Don’t be fooled by the lack of headlines attributed to it. The NBA sneaker wars is a real thing, and we’re going to see the full force of it once Giannis Antetokoumpo’s contract with Nike expires next year. Adidas is reportedly gearing up for a massive bid to get the Greek Freak’s signature and other companies like Under Armour have also shown some interest. But that’s a story for another time.
We’re here to see how the NBA sneaker wars will play out if we get the best and most recognizable players from all these sneaker brands to play a mini-tournament, where they suit up for the brand that they’re a part of. We’ve created four teams—Nike, Jordan Brand, Adidas, and Others—in this exercise, and as you might expect, there’s plenty of star power on all four teams.
Paul George (Sixth Man)
Without question, Nike’s dominance in the NBA sneaker market automatically gives it the best team. In fact, Nike can create four different teams of NBA players and each of the four could still beat the best that Adidas and the rest have to offer. But since we’re putting in the best of the best, this is the lineup Nike will be playing in.
It has four ball-handlers on the team. It has the world’s best player. It has the world’s second-best player. It has arguably the greatest scoring point guard in history. It has two unicorns who, by themselves, can do anything on the court. And its sixth man is somebody who would be the unquestioned star on any other team. This is how loaded Nike is. It’s not even fair, really.
Derrick Rose (Sixth Man)
Ten years ago, Adidas had Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Chauncey Billups, Tracy McGrady, and Gilbert Arenas in the fold. In their primes, they could give those Nike guys a serious run for their money. But Adidas has fallen on the periphery of the NBA sneaker market. That said, the team is still potent enough to make games interesting against Nike or Jordan Brand. James Harden is a perennial MVP player. Dame Lillard is as clutch as they come. Kristaps Porzingis and Joel Embiid are going to be tough to contain, at least if the latter can stay in the court.
Carmelo Anthony (Sixth Man)
It says a lot of Nike’s dominance when its sub-brand arguably has the second-best group of players. Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul make for a devastating backcourt. Kawhi Leonard is a defensive monster in his own right and the presence of Jimmy Butler and Blake Griffin gives this team no shortage of big-time scorers and playmakers. Carmelo Anthony as a sixth man is a solid option too, though Team Jordan would probably be better off if it traded Leonard and Melo for their far-superior alter-egos, Smiling Kawhi and Hoodie Melo.
Steph Curry, Under Armour
Klay Thompson, Anta
Dwyane Wade, Li-Ning
Chandler Parsons, Anta
Dwight Howard, Peak
Nerlens Noel, Reebok (Sixth Man)
Team Others is essentially a two-man team, though it would be unfair to characterize Dwight Howard as a has-been. The man is still an impact player in the NBA even if he’s no longer the MVP-caliber beast he once was. Dwyane Wade can also be effective under the right circumstances and in some ways, this is the perfect team for him. He doesn’t have to handle the ball and create for himself. He can let Steph and Klay do much of the scoring so he can act as the all-around utility guy that he’s been the past few years. Chandler Parsons and Nerlens Noel as a sixth man are additions by lack of other choices.
Team Nike (1) vs Team Others (4)
Unless Curry and Thompson go full-on Splash Brothers, this game is a wipeout. There’s just no way that Team Others can contain Team Nike. The latter has too many weapons at its disposal, and apart from the Splash Bros., there are mismatches all across the board in this match-up. It’s hard to ask the Warriors backcourt to carry the scoring load for this team, especially when it’s facing a team that has far too many weapons for its own good.
Winner: Team Nike
Team Jordan (2) vs Team Adidas (3)
Team Jordan has the more dynamic players, but you can’t discount the length and versatility that Team Adidas has, especially with Porzingis and Embiid. Team Jordan’s lack of height could also spell the difference, especially if the shots aren’t falling. Unfortunately, Team Jordan still has the depth that Team Adidas lacks, though it would be fun to see Harden and Lillard go at Paul and Westbrook. Blood will be spilled, but in the end, Team Jordan takes the game here.
Team Nike (1) vs Team Jordan (2)
This could turn into a far closer game than most people think. But in the end, Team Nike will continue its reign of dominance. As deep as Team Jordan is, their weakness—a relatively small team with no length—will rear its ugly head again, especially against a Nike squad that only has one player in Kyrie Irving that stands shorter than 6’8”. It should make for an exciting game and I’m paying good money to see Leonard shut down both James and Durant. Still, Nike triumphs handily here because Nike is the dominant force in the NBA sneaker market. It has been for the last two decades, and it’ll continue to be for as long as it wants to.
Winner: Team Nike