There once was a time where basketball players could directly influence trends in sneakers with what they wore on the court, not by their outrageous pre or post-game outfits. Basketball sneakers were actually cool to wear. Take Michael Jordan for instance. When you saw him play basketball, you bought the sneakers on his feet and they became a part of your style. The same was true for fans of Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Penny Hardaway, Chris Webber and their signature lines of sneakers. Well, times have changed and there's a whole generation of consumers who have never even seen Jordan and the likes play ball and probably couldn't care less about that. Today, the league is dominated by all new players with their own athletic accomplishments and sneaker deals, but the sales of performance basketball sneakers are steadily declining.

According to Sports industry analyst Matt Powell, the performance basketball sneakers market has been on the downtrend for some time now, even if it’s most apparent right now. “As recently as 2011, sales of performance basketball were negative and had been negative for six years from 2005-2011,” Powell says.

Today, a lot more than an on-court appearance or a TV ad goes into building hype and driving sneaker sales. In addition to that, early images are leaked online, release dates are confirmed, interviews with designers and players are conducted, and events are held to promote the shoes. But with all those extra steps, why is that the latest performance basketball sneakers often sit on shelves until they hit clearance racks and outlets? Meanwhile, lifestyle sneakers like the Adidas Yeezy Boost and NMD or retros like the recent “Black Toe” Air Jordan 1s sell out instantly.

Under Armour Curry 2 Low White
The photo that made Steph Curry's Under Armour sneakers go viral. Image via Renarts

One factor that lends a hand in the decline in the sales of performance basketball sneakers is the price. Not all consumers can afford to pay big bucks for sneakers, and some players are actually cognizant of that. When Kevin Durant inked a deal with Nike, he wanted to keep his sneakers under $100, because he couldn’t afford Air Jordans growing up. Keeping his sneakers at that pricepoint was something he was able to do up until the Nike KD IV, a sneaker that retailed for $95 and was very well received.  While the KD V exceeded his $100 price point at $115, it was still affordable. Fast forward to the KD 8 and the price was up to $200, double the price Durant wanted his sneakers to be at. Granted, new technology is added to the sneakers, but doubling the price over four years excludes many of the original consumers from purchasing them. Nike has realized that the price has gotten excessive and for the first time ever, Durant’s latest signature sneaker, the KD 9 is cheaper than the predecessor at $150. All of this came after word that Nike Basketball was in trouble and made a shakeup in leadership.

In reality, steady increase and recent decrease in sneaker prices only play a very minor part in affecting sales. “Nike has lowered prices on several styles and sales have remained negative, so this was not a price issue, but a fashion issue,” Powell says. “They completely missed this shift in fashion and have not responded quickly enough to pivot to lifestyle and running sneakers.”

Stephen Curry is a prime example of a player with a moderately priced signature sneaker that’s popular enough to boost company sales, but not quite popular enough to sell out very fast on every release. In 2015 alone, Under Armour’s sales increased by 754 percent because of Curry’s line of sneakers. Despite all of Under Armour’s newfound success, it hasn't translated to what's actually popular or trending in sneakers. Let's be honest: more likely than not, the only  people you see wearing Currys are kids who play ball recreationally or Golden State Warriors fans at games. His all-white sneaker became a laughing stock on the Internet over the summer and similar instances happened Adidas athletes James Harden and Andrew Wiggins.

Brands need to realize that not only basketball players buy and wear their products. Regardless of the price, less expensive basketball sneakers like the Under Armour Curry 3s or Nike Kyrie 2 are nowhere near as wearable as more expensive running and lifestyle options like the Adidas Ultra Boost and NMD — at least by today’s style standard.

Andrew Wiggins Adidas Crazy Explosive
Andrew Wiggins' Adidas sneakers that got roasted on the Internet. Image via Foot Locker

While fashion trends have changed over the years, so have marketing strategies of brands like Nike. StockX co-founder Josh Luber explained how changes in the retail market affect the resale market. “With the [Nike] LeBron 9, which released throughout 2012, there were about 35 different colorways and about 10 or 12 of them were limited, very hard to get, and sold for a lot of money, including the “Galaxy,” “Watch the Throne,” “What the LeBrons,” and the PE Elites,” he tells Complex. “As a result, the rest of the LeBron 9 line all had some relevance in the sneakerhead world, where people were buying and selling them, too. If you fast forward to the LeBron 13, there were about 60 colorways and not a single one was truly limited or really hard to get, so none of them sold for a lot of money. If there’s not at least a couple that are valuable or people are really hyped about, then the resell community isn’t going to buy the rest of them either.”

In most instances, hyped-up and expensive sneakers are the ones that get labeled as cool. While factors like availability and resale market value are plausible causes for shifts in sneaker sales, they really are just a drop in the bucket. “The resale market has virtually no impact on the performance shoe business,” Powell says. “Resale is such a tiny fraction of the U.S. sneaker market.” Luber, however, says that the sneaker resale market reached $1 billion in 2014.

Things are moving in the right direction, though. Adidas addressed style concerns with the release of James Harden's first signature sneaker, and Kobe Bryant has usually had a sneaker that's found a sweet spot with lifestyle consumers because of its low-top design.

At the end of the day, people buy what they like and what they like is often influenced by what other people like. When a celebrity wears Yeezys or limited Air Jordans well before the release, it creates a sense of exclusivity and urgency to cop when they do drop. Trendsetting people don’t want a sneaker that any and everybody can get by walking into the mall. Even with a steady decline in sneaker sales, performance basketball sneakers can be cool again, although it may take some time. It’s not up to footwear companies to make their shoes cool; it’s up to the people that buy and wear them to make them cool again. But until performance basketball sneakers start making waves again, you can definitely expect retro, lifestyle, and running sneakers to continue dominating the market.