This past weekend, the NBA took over Chicago for its annual All-Star Weekend festivities. While the game itself and competitions like the Three Point and Slam Dunk Contests at the United Center were the focal point, the weekend has also become a prime destination for brands and designers to releases limited edition product in celebration.
Two of the weekend's most talked-about collaborations were Virgil Abloh's Air Jordan V and the long-awaited retail release of the Adidas Yeezy Quantum. Both products sold out with ease. Both had hopeful customers lining the streets in freezing temperaturs. Both collaborators were out and about in Chicago showing off exclusive versions that the public couldn't get their hands on. There were a lot of similarities between the releases, but only one can be considered the best.
We decided to take a look at NBA All-Star Weekend's two biggest sneaker launches and discuss who we feel truly won the weekend, Kanye and the Quantum or Virgil and the Air Jordan V. Check out our thoughts below.
Why Virgil Abloh Won NBA All-Star Weekend
You won’t find many people that will argue against Virgil Abloh being the biggest collaborator in sneakers right now. Michael Jordan is a god in Chicago, so it should come as no surprise that Abloh paying homage to him in a fresh new way is what won NBA All-Star Weekend.
Abloh delivered in his home city of Chicago. The Off-White x Air Jordan V was one of the few sneaker drops that people seemed to care about obtaining. It was no secret they were coming either. Images and a release date have been floating around for months leading up to Chicago’s big weekend. But almost anything Abloh stamps his name on will be in demand, and this was no different.
Pairs dropped on Saturday at various outlets around the city. Long lines formed on the block in front of the House of Hoops on State Street. Nike SNKRS dished out a plethora of Ls nationwide. Even some people in Virgil’s circle had to put out asks to get their hands on a pair. Don C, who despite his status as a friend and frequent Nike collaborator, posted an Instagram story with a pile of cash requesting his size. Giannis Antetokounmpo walked down the tunnel in his pair on Sunday night. Spike Lee and Carmelo Anthony were among others that laced them up this past weekend. They might not have been worn on the court, but in an era where the NBA’s pregame fashion has become so important, these served as the symbol of that.
But you don’t win a weekend just for releasing a hyped-up Air Jordan collab. With everyone’s attention laser-focused on the grey retail version of the Air Jordan V, Abloh decided to flex on everyone. Aptly captioned “plot twist,” the designer posted an image of him wearing a never-before-seen white colorway of his deconstructed Air Jordan V to Instagram. Now even the grey pair seemed like a consolation prize.
It wasn’t all about the shoes though. Abloh also gave back to the community, launching a fully refurbished basketball court at the Dr. Martin Luther King Boys & Girls Club complete with plenty of his signature logos and holding workshops at the Nike “Recreation Center.”
As he said, plenty of people thought the Vs were “wack.” Then he had people lining city blocks for them. Sounds like a victory to me.
Kanye West and Adidas were able to take some of the eyes off of Virgil Abloh this weekend in Chicago with the long-awaited release of the Yeezy Quantum. The unconventional rollout, which included sherp trucks rolling around to different locations in the city to give away pairs, was certainly a spectacle. Kids even gave the shoes off of their feet, in single digit temperatures no less, to obtain a pair. Plenty of players wore the Quantum throughout the weekend’s events, and Kanye showed off a new colorway on Sunday.
It was certainly a moment, but it didn’t quite hold the weight of what Abloh was able to accomplish. Kanye wasn’t even rolling around in the sherps either. A gimmicky rollout and NBA players lacing them up is cool, but we have been seeing the Quantum for two years. The shock value came from the method they were delivered, not the shoe itself. Brandon Ingram got his pair signed, but couldn’t even play a full game in them before swapping them in favor of the Adidas Pro Model. Abloh’s efforts were truly rooted in Chicago and actually point back to a specific piece of its sports history. His impact extended beyond just releasing the weekend’s biggest shoe too. He made sure the community was rewarded. And that needs to be recognized. —Mike DeStefano
Why Kanye West Won NBA All-Star Weekend
When it comes to the city of Chicago, you would be hard pressed to find many people that have been more influential to the world of pop culture than Kanye West—Michael Jordan aside, of course. Ye hits on all cylinders, encompassing sneakers, fashion, music, and more into his work. With the NBA’s All-Star Weekend—one of the year’s biggest events when it comes to those three things—rolling into West’s hometown, people expected big things, and he delivered.
West got things going early on in the weekend by giving back to the community that groomed him. While West himself wasn’t on the ground in the Windy City, his Yeezy team that included Steven Smith, Jon Wexler, and more took to the streets in a drove of sherps—an all-terrain, amphibious vehicle that can operate on land and water. West keeps them on his ranch in Wyoming and they were first seen in his Follow God music video, straight from West’s farm in Wyoming. Starting in Wicker Park, the sherps went neighborhood by neighborhood giving out pairs of the new YZY QNTM sneakers to Chicago residents lucky enough to catch up to the convoy.
Of course any time something like that is going down in Chicago it’s going to cause a stir and garner some serious attention, but the fact the QNTMs are one of West’s best Three Stripes designs only added fuel to that fire.
Throughout the weekend, YZY QNTMs and BSKTBLs continued popping up, including on the feet of platinum rapper Quavo before the Celebrity All-Star game. On Saturday, they dropped to a lucky few at Chicago boutiques, and then hometown hero Zach LaVine laced the BSKTBLs up during the three-point contest. Later that night they dropped on the Adidas app exclusively for residents of Chicago.
If that wasn’t enough, the Yeezy kingpin himself showed up to the All-Star game with Kim Kardashian on his side and a pair of QNTMs on his feet. Before the game started, the Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram went up to West and got the pair that he wore in his first career All-Star Game signed. West’s appearance at the game wasn’t his first outing of the weekend, as he held another one of his Sunday Service “concerts” that afternoon, further proving his influence on the weekend beyond the fashion scene.
Everywhere you looked, West had his imprint on All-Star Weekend in the Windy City. Each day the narrative seemed to be focused on him, including debuting another brand new color of the QNTMs before the weekend was over.
Kanye West was not the only major sneaker designer who had a strong weekend. Virgil Aboh and his Off-White Jordan Vs had a solid showing of their own that also included a new colorway reveal at Jordan Brand’s Hub23 space. Abloh’s Vs dropped on the SNKRS app Saturday morning, and as always, there were a whole hell of a lot more Ls (myself included) handed out than “Got ‘Ems.” Again, I think Virgil and his Vs had a strong showing, but to me it was a bunch of stuff we had seen before. The release didn’t feel unique or special, and he didn’t drive through the streets of Chicago handing out pairs of his sneakers in futuristic sherps. No one wore Off-White Vs in the All-Star game, and Virgil didn’t sit in the front row and sign an NBA star’s pair. Virgil did great, Ye did better. —Ben Felderstein