It’s not a pro game. With all that television time, the attention, the hype it might feel different, but still: not a pro game. In the end it does not make much of a difference anyways. Just think about yourself. Don’t you enjoy wearing some nice kicks while playing pick-up ball on your favorite court? Because ultimately the sneaker game is not about being pro or not. It’s about style. About love. About appreciation.
That’s why, in the past, some of the most iconic sneakers have been featured during college ball. Worn by some of the most iconic players the game has ever seen. And with March Madness inevitably hitting its peak, it’s now time to show who wore what. Because after all, the tournament is a plattform. It’s the big stage. And once you hit the big stage you wanna look sharp, right?
So you might remember this little guy. The one who showed more heart than John Stockton showed leg. Maybe the tiniest MVP in NBA history. The one who needed Shaq AND Kobe to be stopped. However before being drafted by the Sixers, Allen Iverson had a college career. During his two years at Georgetown he did not only win the Big East Rookie of the Year, a Big East championship and, in his final season, made it to the Elite Eight. The little guy also showed off some pretty solid sneaker game. How else would you explain that he rocked an Air Jordan 11 “Concord“ or did not stick to the obvious choices and picked out the Nike Air Max Strong?
The Fab Five and Nike Air Max
Oh, and speaking of Air Max’s, you can’t talk about college ball and sneakers without mentioning maybe the most iconic group in NCAA history. The Fab Five. Those five guys are second to none when it comes to on-court style. “What does that have to do with Air Max’s”, you might ask? Well, just take a look at Chris Webber’s Nike Air Force Max. Just black. Matching the socks. Simple, yet a statement. Representing everything the Fab Five stood for. Teammate Jalen Rose, however, enjoyed his games either wearing the Nike Air Force Mid or Nike Air Maestros or Nike Air Dynamic Flight…
The Fab Five and the Nike Air Flight Huarache
…or, and that’s one of those things the five young Wolverines shared, the Nike Air Flight Huarache. However Rose, Webber, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson didn’t just wear the Huarache, they made the sneaker famous. They shaped its legacy, thereby making it one of the most iconic sneakers in (college) basketball history.
That’s how influential the Fab Five were. Almost single-handedly they propelled the Huarache from basketball sneaker to icon. And who knows, had they worn Jordans, maybe the hype surrounding the Jumpman would have grown even bigger. On the other hand… Nah. Jordans didn’t need support. They’ve been in the spotlight from day one. No matter whether on NBA courts, off-court or the college court.
Jordans, Jordans, Jordans
During his time at UConn Kemba Walker, for example, rocked all different kinds of Jordans. From the 12 „Flu Game“ and „White/Red“ to the 7 „Olympic“ or the 11 „Cool Grey“. And apparently the Master himself was impressed. Or how would you explain that Jordan’s Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets) ended up selecting Walker with the 9th pick of the 2011 Draft? Ok, maybe a bit far fetched. It might be safe to say, though, that showing up in Air Jordan 9 Lows alone did not score Carmelo Anthony his sneaker deal with the Jumpman.
Ray Allen – from Penny to Jordan
Especially since Caron Butler showed his appreciation for Jordans throughout his career at UConn – wearing AJ 9s, 17s and 16s – and didn’t end up at Jordan Brand, whereas fellow Husky Ray Allen went classic with the Air Max Uptempo 95 and 95, even sported the Air Penny 1 and nevertheless wore the Jumpman for his entire NBA career. Oh and by the way, Lakers-Rookie D’Angelo Russell loved his Jordans at Ohio State (2 „White/Red“, 10 „Bulls over Broadway“), but leaned towards Nike once he had made it to the NBA.
MJ and his Converse
A lot of great players. A lot of Jordans. But what did the Master himself do? What did he wear during his famous stint at North Carolina? Nikes, right? I mean, it’s obvious. Well, it’s not! From 1981 to 1984 Michael Jordan rocked Converse. You heard it: CONVERSE. His appreciation for David Thompson made MJ taylor his sneaker game after NC State’s high flying guard which meant wearing the Converse Pro Leather in each and every game as a Tar Heel. Seeing His Airness in anything else but Nikes or Jordans might seem weird, looking at his famous deciding shot against Georgetown for a couple of days might help us get used to it though.
Oldschool Pat Ewing
Especially since there is another pretty famous baller in the shot who likes his kicks plain, simple and oldschool (ok, they weren’t that oldschool back then). Patrick Ewing is the name. The Nike Dynasty or Terminator is the choice. Those two resemble everything we enjoy about retro basketball sneakers. This monochrome look. The simplicity. It’s something that never gets old.
Then and today
On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have appreciation for innovation. For new styles. New technologies. New, fancy colorways. Just have a look at Nike’s „Net Collecting Society“ collection or the Duke special edition of the Kyrie II. That’s why it is worth watching the March Madness not only for basketball reasons. Looking at the tournament today, you’ll see Jordans, LeBrons, Kobes, Kyries, Nikes, Adidas, Under Armour – you name it. Some feature a personal player edition, some colorways were designed for a certain team, and that team only. The range is big, it’s beautiful. Again: Doesn’t always have to be the pro game.