As Zion Williamson continues to delay his expected landmark shoe-deal decision, the rest of the 2019 NBA rookie class has been stalled. A majority of the 2019 first-round picks entered summer league without having inked a shoe deal, allowing for a variety of lesser-known players to unexpectedly make their mark with their footwear.
With his older sibling’s first signature shoe launching just as Las Vegas Summer League tipped off, Dallas Mavericks forward Kostas Antetokounmpo served up the on-court debut of brother Giannis‘ Nike Freak 1 sneaker, in four different colorways no less.
Of the four colorways donned by Kostas, one in particular holds extra meaning for the brothers: The white, red and gold pair with a “Roses” theme honors their late father, Charles.
“We were in the process of designing this shoe as a team when his father passed away unexpectedly,” Nike vice president Kevin Dodson said during the preview episode of SneakerCenter on ESPN+. “That just started to take on a more significant reference point for that call out.”
As Giannis and his brothers met with Nike’s team of designers over the past two years to pepper in additional signature touches and nuances, the recently crowned NBA MVP mandated a series of family nods.
The names of all four of his brothers appear along the heel. “Charles + Veronica” can be found along the arch, speaking to the parents’ support of the family. Most important, the phrase “I am my father’s legacy” is featured across the bottom of the shoe.
“I want my dad to be remembered, and I want people to know that he left a legacy behind,” Antetokounmpo told The Undefeated and SneakerCenter. “Every shoe that I make, that phrase is always going to be there.”
Though he was among the ranks of the injured rookies who didn’t play in Las Vegas, Denver Nuggets big man Bol Bol didn’t disappoint with his footwear from the sideline. He showed off his Oregon Ducks school spirit with an exclusive Air Jordan Retro 3 in green, black and white. Featuring the university’s iconic “O” logo along the heel and given only to athletes at the school, the few pairs that have ended up online for sale have been listed for as much as $10,000.
While many incoming rookies played at least one season of college hoops, Oklahoma City Thunder selection Darius Bazley took a different path. He opted to work out on his own throughout the collegiate season and signed an innovative shoe deal with New Balance last fall that included an internship at its Boston headquarters.
So it was no surprise to see Bazley donning a bright green and neon pair of the New Balance OMN1S sneaker at the draft combine this spring. During summer league, Bazley boasted yet another player-exclusive colorway of the brand’s first new model in more than a decade, opting for OKC hues of blue and orange.
As the summer league’s youngest players continue to work toward establishing themselves, courtside cameos from veterans looking to support their teams have also come to be expected. After debuting last summer as a Laker during the team’s opening night matchup, LeBron James once again was spotted at the franchise’s summer league kickoff. Once again, he wore a $500 pair of rare Just Don Lakers shorts, while also debuting a Lakers-themed exclusive retro edition of one of his earliest Nike signature models. The mismatched purple and yellow LeBron III Retro appears to have been made only for James, though the shoes sparked a considerable buzz in real time during his opening night appearance.
Check out all of the best sneakers worn during the NBA’s annual summer league sessions, and vote for your favorite pair in the poll below. For real-time sneaker updates and community discussions, join our SneakerCenter Facebook Group and follow us on Instagram