From LeBron to LaMelo, 22 players have sported their own signature shoes in 2021-22 — and Boardroom has you covered with the full list.
The most impactful endorsers in the Association can move the needle season-to-season, driving hundreds of millions of dollars for companies in the individual signature business.
There’s also the potential for a hoped-for halo effect over additional categories within a given shoe company’s umbrella, extending beyond a brand’s basketball category and into lifestyle, accessories, and more broadly, a company’s overall global perception.
This season, 22 players will grace the hardwood wearing their own current namesake model, from a total of ten brands. The nightly hardwood visibility of their pairs extends far further. Nearly 70% of the league wears a signature-branded sneaker in games, from that group of less than two dozen players.
Looking ahead, that list will expand even further this year, with players like Jayson Tatum, Jimmy Butler, and D’Angelo Russell all confirmed to be added to the signature fold. Tatum’s much-anticipated debut Jordan model will come further down the road, possibly as soon as next season.
Meanwhile, both Jimmy Buckets and D’Angelo Russell could be wearing their first forays as soon as this Spring. Butler landed a six-year signature deal with Li-Ning during the Fall of 2020, and has been working through design updates and feedback on his eventual signature shoe ever since.
DLo’s deal with Li-Ning, struck in the Fall of 2019, will now see his own “DLoading” line kick off under the company’s Way of Wade sub-brand helmed by future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade. Along the outsole of the upcoming Ice Blood model, his “Ice In My Veins” tagline and smooth “DLo…” logo add a layer of storytelling. His off-court signature shoe is expected to release later this year.
For now, just over 20 NBA players can claim the signature shoe distinction. Ordered by model number and length of series, here is that elite list:
LeBron James // Nike LeBron 19
At the helm of the league’s longest-ever active signature series for the last five seasons, LeBron is inching closer to a two-decade-long line that will be tough for anyone to top.
Designed once again by Jason Petrie, who has penned each ‘Bron silhouette since the 7, the latest edition features more visibly voluminous Air Max and Zoom Air units than ever before, with additional molded Air bladder pockets along the collar and tongue for added padding.
With his ‘LJ’ crown logo spotted throughout, there is, of course, midsole real estate once again for James to inscribe his series of tributes to family members and friends, or to add his favorite phrases before each game.
Kevin Durant // Nike KD 14
Playing into the ‘Scythe’ weapon of the Grim Reaper, the Slim Reaper’s sneaker incorporates a strap along the upper for the first time since the KD 7, albeit in a uniquely curved design to layer in some added storytelling alongside the launch of KD’s new clothing line of the same name.
With the release of his newest signature shoe in 2021, Durant became just the third player in league history to see his signature series reach 14 models as an active player.
“To be at 14 shoes itself is a great accomplishment; to build the brand the way we’ve built it and [to] tell the stories that we’ve told,” he said on Boardroom’s “The Sneaker Game.” “It’s amazing to be a part of a brand like Nike, but to be in that category with MJ and ’Bron, that’s an amazing category. I just want to keep providing good moments, keep telling my stories, and make good shoes.”
Chris Paul // Jordan CP3.13
After initially signing with Nike as a rookie, Chris Paul shifted over to Jordan Brand the following season, and became just the second Jumpman athlete after Carmelo Anthony to receive his own signature series during his 3rd year in the league.
The eventual Hall of Famer has since gone on to become one of just eight players in league history to have a signature series extend past 10 models during their career. In recent seasons, Paul has utilized the open canvas panels of his CP3 models to highlight dozens of HBCUs, placing collegiate graphics from the likes of FAMU, North Carolina A&T, Hampton, and more onto his player exclusive pairs.
Though Chris Paul has continued to switch back and forth between his CP3.12 and CP3.13 models this season, one thing that’s stayed consistent is the motivating phrase he hand-writes along the midsole of each pair in the locker room before every game:
A lyric from gospel duo Mary Mary, the point guard began writing the phrase during his time in Oklahoma City, before making an immediate impact with the Phoenix Suns and helping lead the franchise to the 2021 NBA Finals.
“People say, ‘You’re 33, 34, 35, 36 – you can’t do this, you can’t do that,’” he said. “That’s just a little reminder for me. That’s why that’s on my shoes.”
Derrick Rose // Adidas DRose Son of Chi
Now one of the longest-tenured signature endorsers in the game, Derrick Rose also landed one of the industry’s largest-ever extensions back in 2012, when he inked a massive 12-year pact with Adidas just after becoming the youngest MVP in league history.
Throughout Asia, where the beloved guard is dubbed “MVP Forever,” the DRose line continues to flourish. This season, he’s been wearing his new “Son Of Chi” sneaker, as the design incorporates nuances and details from his past shoes. Colorways honor some of his most sought-after themes, like the vibrant blue and neon “Simeon” edition that pays tribute to his Chicago high school days.
Looking ahead, there could be a twist in store when the annual edition returns in the form of a DRose 12, as the Knicks fan favorite ventures toward the final chapter of his longstanding run with Adidas.
Stephen Curry // Curry Brand Curry 9 Flow
After resetting his signature series with Under Armour a year ago with the launch of the Curry 8 Flow and his very own brand, Stephen Curry is back at it this season with his new Splash logo and Flow technology once again powering his latest signature model.
“We didn’t depart too far from [the Curry 8 Flow], but the biggest upgrade is the upper,” he explained to Boardroom. “The UA Warp technology still gives you another level of stability, lockdown, and experience. It gives you cool opportunities to do some creative things with colorways that we have.”
The Curry 8 was spotted in mostly clean executions over the course of the 2020-21 season, while the Curry 9 Flow launched this year in a seven-colorway pack with Sesame Street. The vivid blue and gold “2974” edition he rocked at MSG for his three-point record-breaking milestone will live on to be a defining pair from his career.
“It has a lot more character than the 8, and I think that’s something that we wanted to hit home with the 9,” he added.
Damian Lillard // Adidas Dame 8
After launching sneakers in recent years alluding to his hometown of Oakland or his love for music, Damian Lillard’s latest namesake Adidas model drew inspiration from his appreciation for boxing.
With themes celebrating his late-game, knockout-level clutch shots and the way in which he incorporates boxing workouts into his offseason training to prepare for each NBA season, look for the Sweet Science to play a prominent role throughout the Dame 8’s run this year.
“This shoe is special to me because it reflects a boxer’s mindset,” Lillard said. “Working hard every single day, putting in the extra hours during training, and bringing the heat right down to the last second of every game.”
Kyrie Irving // Nike Kyrie Infinity
Though he’s just now returning to the court, the newest evolution of the oft-loved Kyrie series features familiar performance elements like a Zoom Air forefoot unit, protective collar height, and supportive lockdown design details throughout.
Much like the Kobe series before it, Irving’s sneakers are one of the most-worn by NBA players around the league, annually appreciated for their playability.
“Kyrie wants to take the torch as that go-to performance model for that cutting kind of player,” designer Ben Nethongkome said.
After debuting the final colorway of the Kyrie 7 in the charity-driven “MOM” colorway, we can look for Irving’s always-anticipated footwear storytelling to come to life atop the Kyrie Infinity in more expressive editions in the coming months. (For road games, at least.)
Klay Thompson // ANTA KT 7
Just after agreeing to a new eight-year, $80 million extension with Anta during the summer of 2017, Klay Thompson straightforwardly told me his goals with the company by the end of his career:
“Be the Michael Jordan one day of Anta.”
With nearly 10,000 stores throughout Asia, the brand has made Klay a featured face of its basketball business and campaigns throughout the world, with his signature KT logo appearing on dozens of sneakers, apparel, and accessories each year.
While Thompson unfortunately didn’t get a chance to don the KT 5 or KT 6 after a two-season injury hiatus, the Warriors sharpshooter is back on the floor in his new KT 7, boasting elevated cushioning and a molded support shank to carry him through a comeback season that he says has “championship aspirations.”
James Harden // Adidas Harden Vol. 6
After landing one of the industry’s largest-ever shoe deals in 2015 — a 13-year pact that features a variety of incentives that could reach up to $200 million in total — the Three Stripes immediately got to work on James Harden’s inevitable signature series.
Now on his sixthVolume, his line has followed a performance-driven approach along the way, with quirky and unexpected paneling and graphics coming to life along the annual uppers.
“The grip, the tightness, and making sure the shoe fits my feet how it’s supposed to — that never changes,” he said. “I still have to be able to perform at an elite level. The only thing that changes are the things [visually] around it. As we continue to grow, there’s new technology that continues to be created and we continue to catch the wave and keep going forward.”
Paul George // Nike PG 6
Though he’s been rotating amongst all of his recent signature editions so far this season, including the PG 5 as pictured above, Paul George is expected to debut his sixth Nike PG model this month. The launch will make him just the seventh Nike athlete in league history to see their signature series reach a sixth model while playing.
George kicked off his signature series with one of the most well-received debut models, with the PG 1 spotted on more than 40 players around the league and still worn by players like Myles Turner and Solomon Hill.
Ever since, his sleek and low silhouettes designed by Tony Hardman have followed a consistent approach, with court feel, grip, and support for his two-way game a key focus each year.
Russell Westbrook // Jordan Why.Not .5
After winning league MVP in 2016, Russell Westbrook’s initial five-year deal with Jordan Brand from 2012 was torn up in favor of a new long-term extension. Most importantly, he was also given a signature shoe — just the fourth athlete under Michael’s namesake brand to receive that distinction.
Known for his daring fashion, his Why.Not series has been just as unpredictable as his nightly tunnel fits. With seemingly random size label placements, frantic multi-material paneling, and a hodgepodge of colors and textures splashed all over his unmistakably loud game pairs, Westbrook’s line has been one of the industry’s more consistently creative over the years.
Giannis Antetokounmpo // Nike Zoom Freak 3
When he landed a long-term extension with Nike in 2017 — after a considerable effort from Adidas to sign him away — the Swoosh’s faith in the Greek Freak’s ability on the court and his life journey and character off the court was unwavering. So they made him the first European player in league history to receive his own Nike signature shoe.
As a Nike employee framed it at the time: “If his game looks unlike anything we’ve ever seen on the court, then his shoe should too.”
A sizable reverse Swoosh defined his debut sneaker, with each of his trio of models immediately recognizable on the floor with bold court blocks and expressions. Up close, nods to his parents Charles and Veronica can be found, along with tributes to his brothers. Themes have drafted off of everything from his favorite movies to card games he and his brothers love to play at home.
“I want every product to be genuine and authentic,” Antetokounmpo said.
After betting big on the Bucks star, the timing for Nike couldn’t have been better, as Giannis hit his stride after inking the long-term 2017 extension. He’s since gone on to win back-to-back MVP awards as each of his first two Zoom Freak signature shoes were launching, and then followed that up with a Finals MVP just as the Zoom Freak 3 was launching.
Donovan Mitchell // Adidas D.O.N. Issue #3
Now on his third signature model with The Three Stripes, Donovan Mitchell has a clearly defined approach for his annual “Issue” signature series.
“The colorways of my shoes are a reflection of my story and what inspires me,” he said.
Whether that means refurbishing the basketball courts at the community center where his grandmother has worked for decades — with court graphics also seen on his sneakers — or colorways tying back to his days at Louisville and the history of the Utah Jazz, Mitchell’s models often make use of their mesh canvas for a splash of storytelling throughout.
Gordon Hayward // ANTA GH3
When Gordon Hayward’s shoe deal was up in 2018, he may have been a surprising add to the following season’s signature list, as Anta locked in a four-year partnership with the former All-Star to create his own namesake series.
“Everybody dreams of having their own shoe one day,” Hayward said at the time. “Them proposing me having a signature shoe was a big piece of the deal.”
Several factors were at play, though. Hayward was a Celtic at the time, and Anta has long enjoyed an association with the franchise and its fanbase throughout Asia, as both Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo signed signature deals with the brand after Boston’s 2008 championship. Hayward is also an avid gamer, with his online streams viewed throughout Asia.
Now on his third signature model, the GH3 designed by Duane Laurence taps into race car inspiration from his newest city of Charlotte, along with the heritage of his home state of Indiana. The result is a speedy low-top with supportive harnessing straps and molded sculpting throughout, allowing the Hornets wing to “Go Hard,” as the series often spells out in emphasized lettering across his full name.
Kawhi Leonard // New Balance Kawhi Two
After parting ways with Jordan Brand during the summer of 2018, Kawhi Leonard’s sneaker free agency was followed just as closely as the franchise moves he’s made throughout his ring-laden NBA career. With both Puma and New Balance re-launching their basketball divisions at the same time, the interest was frenzied for the former Finals MVP despite his notorious lack of a social media presence.
He had already turned down a four-year, $22 million extension offer from Jordan Brand, setting the stage for the market expectations from suitors and leading to a more lucrative pact with New Balance. Out the gate, the partnership went about as well as possible on the court, with Leonard’s lone season in Toronto leading to a 2019 Finals MVP in the brand’s OMNIS re-launch model.
At All-Star Weekend the following season in Chicago, Leonard debuted his New Balance signature shoe, The Kawhi, and went on to win MVP of the annual showcase game.
“He wanted this familiar, retro vibe, wrapped around this high-performance shell,” designer Jon Grondin said. “That was the blend he wanted.”
While sidelined throughout the start of the 2021-22 season, with an anticipated Spring return ahead of the playoffs, the face of New Balance basketball is expected to wear The Kawhi 2 once back on the court.
Aaron Gordon // 361 AG 2
After landing some of the wildest slams in the history of the Dunk Contest in 2016, brands around the globe were circling the eventual 2019 expiration of Aaron Gordon’s Nike deal.
Chinese brand 361 Degrees eventually landed him with a multi-year, multi-million-dollar offer ahead of his participation in the 2020 Slam Dunk Contest. The deal also included the creation and launch of his own signature shoe.
“It’s super dope to be able to know that I’ll be in my own shoe,” Gordon said. “When I’m out there on the court, I don’t got to worry about if it don’t fit right or if it don’t look right. It’s like, ‘Nah, this is me on my feet.’ I’m going to be comfortable and just happy and grateful to be representing.”
Now wearing the AG 2, Gordon’s signature series kicked off with a defined design language, highlighted by a supportive upper, molded foot frame shank system and an emphasis on toe-off and transition for the high flier’s game.
Joel Embiid // Under Armour Embiid One
As the only NBA center with his own signature shoe, Joel Embiid is well aware of the saying that’s long marred the sneaker lines of big men since the signature starting points of Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, and Shaquille O’Neal.
“It’s not a big man shoe,” he said. “It’s a shoe for any basketball player.”
With a mesh upper and mobile mid-cut, the Under Armour Embiid One’s design features a flowing support piece along the side, inspired by erupting volcanoes. The outsole features an outline of Africa as a nod to his Cameroonian heritage.
After signing on with UA in 2018, the signature process led to The Process debuting his sneaker early in the NBA bubble, with the 76ers All-Star since unveiling colorways and themes highlighting the different stages of his storybook career in the league. He is just the third player in the company’s history to receive his own signature basketball shoe.
Zion Williamson // Jordan Zion 1
As the athletic industry’s most sought-after incoming NBA rookie since LeBron James, Zion’s rookie shoe deal process could’ve been a movie. As brands like Puma and Li-Ning pulled out all the stops and offers accelerated into the eight figures per year, the explosive marketing sensation eventually chose Jordan Brand. The five-year agreement also made him just the fifth player in the Nike subsidiary’s 23-year history to receive his own signature shoe.
“Words can’t really explain it, if I’m being honest,” Williamson said. “As a kid, you kind of just say it just to put it in the atmosphere, ‘Yeah, I want my own shoe when I get older.’ As you get older, you see that it’s tough to get your own signature shoe and things really have to go your way.”
With a sizable ‘Z’ graphic splicing through the shoe’s upper — inspired by the mononymous star power of his first initial and his trademark haircut — the Zion 1 was loaded with a full-length Nike Air unit and a forefoot Zoom Air bag, packing in tech for the power forward’s much-anticipated debut sneaker. Themes to start have drawn inspiration from his younger brother Noah, his mom Sharonda, his South Carolina upbringing, and his love for the brotherhood at Duke.
Trae Young // Adidas Trae Young 1
After Young was named an All-Star starter in just his third NBA season, Adidas tore up his rookie shoe deal, inked a new long-term extension, and made him their next signature athlete.
“When I was thinking about it as a kid growing up, I just wanted to have the coolest colorways and make sure that everybody loved the shoe,” he said.
From the Icee, cotton candy, and Peach Tree Street-inspired looks to his collabs with ATL’s own Jermaine Dupri, it’s been the storytelling atop his debut signature shoe that has him most excited.
“I want it to be a shoe that everybody feels good when they put it on,” Young said. “That they feel like they can go out and get 40 and 10.”
CJ McCollum // Li-Ning CJ 1
After signing on with Li-Ning in 2018, Blazers bucket-getter CJ McCollum had been headlining the brand’s team models for the last three seasons. This past fall, on his 30th birthday, the brand launched his own CJ 1 signature shoe, making him the first athlete since Dwyane Wade to receive his own Li-Ning sneaker.
The smooth silhouette has been highlighted by a series of themes and colorways celebrating his current Portland home base, with everything from rose-laden graphic editions and pairs featuring prints from the PDX airport’s beloved carpeting to a full apparel collection drafting off of the Rose City. Hands-on throughout the creation process, he’s even worn one-off PEs honoring his wedding anniversary, making use of storytelling real estate along the heel and collar for added details and touches.
Langston Galloway // Ethics LG One
As the Phoenix Suns kept advancing round by round through the 2021 Playoffs, shooting guard Langston Galloway held onto a surprise in store. Known for wearing rare pairs from a variety of companies, he waited until Game 1 of the NBA Finals for his biggest unveil: a signature shoe created under his very own sneaker brand, Ethics.
“My work ethic has gotten me to this point in my career,” said Galloway. “But the ethics started since I was a kid to becoming a grown up, living out my life and living out my dreams.”
The company is owned by Langston and his wife Sabrina Galloway, with the 30-year-old shooting specialist spending nearly two years on the creation process, building stages and eventual launch strategy of his first shoe, the LG One, under the Ethics brand.
Along the way, he even enrolled in the NBA’s joint program with Harvard Business School dubbed “Crossover into Business,” a 3-month semester long course that connects professional athletes with Harvard MBA students for feedback and mentorship on their potential business plans.
After wearing the stitched suede and patent leather mid-cuts in stints with the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks this season, Galloway realized a dream earlier this week, with nearly every pair of the size 9-16 run selling out of his first Ethics launch.
LaMelo Ball // Puma MB.01
The newest addition to the signature sneaker space this season is rockstar-slash-must-see-TV point guard LaMelo Ball. After launching his own signature sneaker under Big Baller Brand at just 16 years of age, the now-20-year-old was already familiar with the footwear design process when he landed with Puma ahead of his Rookie of the Year season.
Now in his second year with the Charlotte Hornets, “Melo” has been rocking his radiant red MB.01s since opening night. Signature phrases are seen throughout the mid-tops, playing off his uniqueness and self-assured style.
“The phrase ‘Not From Here’ means kind of like you’re an alien,” he said. “You’re not from here, you’re something nobody’s ever seen before. You’re 1-of-1. Something like that. It’s real different.”
After selling out of the red launch colorway in December, Puma is set to drop three more colorways of his signature shoe in February. A black and teal “Buzz City” look drafts off of his team’s colors, while a grey and red spin lends a clean lifestyle look. Perhaps the most anticipated Puma basketball shoe since the brand’s re-launch in 2018 is the Rick and Morty collab — a mismatched neon and red launch inspired by the intergalactic Adult Swim TV show that’s slated for Feb. 18.