The Kicks You Wear, Vol. 20 — Why chasing the NBA is worth it

Signature shoes aren't as important as culture.

Good morning, family! Happy Friday! Look at us, making it through at this work week. We did it. Thanks for spending a bit of your time with me this morning. By the way, do you realize that y’all let me get 20 of these off? Y’all wild.

Today’s shoutout goes to Victor Oladipo for lasting so long on the Masked Singer even though the entirety of NBA Twitter knew it was him. DMV stand up. Big shouts to SB Nation’s Whitney Medworth for her fantastic detective work on it the entire time.

With that out of the way, let’s dig in.

Signature shoes don’t really matter anymore

(Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash)

Last week, we talked about Anthony Davis wanting a signature sneaker at the wrong time because of basketball’s terrible performance in the latter half of this decade.

  • It’s fair to question why it’s a category worth investing in. Basketball sneaker sales have been on a downturn since 2015, according to the NPD Group’s Matt Powell. They represent less than 5% of the footwear retail market.

  • Basically, what’s the point in giving money to a role player like PJ Tucker if there’s no return on investment? If you invest in an athlete, the best way to make that back is normally in signature sneaker sales.

At least that’s how it used to be. Just simply having a signature shoe doesn’t work anymore. That’s how the industry has been operating for the last two decades, but it’s a relic model that worked when Michael Jordan was still king of basketball. He had the shock factor. Whoa, an athlete with a colorful sneaker? Ground breaking. Now, everyone does. It doesn’t matter anymore.

“For a smaller brand, you can’t just sign players and give them a shoe. You [have to] signing the right players. You ask ‘Does this guy fit my brand ethos?’,” Dexter Gordon, the head of Sports Marketing at AND1 Basketball told me.

Brands still care about having these athletes because they can use them to sell everything else. Think of the NBA as a launching platform. It’s still one of the most popular sports leagues in the world from a social media standpoint. When a player speaks, it matters.

  • The league increased its social footprint by 132% last season, per Sports Business Daily, and generated $1.1 billion for its partners. Their players are some of the most recognizable in the world.

  • Those numbers are what brings an AND1 or a Puma or a New Balance back to the game. It’s an opportunity.

Instead of using basketball to sell basketball brands use it to sell culture and lifestyle. What’s in now is hype. It’s collaborations. It’s style. That’s what builds a star.

Basketball is just the tip of the ice berg. For some, it’s not even a priority anymore with the NBA. Patrick Cassidy, New Balance’s global director of athlete activation, told me it’s only just part of their master plan.

“Basketball performance footwear and sales of those pieces of footwear are only part of the pie for us when getting into this…There aren't millions of pairs of new balance basketball shoes on the market and there won't be for a while, but there are lots of lifestyle footwear styles and things that go along with where we are in the space,” Cassidy said.

That’s the strategy more brands are banking on now. Instead of giving every athlete on their roster a signature shoe, they dress their athletes up in their latest gear and collabs with designers and entertainers.

  • It’s a social play. Put them in something popular, rack up RTs and shares and that’s your ad before you even think about spending a dollar on a commercial.

  • Most people aren’t worried about playing like LeBron or wearing his gear on the court. They’d rather dress like him.

Nike and Adidas are still battling it out in the signature shoe game. They can have that. Everyone else is finding a new way to tap in to the culture. It’s a smart strategy and one that doesn’t get so expensive that you end up crashing and burning because you spent too much money.

By the way, players recognize what’s happening and are taking advantage of it. They see the struggle that someone like Anthony Davis is having to get a signature shoe with Nike. If he can’t become a priority on that roster then who can? They go where they can be a focus and build their star.

That’s how you get a Kawhi Leonard or Dejounte Murray on New Balance and a Fred Van Vleet on AND1. They want to carve their own niche — this new blood in the game helps them do that.

As we get further along, we’re going to see more and more parity among sneakers in the NBA. That’s a great thing for the culture even if it means less signature lines in the future.

Complex is building an e-commerce streetwear giant

(Photo by Florian Olivo on Unsplash)

Remember a couple of weeks ago when news broke that Complex was diving into the sneaker market? Well, apparently, that wasn’t all.

Complex has opened up their own online retail store. They’re selling items from about 70 brands that also feature collaborations that were created just for Complex, Digiday reports.

  • It’s not just run-of-the-mill stuff. They’ve got products ranging from deep designer cuts to different streetwear brands.

  • They’ll be adding new products to their online shelves every month starting next year in 2020.

  • The company expects to gross nearly $10 million in its first full year off of Complex Shop.

This is ground breaking stuff from Complex. Love them or hate them, they’ve always moved the culture one way or another. They’re taking things a step further by actually selling the products that they create content off of on a daily basis.

Not only that, they’re also creating an additional revenue source in a pretty ground breaking way. Digiday has more.

“Complex’s store takes a step forward, using a marketplace model that offers higher commissions than affiliate but without the risk of renting warehouses or building out fulfillment infrastructure. The store also gives Complex a direct relationship with its customers, allowing it not only to market to readers but also sell them more without dealing with headaches like customer service (the Complex Shop’s technology provider, Bonsai, takes care of those).”

The site is already up and running — it started on December 9. It has everything from clothing to shoes to accessories. There’s even a Union Los Angeles x L.A. Dodgers collab already on the site.

Complex is building an empire that combines publishing, retail and experience. They’ve created an online marketplace strictly for shopping, they’re tapping in to the sneaker culture they create content off of with their secondary marketplace coming next year and they’ve already built a massive consumer convention through ComplexCon. The next decade should be fun for them.

Yeezy could have a new General Manager

Yeezy has been the most influential sneaker brand of the decade and pushed Adidas into the forefront of sneaker culture. They’ve still got a lot of building to do to catch Nike and Jordan Brand.

That’s why Yeezy will start the next decade with a General Manager, according to reports. Jon Wexler is reportedly joining Yeezy as its new GM, Sole Collector reports. Adidas is tapping Wexler as the brand’s new GM and shifting him away from his role as Vice President of Global Entertainment and Influencer Marketing.

  • Wexler has been the guy keeping the wheels turning with the promotion of the company’s collaborations with stars like Kanye West and Pharrell Williams.

  • He’s had a relationship with West since his time at Nike, per Sole Collector, and has been recognized by West himself as one of his closest friends at the brand.

This move makes sense for Yeezy and Wexler. He’s basically focusing his efforts and attention on Yeezy as the brand prepares to make a big push heading into the next decade. The time feels right for this.

I will say this, though. It’s interesting that they’re doing this with Beyonce’s Ivy Park collaboration coming soon next year, too. Whoever steps in for Wexler has some big shoes to fill if he does shift his role.

Off-White is sitting now, apparently

Fam, I never thought I’d see the day where a Virgil Abloh Nike piece was just sitting on the SNKRS app waiting for us to cop up. But here we are.

The Nike x Off-White Waffle Racer is just chilling on the app as I type this right now at 12:07 a.m. E.T. on December 13th. This is absolutely foreign territory for all of us.

For those of you who don’t know what they look like, here they are.

(via Nike)

It dropped on Thursday morning in three colorways. All are still available as I’m typing this nearly 12 hours later with a pretty good selection of sizes left.

Won’t lie about it — I definitely thought about copping even though I don’t really like ‘em. You know, just to say I have something Off-White. But my pride won’t let me. I’m better than that.

For those of you who do dig these, though, hopefully they’re still there while you’re reading this. Go get ‘em.


YERRRRRR we’re back with some more kicks! Thanks again for participating, y’all.

For those of y’all who are new here, every Friday I share the pictures people share with me under the hashtag #TheKicksWeWear. Some are submitted via text and e-mail, too. I check the hashtag, round up the submissions and share them every Friday.

Here are this week’s. Y’all went crazy again. I love it.

My guy Shawn P came through with the Lance Mountain AJ1’s.

The Denver Nuggets staying warm in the winter, apparently. Shouts to TJ for sharing Jerami Grant’s UNC 6’s this week.

Shouts to LeBron James in these Viotechs. What a great shoe.

Nobody submitted this, but I have to share the Kicks we are ABSOLUTELY NOT wearing. Ever. Please, don’t let me catch you in ‘em. These are Gordon Hayward’s barbershop (????) inspired GH1’s.

Somebody called these the no collusion 1’s and I lost it. This is why everybody can’t have a signature shoe, y’all. It’s not good.

Alright, that does it for this week! Thanks again for reading, family. I love y’all. Your support is SO appreciated. I’ll see you again on Monday. DON’T FORGET the Bred 11’s are dropping tomorrow.

Thanks for reading, as always! Be easy. Be kind. Peace and love.

Signing off.

Sykes 💯