It takes a lot to get a signature sneaker. First of all, you’ve gotta be able to really hoop. Your game has to be able to inspire others to pick up a ball and lace up a pair. You’ve gotta have a style that can transcend the basketball court and have people talking about you across the nation. Then you need to have a voice. You need to have a platform for people to listen to you. You have to know what you’re talking about, whether it’s your story or the technology in your sneaker.
Take all of those factors, roll them into one and you have a chance at being a successful signature sneaker athlete. With those in mind, these three guys have the best shot of getting their own silhouette.
Devin Booker, Nike
Forget the fact that Devin Booker scored 70 points in a single game–OK, maybe don’t forget that because, damn. But even if that didn’t happen, Booker’s game has firmly put him in the upper echelon of the League. At just 20 years old, Booker’s jumpshot is pure as snow and he can drain it off the dribble or off the catch. He’s already developed into a capable pick-and-roll ballhandler, he has bounce, he’s automatic from the foul line and he can finish through contact. He’s nearly a complete offensive player and his scoring average jumped from 13.8 in his rookie campaign to 22.1 in his sophomore season. That’s buckets.
He wore Kobes for his first year in the League (and already has the Mamba stamp of approval), but switched between Nike Zoom Rev and Nike Hyperdunk PEs in ’16-’17. The Swoosh doesn’t just hand out PEs, either. Only a select few players have their names or logos etched onto their Nikes.
Booker has the built-in advantage of being a former Wildcat. Kentucky’s a Nike school and between his BBN fans and the fans that know him as a lethal shooting guard, Booker’s voice has reach. What kid doesn’t want to have Booker’s smooth jumpshot and his competitive fire? The young gunner’s shown a preference towards low-cut silhouettes, which can easily be worn either on the street or the court. That’s the kind of translation a signature sneaker needs. As Booker continues to get better, he’ll likely be hooping in the D. Book 1 someday soon.
Brandon Ingram, adidas
A rookie with PEs? That’s rare. Throw in being a franchise cornerstone for the Los Angeles Lakers, and now you’re cooking with gas.
When Brandon Ingram laced up his adidas Crazylights and later his Crazy Explosive Lows in front of the star-studded crowds at Staples Center, his initials and number were stitched into the tongues of each colorway. The black and purple joints, the yellow and purple version, the white and yellow ‘way all featured ‘B.I.’ and ’14.’ He’s got a head-start on most of the sneaker world. In rare cases (see above), second year players will get their own logos, but for the majority of the League, it takes years to have your name on a sneaker.
Adidas, with their eyes on furthering their athletes and making sneakers that perform and break necks, has put Ingram front and center. He was routinely spotted in rare pairs, rocking the Pharrell NMDs and Yeezys. And when he was wearing his on-court silhouettes, he was playing well.
After the All-Star break Ingram increased his scoring average to 13.2 points. He showed flashes of the potential that he could one day bring to a title contender, with his ability to set up his teammates and run the offense.
His game can get noisy, but Ingram’s a quiet, loyal kid. He always shows love to his people back home in Kinston, NC and spreads a positive message, wanting to help others achieve their dreams. That’s similar to the love that Damian Lillard, another Three Stripes athlete, looks to share wherever he goes.
The young Laker checks off a lot of bases. He has fans on both coasts, a versatile game, the full support of adidas and the spotlight of Los Angeles. Only a matter of time before those Ingrams come out.
Jimmy Butler, Jordan Brand
For the first time since Mike left, the Bulls’ best player, Jimmy Butler, wears the Jumpman.
Though the Brand has a handful of guys who are the ambassadors of specific silhouettes, only Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul have JB signature sneakers. Butler, an ambassador of the Air Jordan XXXI, played this past season in a variety of Bulls-themed colors, ranging from mostly white, to mostly red, to mostly black. He would break out eye-catching new colorways every few games.
While in the XXXI, he locked up his third straight All-Star appearance, putting up a career-best 23 points per game, punishing the League with his bullish bucket-getting.
In the middle of a five-year, $95 million deal, Butler’s become the face of a storied franchise. The Bulls have a unique blend of tradition and mystique–they had the most successful team of the ’90s, but haven’t been able to get to the mountaintop since. For better or worse, they’re always in the news. And as their best player, Butler’s name is always there, too.
But the Tomball, TX native hasn’t run away from the ghost of MJ. Instead, he’s proudly worn his sneakers and played with the same desire that His Airness used to. His attitude, his recognizable hair, his aerial game could provide Jordan Brand with some much needed life. CP3 and Melo’s sneakers never make it to the street with a pair of jeans. They’re great for basketball, but haven’t been great for style. Jimmy Buckets could change that.
Plus, he’s in Chicago. Enough said.