Few weekends bring “the culture” together like NBA All-Star. Despite the actual basketball competition exhibitions of the famed weekend losing their steam in recent years, the mid-February tradition remains an unofficial holiday for fans of the game, entertainment, fashion and of course, sneakers. What once was highlighted by high flying dunks and fierce battles between the NBA’s brightest stars has become overshadowed by what people wear on their feet rather than what they do on the court.
Below we take a look at some of the most iconic sneaker moments in NBA All-Star history.
1985: Bred Air Jordan Is and Gold Chains
By the 1985 All-Star Weekend in Indianapolis, IN, the rookie sensation Micheal Jordan had already begun to put the league on notice. In what was perhaps the final straw before the infamous “Banned” NBA letter that came two weeks later, MJ put on a show in in the now iconic “Bred” Air Jordan I. As if the shoes weren’t enough, he paired them with gold chains and his signature swagger, stealing the show but ultimately losing to Julius “Dr. J” Erving in the final round.
1988: Cement Air Jordan 3s and the Free Throw Line
Defending his 1987 Dunk Contest crown in front of the hometown Chicago crowd, Michael Jordan was back and once again dropping jaws with his high flying acrobatics and unique footwear choice. Debuting the “Cement” Air Jordan IIIs, MJ secured back to back titles with the iconic free throw line dunk. Was his foot on the line? Sure, but that wasn’t stopping anyone from giving him the W.
1991: Dee Brown Reebok Omni Pump Lite
Props are common during NBA Dunk Contests these days and in 1991, Dee Brown stole the show by making the kicks on his feet a prop. Before taking flight, Brown leaned over and pumped up his Reebok Omni Pump Lites. That gave him the cool factor and his dunks took care of the rest on his way to the title.
1997: Kobe Bryant x adidas EQT Elevation
Fresh out of high school, the late Los Angeles Lakers rookie sensation Kobe Bryant was out to show the world that despite minimal playing time, the hype about him was real. He did this by winning the Dunk Contest in the prelude to his first signature sneaker, the adidas EQT Elevation.
2000: Vince Carter x AND1 Tai Chi
The 2000 NBA Dunk Contest is an all-timer and we can thank Vince Carter for that. A sneaker free agent at the time, Vinsanity pulled off some of the most iconic dunks in history while wearing the AND1 Tai Chi. As a smaller brand who had just recently dove into the sneaker business, AND1 couldn’t have asked for a better coming out party for its Tai Chi basketball model.
2003: Kobe Bryant Pays Homage to Michael Jordan
Landing in the middle of his sneaker free agency season, the late Kobe Bryant decided to pay homage to his idol Michael Jordan by lacing up “True Blue” Air Jordan 3s in the All-Star Game. It being Jordan’s final All-Star game didn’t stop the young Bryant from going hard at his hero, racking up 22 points in a West victory.
2005: Shaq’s Sneaker Phone
For most of his career, Shaquille O’Neal wore his namesake budget friendly signature shoe line. Shaq shoes don’t typically find their way onto sneaker lists but in at the 2005 All-Star Game, his size 22 phone shoes were the talk of the town. From the famous Diddy gif to Shaq’s interview with the late Craig Sager, the sneaker phone is definitely one of the most talked about sneaker moments in ASW history.
2012: Nike Air Foamposite One “Galaxy”
Considered one of the most hyped sneakers of all-time, the Nike Air Foamposite One “Galaxy” changed the game for sneaker releases during the 2012 All-Star Weekend in Orlando, FL. From a riot at a Florida mall to shutting down the block at Nike 21 Mercer store in New York City, sneaker releases would never be the same. Though the Foamposites stole the show, the rest of the Nike Basketball Galaxy collection also deserves a place in history.
2015: Kanye West’s adidas Debut
After infamously leaving Nike in late 2013, the stage was set during the 2015 All-Star Weekend in New York City for the official release of West’s first offering with the Three Stripes: The Yeezy Boost 750. Though not meant for the court, the high top silhouette still stole plenty of headlines during the basketball dominated weekend.
2018: Drake to adidas Rumors
Adidas took over Los Angeles and NBA All-Star Weekend in 2018. Not only was its 747 Warehouse a mini music festival, there were rumors circulating everywhere that Drake was about to follow in Kanye West’s footsteps and leave Nike for the Three Stripes. Ultimately, Drake never made an appearance at the festival and eventually had a falling out with West and the brand, partially thanks to Pusha-T, but the rumors were enough to make it a historical sneaker moment.
With the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend underway in Chicago, expect this list to grow for next year. From Jordan Brand’s “New Beginnings” Pack and Off-White Air Jordan V to the long awaited release of the adidas Yeezy Basketball Quantum, this year promises to be another classic for sneaker moments.
If you’re in Chicago for the festivities, be sure to check out our city guide. And if you think we missed something important, let us know on Twitter or Instagram.