The NBA All-Star Game was started in 1951 as a way to get fans to pay attention to the NBA after a disastrous college basketball point-shaving scandal had come to light. What was originally a PR recovery move has become a major event where basketball fans can watch the best players in the game compete against each other.
Players are voted into West and East side teams, building the ultimate 12-man roster to grace a single court game every the year. The teams play for charities they support back home and each match crowns an MVP.
Naturally, the All-Star Games have become a flexing arena where players rock their best sneakers to the most anticipated court game of the year. Brands, of course, make it a point to drop limited edition sneakers over the weekend, further solidifying the link between All-Star Weekend and sneakers releases.
This year, Nike pulled out all the stops to drop the Air Jordan 34 in a new colorway, a remake of the Air Jordan 1 “UNC to Chicago”, a red October style Kyrie 6 and the Adapt BB 2.0.
Here are some other significant moments in All-Star Weekend history recapped in sneaker drops.
The Converse Pro Leather saw its debut in 1977 and was quickly endorsed by Julius Erving as a professional court shoe. The shoe has a unique construction, using a pre-modeled midsole that is stitched to the all leather upper. This combination created a sneaker that was more supportive, comfortable and responsive than any other sneaker in the game. In fact, some attributed the quickened pace of the game to the introduction of the Pro Leather.
1977 was also the year the ABA and NBA merged to form just one basketball competition. Just in time for the All-Star Game, players from both competitions came together to represent their side to win back the title. Fun fact: ’77 was also the year Julius Erving became the second player ever to win MVP while on the losing team.
Shop the 2018 remakes for US$105 (approx S$145.86) on StockX.
1983 saw the introduction of the soon-to-be New York staple sneaker, the Nike Air Force 1. Back then, these air-cushioned sneakers were not as popular as they are today. In fact, it was so poorly received that the following year, the shoe was discontinued. It took another three years before it made a comeback. Getting the official sign off by The Original Six (six NBA players signed with Nike to wear the shoe on the courts) lent the Air Force 1 some credibility in the game and it slowly grew in popularity.
That year, Marvin Gaye performed a revamped version of the American national anthem. At the time, the public had come to know of Marvin’s cocaine addiction and his rehearsals were shaky at best, leading broadcasters to worry about his live performance. In the end, Gaye pulled through and till this day, his take on the “Star Spangled Banner” remains the favorite soundtrack for NBA related ads.
Get the 2017 NBA Edition Air Force 1 for US$200 (approx S$277.83) on StockX.
Not many people know this, but the Air Jordan 3 was the sneaker that kept MJ with Nike. After the lackluster Air Jordan 2, the legendary Tinker Hatfield designed the Air Jordan 3 with bold elephant print, plush sock liner and large Jumpman logo on the tongue and Michael Jordan was sold.
That year, Michael Jordan proved he was king of the NBA winning Gatorade’s Slam Dunk contest and took home the NBA All-Star victory with a 138-133 game. He then received his first All-Star Game MVP title, solidifying his status as the GOAT.
Shop the 2018 re-release of the Air Jordan 3 Black Cement for US$275 (approx S$382.01) on StockX.
1992 wasn’t Michael Jordan’s year, but he still managed to steal the show – this time with the Jordan VII. He laced up the grey and purple-accented sneaker and all eyes were on him. The sneaker stayed true to African tribal art roots, incorporating bold colors and geometric shapes. It is also the first sneaker from the Jordan line that didn’t have an exposed Air unit, which only piqued the audience’s curiosity further.
More remarkably, ’92 was the year Magic Johnson had returned to play his final game with the NBA. The year before, Johnson announced that he had contracted HIV and would be leaving the league but fans voted to have him return as a starter for the All-Star Weekend game in ’92. In the last two minutes of the friendly, he scored three three-pointers. This match was a display of more than just his basketball prowess, it was the perfect ending that Johnson had been trying to write for his career. He was quoted saying, “It’s the first game ever to be called on account of hugs.”
Get the 2015 release of the Air Jordan VII “Bordeaux” for US$264 (approx S$366.73) on StockX.
The Air Jordan XIII made its official debut in the ’97 All-Star game, even though it later became known for MJ’s 1997 post-season run with the Chicago Bulls. The black and white leather sneaker accompanied one of MJ’s best performances which saw him scoring the NBA’s first triple-double. That left a lasting impact on NBA history.
1997 also marked the league’s 50th anniversary and it was decided that it would take the chance to honor the 50 best players. This included names like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Bob Cousy, Julius Erving, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Oscar Robertson and, of course, Michael Jordan. The 50 players had accumulated 107 NBA championships, 49 MVPs, 17 Rookie of the Year awards, 447 All-Star Game selections, 36 scoring titles, 923, 791 total points and 410,327 rebounds.
Add the Air Jordan XII “Playoff” to cart for US$244 (approx S$338.95) on StockX.
2001 was the year Kobe Bryant received his first signature sneaker with Adidas – The Crazy 1 “Sunshine”. The sneaker was inspired by the Audi TT and the weather of sunny Los Angeles. The design was not exactly a hit, what with its unusually shaped synthetic upper and minimalist color blocking.
That same year, Allen Iverson went absolutely ham in the last nine minutes of his All-Star game. In those nine minutes, he would score 15 of his 25 points to lead his team to a 111-110 victory. This insane gameplay earned him the MVP title that year.
Shop the Adidas Crazy 1 “Sunshine” for US$366 (approx S$508.42) on StockX.
Rasheed Wallace, known as the man of the people, debuted a red patent leather sneaker that shone on the hardwood court during the 2001 All-Star Game. The Air Force 1 High had the number “30” embroidered on the straps and a “Rasheed Wallace” Jumpman at the heel. Though his performance during the game wasn’t astounding, his kicks left an impression. The Nike Air Force 1 High “Rasheed Wallace” is a proper grail and can’t be found on resale apps.
His teammate Jason Kidd brought the East team to victory with a crazy 0.5 second shot from the half-line that landed right as the buzzer went off, giving the team an 11-point advantage. This shot is regarded as one of the best shots in NBA history.
The 2003 All-Star Weekend set the tone for all the years to come as it was the first season where a new Jordan shoe made its debut at the game. During this All-Star Game – also MJ’s final match before retirement – he chose to rock the then-unreleased Air Jordan XIII “White/Royal”. Kobe Bryant had on feet the Air Jordan III “True Blue” as a tribute to MJ’s legacy.
That year, for some crazy reason, the NBA decided to mic up Kobe and MJ which gave us an amazing clip of the two trash-talking. MJ is known to be aggressive on the courts and seeing a then-junior Kobe stand firm against the legend was a sight to behold.
Ball in the Jordan 18 “Retro White Sport Royal” for US$295 (approx S$409.79) on StockX.
Kobe took a complete right turn in 2009 when he chose to create the Nike Zoom Kobe IV – the first low top shoe he ever released with Nike. Inspired by the cleats used in football (or, soccer), Kobe designed the Nike Zoom Kobe IV to support fast-paced and quick directional changes which he admired in the sport. This happened to be his playing style on the court as well.
That was also the year Kobe and Shaquille O’Neal had to play on the same team after a very public feud which lasted till September 2019. For that one night, the basketball giants came together and played a fair game in Pheonix. In the end, both were awarded the MVP title, which they had to share.
Get the Nike Zoom Kobe IV for US$300 (approx S$416.74) on StockX.
2020 kicked off tragically for the sport, with the loss of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, along with seven friends, in a horrific helicopter crash. As one of the youngest players ever to get drafted into the NBA and then featured in an All-Star game, Kobe was a true legend who stood strong next to Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James. To honor his incredible legacy, the All-Star Game MVP has been renamed the Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP trophy.
Clippers star Kawhi Leonard became the first player to win the Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP trophy. During the match, he debuted the New Balance Kawhi. The sneaker is his first signature sneaker and represents New Balance’s growing presence in the sport.
Which sneaker do you think had the biggest impact at the NBA All-Star Game? Share your thoughts in the comment section.