NBA’s All-Star Weekend festivities have become one of the biggest events for sneakers. Brands drop special collabs, install interactive activations, and tell wild stories all in the name of footwear. This upcoming weekend’s festivities in Chicago are no different. Jordan Brand is releasing a ton of Air Jordan retros and apparel, for obvious reasons. Nike has given each of its signature athletes a specially themed colorway of their most recent shoe. A select number of specific pairs are coming out this go around: the Off-White x Air Jordan V, allegedly Kanye West’s Yeezy basketball sneaker, and Joe Freshgoods’ New Balance 992. But the energy around this weekend’s performance lineup just doesn’t feel quite the same.
Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of great shoes coming out. But in comparison to just a handful of years ago, they just don’t feel like they will be as coveted in the future, or cause such a commotion. Not too long ago, the entire pack put out by Nike and Jordan Brand would sell out almost immediately. Nowadays, that’s only the case for a handful of the pairs.
The benchmark for this type of thing came back in 2012 when the NBA hosted the All-Star Game in Orlando. People were literally offering used cars to purchase the “Galaxy” Foamposite. Local malls had police helicopter flyovers from all of the pandemonium. The rest of the lineup was just as heavily desired with pairs like the “Big Bang” LeBron 9, “Galaxy” Kobe VII, and “Galaxy” KD IV all still regarded by some as some of the best pairs to come from these players’ entire signature lines. Nike was even able to keep the energy with a similar galactic-themed “Area 72” collection for the 2013 game in Houston.
Part of the drop off could be how desensitized sneaker fans have become to seeing these types of unique colorways on the court. With the old sneaker policy in place that made players wear sneakers matching their uniforms, the NBA All-Star Game used to be a way for brands and players to showcase how much fun they could have with zany colorway and mismatched designs. Chris Webber wore chrome DaDas in 2000. Tracy McGrady wore mismatched Adidas T-Mac 3s in 2004. The examples go on. These days guys like PJ Tucker and Montrezl Harrell break out rare and vibrant pairs like this on a nightly basis.
This phenomena is not limited to this year. As performance basketball sneakers have become less and less popular as everyday lifestyle choices, the attention has shifted. Nike and Jordan Brand are experts at creating the moment. The lifestyle-focused product moves the needle. Despite the lack of attention the collection of on-court sneakers seems to be getting, the overall experience feels bigger than ever.
Like I said before, the sneakers aren’t bad. In fact, a healthy majority of them are good. But a LeBron 17 promoting Space Jam 2 with a Monstars theme should feel bigger. Don C designed a KD 12, Kevin Durant isn’t even going to play in them, and the designer’s matching Air Force 1 hybrid has gotten more attention. Kyrie Irving also will not even be wearing his Kyrie 6 in the game either because he isn’t in it. Out of sight, out of mind?
Maybe the lack of a cohesive theme has hurt the collective hype. The height of All-Star Weekend sneakers was when all of the shoes shared a story. Maybe brands and boutiques having to shift to a raffle system and the death of the campout is to blame because there isn’t as big of a way to visualize the demand anymore. Whatever it is, the All-Star sneaker lineup has certainly lost its luster. The weekend will be memorable, but some of the sneakers representing it certainly won’t be.