on the stories or not, it’s going to happen. The importance is making these relatable. And at times, I want to support others in sharing their stories.’
Leaving the design in the hands of the player has the potential for disaster (especially if they believe in flat Earth). However, Kyrie has exceeded all expectation with each and every remix. Whether it’s a tribute to his favourite sitcom, or an ode to his alma mater, the Kyrie 5 is the kind of signature every player should strive for.
1. New Balance OMN1S
Plenty were quick to throw shade at Kawhi Leonard after his high-profile move from Jordan Brand to New Balance. However, with another NBA Championship ring and Finals MVP title to his name, it looks like the Boston brand will be laughing all the way to the bank.
Kawhi’s defection to New Balance was one of sneaker stories of year, but much like ‘The Klaw’ himself, news surrounding his debut NB sneaker – the OMN1S – has been shrouded in mystery. We still don’t have an official launch date!
So far, New Balance have rolled out colourways in limited numbers, with pairs already fetching well over $1000 on the secondary market. And now, post Championship; we can’t imagine the OMN1S getting any easier to cop. Well played, New Balance. Well played.