10 Forgotten Sneaker Stars in Sports
How do you quantify what it means to become a sneaker star? The easy answer is having a signature line. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Michael Jordan—those guys are titans of industry, not to mention swimming in sneaker wealth.
The scope of footwear is incredibly wide-ranging. It's not reserved solely for signature athletes. That's why we felt building a list of 10 forgotten sneaker stars was important.
Oftentimes footwear pioneers come from obscure places. We've seen tennis stars take flight, NBA bench players turn social media inside out and veterans help build brand equity in the most unexpected places. The common thread between all of them is that they're true sneaker stars.
Here are 10 individuals who helped shift sneaker culture despite being overlooked.
The NBA has always been a sneaker palace jammed with kings. These kings walk around with on-foot treasures, fusing leather, elements of rubber and woven materials together.
Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker is a candidate for the prime minister of this arena, thanks to his extensive palette. Over the course of his NBA career, Tucker has rotated a constant blend of retro Jordans and "Player Exclusive" Nike models to keep people guessing.
Tucker's Instagram account should be archived for the quality of heat it's produced. He may not have a signature sneaker, however, Tucker's personal choices have elevated him to lord status.
In a world flooded with signature stars, Tucker has made a lasting name for himself.
Nike has given Roger Federer a continual wave of support in an on-foot capacity, turning the brand's best tennis efforts into Federer-laced classics. Crafting kicks for each Grand Slam event, Federer has worn a series of unique kicks during his career, as Rachael Allen of Footwear News discussed.
Aside from rocking all of the heat his Nike brethren have handed down, Federer also got a special Air Jordan treatment. During the 2014 U.S. Open, Federer pushed the possibilities of how tennis sneakers could be perceived by rocking the Nike Zoom Vapor 9 Tour AJ3. Established in white and black colorways, the Vapor 9 Tour AJ3 took the best two models and melded them into a classic.
Both versions sold out rapidly when they hit retailers. They still remain resell magnets, fetching outlandish prices.
Arguably the greatest of all time on the court, Federer also makes a strong case for being Nike's true sneaker champion in the world of tennis.
Eddie Jones helped pioneer the Team Jordan movement at a time when Air Jordans were the sole provider of influential content. There hasn't been an athlete before or since who has represented Team Jordan as hard as Jones.
Serving as the 2-guard precursor to Kobe Bryant, Jones quickly cemented himself as a prolific scorer for the Los Angeles Lakers during the mid-1990s. Lending his endorsement talents to the burgeoning Jordan Empire, he was quickly gifted the Jumpman Pro Quick.
The shoe unintentionally became the first signature effort from Jones. He would soon follow that up with the Quick 6 and the iconic Jumpman Swift 6—a sneaker that remains an aesthetic masterpiece.
For all the love and praise the Air Jordan has earned, the Team Jordan brand did its thing during the late '90s into the early 2000s. At the forefront of that movement was Eddie Jones.
Fresh out of high school, Darius Miles was selected No. 3 overall in the 2000 NBA draft. His destination turned out to be Los Angeles, where he would slide into the Clippers' small forward role.
Miles' career was a disappointment from a development standpoint—he never evolved as anything more than a rim-slasher—but his shoe game remained strong. As an advocate of Jordan Brand, Miles was able to put his own spin on the Air Jordan line.
Between wearing "Player Exclusive" versions and the use of timeless kicks, Miles' style helped further Jordan Brand's cultural agenda on a grand stage—so much so that in 2014 Kicks Deals took a detailed look at what Miles wore during his NBA career.
Now far removed from pro hoops, Miles' legacy will forever be his choice of kicks.
Before Nike was shipping Roger Federer the goods, Andre Agassi was out there turning the volume up with a custom line of kicks.
Nike needed a radical line of sneakers to fit Agassi's personality. They started with the Air Tech Challenge series during the late 1980s and from there transitioned into some of Nike's best multisport models.
Nick Engvall explored Agassi's sneaker arch for Complex, honing in on 10 lasting cuts. Each one was worn with a sense of flavor—the type of flavor that not only defined Nike footwear in the '90s, but also Agassi's approach to the game of tennis.
Agassi hasn't been forgotten when it comes to the footprint he made in sneaker culture. He's on this list to serve as a reminder that greatness doesn't always come by way of the basketball court.
It's easy to gloss over the fact that Jerry Stackhouse had his own line of signature shoes during the 1990s. Along with Grant Hill, Stackhouse joined Fila after being drafted in 1995.
Fila's signature sneakers haven't received the same retro treatment as Nike, Adidas or, to an extent, nostalgic Reebok offerings. But at the time, the brand produced a wonderful array of basketball kicks.
Stackhouse's line, in particular, was special. Dubbed The Stack, Fila pushed its product onto the court using a bulky finish—a trait the brand is remembered for. Stackhouse's kicks used Fila's traditional color combination of white, navy blue and red to keep a level of brand notoriety—a black-and-white design was also made public.
In the end, Stackhouse's time with Fila remains a footnote of signature basketball offerings during the '90s. His line was prominent and made noise at the time despite being forgotten all these years later.
Sometimes having an influence on sneaker culture is about the choices you make. In DeMar DeRozan's case, his on-foot selections have continued to keep Kobe Bryant's iconic signature sneaker line on the mind of NBA fans.
More than anyone else, DeRozan has become the torchbearer for Bryant's kicks. He's spent the last two seasons shuffling between different models, making sneakerheads jealous along the way.
We probably won't ever see DeRozan receive his own pair of signature shoes. Nike remains selective with its athletes. But down the road, maybe DeRozan will be gifted "Player Exclusive" pairs of Bryant kicks to put on display.
Until then, let's all sit back and appreciate what he has in store for the rest of 2017.
Whether you want to admit it or not, Serena Williams has become a pivotal member of the sneaker community dating back to 2015 when Nike announced they would be giving her a signature shoe.
The NikeCourt Flare became Williams' calling card, as the shoe was designed specifically for her to help with nagging ankle issues, per Nike News. A neoprene ankle holster turned Williams' ailments into a thing of the past.
Since then, the shoe has been made readily available to the general public and has even been given the Air Jordan treatment—as you can see in the shot above.
Williams has done it all. She's won 23 majors, engraved her name into tennis allure and has become a prominent Nike signature athlete.
Nate Robinson isn't currently on an NBA team, but that hasn't stopped us from remembering all of the greatness he carried onto the courts with him.
Of all the NBA's prominent sneakerheads, Robinson was a guy who could measure up to anyone. His Jordan game was distinct. Trend-setting kicks ranging from rare Air Jordan Vs to XIs allowed Robinson to stand on his own merit.
His social media accounts—especially Instagram—serve as proof of what he's done. Robinson's tenure in the NBA pivoted between sneaker chaos and winning the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. No matter how you slice it, his impact on sneaker culture can never be washed away.
Team Jordan relied heavily on guys like Eddie Jones and Vin Baker to burst through the NBA's tightest footwear seams. "Vin Baker was so good during his peak years that Jordan Brand pegged him to basically be their 'Strong' to Eddie Jones’ 'Quick,'" Juan Martinez of Kicks on Fire penned.
The combination gave Jordan Brand a chance to thrive during the Michael Jordan era of hoops and keep the brand's impact on a vibrant trajectory. For a period of time, Baker served his purpose.
Two sneakers shoot directly to the brain when you think back on Baker's time with Jordan Brand. The Jumpman Pro Strong and Vindicate—the latter being his true signature effort.
Both shoes turned out to be quality Team Jordan releases and helped move the brand forward. Baker became a household name in the league and subtly helped alter sneaker culture with his Team Jordan imprint.