Last-minute and scaled down: these were two terms that haven’t been used to describe NBA All-Stars events before this week. But in 2021, this was the reality. One aspect the pandemic seemed to have no impact on was the social signalling Team LeBron and Team Durant brought to the court. Whether it was referencing the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement, shouting out an injured teammate, or the All-Stars clash falling on International Women’s Day, the clues were in the shoes. Here are the best kicks you almost missed at the NBA All-Stars Event.

Nike LeBron 18 and Off White Air Force 1

LeBron James wore legendary footwear to match his legendary career. On court at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, he donned the Nike LeBron 18s, part of Nike’s special ‘Play For The Future’ collection developed and debuted for the All-Stars game.

Off-court he wore a pair of Nike Off White Air Force 1 Low in ‘Yellow’ (rumoured to be releasing later this year as ‘university gold’) gifted by Virgil Abloh. The venerated designer went to town on the pair with a black marker and penned phrases that read “BLACK LIVES MATTER,” “VIRGIL WAS HERE,” and “LEBRON” in his signature capitalised lettering.

NBA All-Stars
ATLANTA, GEORGIA – MARCH 07: A view of the shoes worn by Lebron James #23 of Team LeBron prior to the 70th NBA All-Star Game at State Farm Arena on March 07, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Under Armour Curry 8 #InternationalWomensDay

Steph Curry proved yet again that he is the man when he wore the Under Armour #InternationalWomensDay Curry 8s in pastel purple with the handwritten slogan “I can do all things.”

Adidas Harden Vol. 5 ‘Solar Yellow’

James Harden made one of his two bold fashion statements of the day in the Adidas Harden Vol. 5 ‘Solar Yellow’. As with any moment where an athlete dabbles in bolder styles people were quick to criticise. Earlier, Harden wore a Vetements sheer white coat where fans online poked fun at the fact that he was wearing a ‘raincoat’ indoors, Harden proving that only cowards wear weather-appropriate regalia.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – MARCH 07: A view of the shoes worn by James Harden #13 of Team Durant prior to the 70th NBA All-Star Game at State Farm Arena on March 07, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Air Jordan 35 PE Women In Power

Jayson Tatum also paid homage to International Women’s Day with a pair of Air Jordan 35 PE Women In Power. Tatum has been vocal about the support he has received from the women in his life prior to this shoe’s release as a player exclusive. The shoe includes the slogan ‘women in power’ near the top of the vamp and ‘fearless’ branding on the innersole.

CP3.XIII

Chris Paul wore the CP3.XIII with a handwritten dedication to his Phoenix Suns teammate, Devin Booker, which read “be legendary”. Booker was unable to play the All-Stars due to a knee injury sustained in a previous game.

Nike Zoom Freak 2 ‘Play For The Future’

Giannis Antetokoumpo wore the Nike Zoom Freak 2 ‘Play for the Future’; the boldest design in the collection and a shoe that harks back to garish patterns and colourways of the 80s with what can only be described as pixelated cameo print. Simultaneously, this shoe strikes a futuristic note with fluorescent tonalities and patterned laces which at first glance look to be trail shoe inspired.

Adidas T-Mac

Jaylen Brown made his All-Stars debut with a special tribute to Tracy McGrady. In a Twitter interaction from 2014, McGrady gave Brown sage advice for the then up-and-coming baller, “Remember Humble and Hungry”. Those words continued to reverberate for Brown who had a pair of Adidas T-Mac – McGrady’s namesake shoe – customised ahead of the game.

Though the highly anticipated event was organised last minute and on a much smaller scale than the usual weekend-long affair, the players proved albeit in small ways, the significance of wider world issues during the years that changed us. Subtle nods to issues that are intertwined with basketball, as well as celebrations of the way that sport can bring us together are perhaps the happiest mediums we can find in the decade that just keeps on giving and taking.

thoughts?