Growing up I was allowed one new pair of basketball shoes per season (check out the latest range of Nike Basketball Trainers). I used to have a very strict rotation. New pair at the start of the season were strictly for games only, last seasons game pair were now for training. Last season’s training pair now got relegated to outside courts and general use. I am definitely not an NBA player though.
Do NBA players get new shoes every game? The simple answer to this is yes, if they want them. Most NBA players will wear a pair of shoes between 4 and 20 games. With a few claiming to wear them until they break down.
That’s not the whole story though. Who pays for the shoes? Why do they change shoes so often and most importantly – why don’t they constantly have blisters from breaking in new shoes like the rest of us?
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How often do NBA players change their shoes, how and why?
Firstly, let’s cover off the different tiers of NBA player and their relation to shoe deals. We’ve got the Superstars, Lebron, KD, Curry, Kyrie, Giannis etc. They will typically have signature shoes. Created by a brand for them, with their input and sold using their name. This could net them as much as $30million a season, and all the free shoes and merchandise they could ever need. It’s said that Lebron’s total deal with Nike will earn him more than $1billion before all is said and done. Then we have the Allstars, Towns, Conley, Simmons – usually up and commers that haven’t quite reached the heady heights of earning their own shoe. Sometimes it’s to do with market size, Mike Conley has been one of the best in the game for some time now. These players will have shoe deals, they’ll get paid to represent a specific brand and be supplied with all the shoes they need! It won’t be in the 10’s of millions though. A typical draft lottery pick will bring in between $200k – 700k a year on their first shoe contract. Below that there are the rest of the league. They won’t necessarily be paid for representing a certain brand, but will most likely have a shoe deal that allows them access to shoes whenever they want them. Some interesting people to note here are Michael Jordan – the highest shoe deal earner, bringing in almost 4 times what Lebron does, with a figure north of $100 million a year. Matthew Dellavedova – his status as an international brand has netted him his own signature shoe, when arguably better players don’t have one. Last but not least, Lonzo Ball. Infamously spurning the big brands to sign a shoe deal with his families “Big Baller Brand”. The jury is still out on the success of this.
Now we understand the tiers a little bit, we can look at how many pairs of shoes players will go through in a season. Recently the Denver Nuggets kit manager stated that on average each player will use approximately 50 pairs of shoes for an 82 game season.
That’s a minuscule 1 and a half games a pair. So what drives this need to change shoes so regularly? There are many reasons. Some players say it’s purely for comfort and performance, after all they are the elite in the game and get paid millions to perform at peak levels night after night, comfy, protected feet and trust the shoe is going to grip when they cut is a no brainer request for these guys. Others do it for charitable, political and community reasons. Often wearing shoes specifically designed to give a political or personal message off, raise awareness or money for charity. Often they like to hand them out signed to local kids after the game. Rising Denver star Jamal Murray will often take to social media in the lead up to a game and ask fans to decide what kicks he will wear next game. All of this builds profile, drives interest in the product and makes money for all involved. Custom designed shoes for NBA players are becoming big business. Karl Anthony Towns had a pair of Nike re-worked for a Halloween game to show Jason from the “Friday 13th” movies brandishing the Nike swoosh like a blood stained machete. You can’t buy these in the shops, they were designed by a rising LA artist who goes by the name @kickstradomis on social media. So with almost unlimited resource and every reason to wear a new pair of shoes every game, it’s no wonder many NBA players do.
Do NBA players wear the same shoes sold in stores?
A recent round table interview of several NBA players found that Anderson Varejao was most likely to wear his shoes the longest. Claiming to wear them for 20-25 games until they started to wear down. He put this down to his upbringing and not having the luxury of changing his shoes that often. But while some players like Varejao clearly want to break them in and get them comfy, many more players say it goes the other way. Matt Barnes has said he wears his for 2 or 3 games before they start to feel uncomfortable, so why is this? How come NBA players shoes seem to work the opposite way to the ones we buy in shops?
The majority of players will be custom fitted for their shoes. They will attend a sports science lab and be put through their paces, asked questions about how they like the shoe to feel and it will be perfectly moulded for them. They won’t have to do this every time, once the work is done each pair can be made so they fit the player perfectly out of the box. A luxury few casual players could ever dream of. Nike and Under Armour are two brands who famously have high end facilities where they ensure their athletes are looked after so that the shoes they wear on the court enhance both their style and performance. Fans lucky enough to receive game worn shoes from NBA players will often comment on how different they feel to the same shoe purchased from the store. Given all this, if you were an NBA player, wouldn’t you wear a box fresh pair of custom designed shoes every time you set foot on the hardwood? If like us you are not a NBA player but want to keep you shoes fresh we would recommend getting the Sneaker Lab Basic Shoe Care Kit, to ensure you can make your basketball shoes last longer.
Do NBA players wear another players Signature shoe?
Yes, this is very common. Although it would be custom fitted and sometimes designed for the player actually wearing it.
What active player makes the most money from their shoe deal?
Lebron James is signed with Nike and earns over $30million a year from the deal.