The subplot of every NBA All-Star Weekend is, and always will be, sneakers. For three days in Salt Lake City, players and brands made big statements through shoes, highlighting some semblance of a culture shift in footwear and basketball.
Even though 19 of the 27 players in the All-Star Game laced up kicks produced by Nike, several brands — including Jordan, Adidas, Curry, Puma and MSCHF — were represented on the feet of stars throughout the weekend. Big Red Boots were customized for a celebrity singer-actress and pairs of five-figure Air Jordans inspired by a rapper and the Black Mamba were seen on-foot. There was a three-striped shout-out to a historically Black university and a small group of “sneaker free agents,” who got creative with their shoe decisions while teasing future partnerships.
Two of the league’s rising stars were ushered into the exclusive fraternity of players with their own shoes. There was a gigantic ice sculpture for Nike’s newest signature athlete, Ja Morant. And the most prolific debut for a signature shoe came from Jayson Tatum, who set an All-Star record with 55 points in two different colorways of the new Jordan Tatum 1.
Here’s a breakdown of the best shoes spotted in Salt Lake.
DK Metcalf — Adidas Harden Vol. 7
Seattle Seahawks receiver D.K. Metcalf is an absolutely extraordinary athlete, which he showed in full force during All-Star Weekend. After a video showing off his unreal vertical leap surfaced on Twitter on Friday, Metcalf took the court later that night in the Celebrity Game and dominated.
Wearing a bright pink pair of fellow Adidas athlete James Harden’s latest signature shoe, the Harden Vol. 7, Metcalf was named MVP of the game with 20 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks and a collection of dunks. To be honest, Metcalf probably dunked the ball more in one night wearing Harden Vol. 7s than The Beard himself has this season. Did the viral video and MVP basketball performance raise eyebrows at the NFL? Metcalf posted a text on Instagram stories from someone claiming to be from the NFL asking to schedule a random drug test before the weekend was over. — Aaron Dodson
Janelle Monae — Custom MSCHF Big Red Boots
For better or worse, the MSCHF (pronounced mischief) Big Red Boots have overtaken the sneaker world. Rapper Lil Wayne, NBA All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and singer Ciara have all rocked them. But the top trendsetter of the cartoonish kicks is, undoubtedly, singer, songwriter and actress Janelle Monae.
When Monae was announced as a player in the Celebrity All-Star Game, a publicist mentioned her on Twitter with a simple question: “Can she ball?” Monae responded with a photo of herself dribbling a basketball in the Big Red Boots. And she flexed even harder in Salt Lake City when she pulled up to the game rocking a custom pair of the Brooklyn, New York, art collective’s quirky footwear. Instead of red, Monae’s pair were baby blue with white clouds, giving Nothing Was The Same vibes.
And though she played the game in “True Blue” Air Jordan 1s, her boots won the first night of All-Star Weekend kicks. The question is will MSCHF drop Monae’s Big Cloudy Boots. — Aaron Dodson
Ozuna — Nike Air Jordan 3 Retro ‘Kobe Pack’
It’s been exactly 20 years since Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant’s “sneaker free agency” during the 2002-03 NBA season. After terminating his contract with Adidas, Bryant took the court in shoes made by every major sneaker brand before ultimately signing with Nike. His free-agent run of kicks notably included player-exclusive pairs of Air Jordan 3s and 8s, designed with Lakers’ purple and gold.
In 2016, the Jordan Brand released the “Kobe Pack,” featuring pairs of both the 3s and 8s. Even though the pack was originally distributed to friends and family only, the Kobe-inspired Air Jordans have since resurfaced on resale platforms, with list prices ranging from $72,000 to $175,000 on StockX. That means Puerto Rican musical artist Ozuna presumably dropped at least five figures on the Kobe Air Jordan 3s he had on his feet when he arrived at the Celebrity Game. However, Ozuna wasn’t bold enough to wear the 3s in the actual game — and it’s hard to blame him. — Aaron Dodson
The Miz and 21 Savage — Nike Kobe 6 Protro ‘Grinch’
After Ozuna won the Celebrity Game red carpet with Kobe Air Jordan 3s, WWE legend The Miz and rapper 21 Savage won the court with matching pairs of Nike Kobe 6 “Grinch.” It wouldn’t be All-Star Weekend without on-court sneaker tributes to Bryant, who was an 18-time All-Star and four-time All-Star Game MVP. And no colorway is more associated with Bryant than the “Grinch” Nike Kobe 6 “Grinch.” It was only right that 21 Savage broke out his pair, given he once compared the rap tandem of himself and rapper Drake to the basketball duo of Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Meanwhile, in his Grinches, The Miz nearly sent the celebrity game into overtime with a half-court heave that dropped right after the buzzer sounded. Though the shot didn’t count and his team lost, 81-78, the Miz hopefully yelled “Kobe!” when he threw up the prayer. — Aaron Dodson
Lauri Markkanen — Eminem x Air Jordan 2 Retro
When you’re a first-time All-Star, you might as well stunt, right? That’s exactly what 25-year-old Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen did. While sitting courtside at Friday’s Rising Stars Game, Markkanen rocked the rare Eminem x Air Jordan 2 collaboration. Inspired by the Detroit rapper’s song and autobiography of the same title, “The Way I Am” 2s dropped in 2008 — when Markkanen was just 11 years old. As a nod to Detroit’s area code, only 313 pairs of the shoes were released, in sizes ranging up to 18. There aren’t any active StockX listings of the Eminem Air Jordan 2s in Markannen’s size 14. But sizes 13 and 15 are listed at $14,600 and $15,000, respectively. That means Markkanen dropped a bag on the Air Jordan 2s. Shout-out to the NBA’s first All-Star from Finland. — Aaron Dodson
Josh Giddey — Nike KD 4 ‘Galaxy’
Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Josh Giddey was only 10 years old when Kevin Durant debuted the “Galaxy” colorway of his Nike Zoom KD 4 in the 2012 NBA All-Star Game. A decade and some change later, Giddey paid homage to Durant by strapping up a pair of the silver, orange and blue-speckled kicks in the Rising Stars games. Lacing up one of Durant’s most-coveted models has become an All-Star Weekend trend for Giddey, who wore the even more exclusive “Nerf” KD 4s during last year’s Skills Challenge.
It’s also worth noting that the 20-year-old 6-foot-8 phenom from Australia received praise from another Nike signature athlete this weekend. “Josh Giddey’s really, really good, man,” NBA great LeBron James told the media. “I think he’s going to continue getting better and better.” Perhaps that means we’ll one day see Giddey in the actual All-Star Game, rocking another pair of KDs from his childhood. — Aaron Dodson
Sidy Cissoko and Scoot Henderson — Puma MB.02 ‘Rick & Morty’
After discovering that the All-Star break spanned nine days, Charlotte Hornets star point guard LaMelo Ball decided against making the trip this year. But his vibrant second signature sneaker still appeared on the court this weekend. Scoot Henderson and Sidy Cissoko, 2023 NBA draft prospects who play for the G League Ignite team, laced up the Rick and Morty edition of Ball’s Puma MB.02 in the Rising Stars game and G-League Next Up Game, respectively, on the weekend that the shoe dropped. The highly touted Henderson signed with Puma last summer, two years before entering the league, as he looks to be a future headliner for the brand at the next level. — Aaron Dodson
Mac McClung — Puma Rise Nitro
It’s been years since Mac McClung went viral as the Virginia high schooler who broke Hall of Famer and fellow Virginian Allen Iverson’s single-season state scoring record, but the prep phenom felt right at home under the bright lights of All-Star Saturday Night, stealing the show with four dunks and a nearly perfect score in each round. Last week, McClung signed a two-way contract with the 76ers and inked a shoe deal with Puma just before touching down in Utah. He laced up the Rise Nitro sneaker in both the Rising Stars Game and Slam Dunk Contest. — Aaron Dodson
Damian Lillard — Adidas Dame Certified ‘Weber State’
When he entered the NBA in 2012, Damian Lillard chose “the letter O” for his Portland Trail Blazers uniform, representing his hometown of Oakland, California, his college city of Ogden, Utah, and his current home state in Oregon. With All-Star Weekend just a half hour south of the Weber State campus in Salt Lake, Lillard had a surprise in store, donning a full current Wildcats uniform during the 3-Point Contest. Lacing up a white, black and purple Weber State-themed colorway of his Dame Certified sneaker, his first 3-Point Contest win had a full-circle feeling.
“Everything just lined up,” he said afterward. “When I touch down here in the summer … or this time, I feel the love. It’s a second home for me. Sometimes, that’s what it takes for an experience to be what it’s supposed to be. I feel like this is how it was supposed to happen.” — Nick DePaula
Ja Morant — Nike Ja 1 ‘Scratch’ + ‘Swarovski’
Nike spared no expense for its newest signature athlete this weekend – the 23rd in brand history – giving Ja Morant with a diamond pendant of his signature logo, a complement to the Swarovski crystal-laden pair of his Ja 1 sneaker.
“It’s definitely big-time,” said Morant. “Obviously, it’s a credit to my work, and all the work I put in day-to-day. Obviously, I’m thankful to Nike for believing in me and honoring me with such a special gift. It’s been a process, I’ve enjoyed every bit of it, and I’m super excited for everybody to be able to get a pair of Ja 1s.”
In Salt Lake, the brand also erected a 20-foot tall ice replica of his sneaker that doubled as a shopping area. Customers could enter the shoe, where they found an igloo experience decked out with Morant jerseys, clothes and shoes. The ice locker inside was set to 23 degrees, serving as his sneaker’s official first release location, with the limited edition “Swarovski” colorway and the retro Grizzlies teal “Scratch” delivered through an ice luge after purchase. “It was crazy! It was cold too,” he added. “But I’m cold, so I didn’t mind it too much.” — Nick DePaula
Kyrie Irving — Nike Kyrie customs
As a sneaker free agent heading into All-Star Weekend, Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving turned to some of his past Nike signature shoes as a canvas for expressing his thoughts. Working with custom artist Soles By Sir, Irving donned two pairs of the Kyrie 3, featuring everything from a portrait of his mom, artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat, a black panther, and melded metallic sheets to cover up the Swoosh logo alongside each pair.
Pulling from a Private Label sneaker duffel bag he had stashed just behind the bench, Irving switched shoes often. His third pair, a khaki tasseled suede custom atop the Kyrie Infinity, designed with former Nike creative Ben Kirschner, paid tribute to his mother Elizabeth’s Native American heritage.
“It’s time to create freely with no boundaries,” Irving later wrote on Instagram. — Nick DePaula
De’Aaron Fox — Curry 2 Low FloTro ‘All-Star Game’
During his first All-Star Game appearance, Sacramento Kings point guard and sneaker free agent De’Aaron Fox broke out the All-Star edition of Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry’s newest Curry Brand signature shoe. The sneaker, a modernized version of the Curry 2, featured a sleek upper atop the brand’s innovative Flow technology bottom, with graphics highlighting several of Curry’s youth teams throughout his rise from underrated teenager to the top of the league. — Nick DePaula
Donovan Mitchell — Adidas D.O.N. Issue #4 Grambling PE
With Grambling State appearing in this weekend’s NBA HBCU Classic, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell wanted to highlight the Tigers throughout several of the league’s All-Star events. Designed by an all-Black creative team at Adidas, the player-exclusive of Mitchell’s fourth shoe featured an orange tiger print along the upper with the school’s vintage Grambling logo along the tongue. Mitchell also gave shoes to the entire Grambling squad ahead of their overtime win over Southern University in the HBCU Classic.
Over the weekend, Mitchell also unveiled his upcoming D.O.N. #5 sneaker, with the new look and circular design slated to be released later this year. — Nick DePaula
Jayson Tatum — Jordan Tatum 1 ‘Pink Lemonade’ & ‘Zoo’
It’s hard to have planned a better debut of his first signature shoe. Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum unveiled two colorways of his new Jordan Tatum 1 sneaker, breaking the All-Star Game scoring record with a 55-point outing and winning the Kobe Bryant All-Star Game MVP trophy.
“I finally get to wear the Tatums, the JT 1s,” he said beforehand. “It’s been a long time coming. It’s probably going to be the most special All-Star for me.”
With a technical performance look, the Celtics star’s first namesake sneaker was spotted in a bright “Pink Lemonade” colorway during the first half. He laced up a “Zoo” themed version for the second half, honoring his family outings to the Saint Louis Zoo with his son Deuce.
“It’s extremely special for me,” he said. “My first All-Star Game was in Chicago in 2020, when they renamed the MVP after him. I remember telling myself that day, I got to get one of those before I get done. To be able to wear my signature shoe today, break the record and take home this award of somebody I idolized, it’s a hell of a day.” — Nick DePaula