When NBA Players Can Wear Special Sneakers

Breaking down the special NBA sneaker holidays.

by Brendan Dunne

Illustration by Brett Dalzell

Earlier this year, Sole Collector sat down with the NBA to discuss the nuances of the NBA dress code sneaker guidelines that dictate when players can wear what in terms of footwear.

Some of the guidelines are easy enough to figure out. Players are expected to wear sneakers that line up with their team colors, but there are a handful of holidays and times during the year when they are allowed to break from this level of uniformity. Anyone tuning in to the league's yearly Christmas games has no doubt noticed the festive footwear there. Similarly, the NBA Finals have been home to all sorts of gold footwear.

This approach of allowing special sneakers on special days began in 2012 according to Christopher Arena, the NBA’s VP of identity, outfitting, and equipment. Sneaker companies and team equipment managers began to put in requests that their players be allowed to wear bolder footwear, including creations that broke from the palette of their respective teams. From there, the league began creating a calendar that included the more obvious holidays, as well as week-long and month-long celebrations with color connections. Sneaker companies have responded with an even greater number of retail releases and player exclusives that take advantage of the NBA's now more festive sneaker policy.

Below is an infographic that breaks down all the days when NBA players can wear special sneakers. For the sake of simplicity, this infographic omits Remembrance Day on 11/11, which is a memorial day observed in Canada that the Toronto Raptors are allowed a special sneaker holiday for. The league essentially treats this day the same as Veterans Day for the rest of the teams. Also omitted is the first day of the season, which allows the defending NBA champions to wear gold sneakers, and has no set date.


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