The NBA’s elite not only battle on the hardwood but in the shoe market where competition for sponsorship can be fierce.
On Bill Simmons podcast last August Kevin Durant trashed Under Armour shoes and said that kids don’t want to play in them. This is the tipping point in the Sneaker War, with Under Armour’s main man and KD’s Golden State teammate firing off the first shot.
This sneaker “drama” forced me to think about settling the shoe debate once and for all, so here are the teams for the most thrilling pickup game to 15 you’ve ever imagined.
Kyrie Irving , Paul George , Kevin Durant, Lebron James, Draymond Green
As KD speculated, the best really do want to play in Nike shoes. Nike has a plethora of options to choose from including a nice selection of signature sneaks.
Kyrie, emerging superstar in the shoe business and the Boston Garden, is an absolute scoring machine who can break down any defense. Flanking Irving down the wing is OKC’s two way machine PG13 who is adept at playing the passing lanes and canning the three ball – fourth most in the NBA this season. It’s no surprise that #35 would want to play with such an accomplished team like Team Swoosh, because his immense talents will only become more apparent in a free-flowing pickup system.
Durant is joined by Warriors teammate, Draymond Green who’s nasty trash talk and non-stop motor will make it virtually impossible to score on team Nike.
Lastly, as with so many pickup games that we’ve all played in, when you have the best player in the gym, it’s very hard to lose.
As Lebron reigns over the NBA, Nike reigns over the shoe world.
Damian Lillard, John Wall, James Harden, Kelly Oubre, Kristaps Porzingis
I may have a few reservations about how this backcourt can play together, but if James and CP3 can thrive together, Lillard and Harden sounds even more terrifying. James Harden is the NBA’s MVP this season and he is a virtuoso with the ball in his hand. His head coach knows a thing or two about offense and he thinks that The Beard is the best he has ever seen on that end, and this season it’s hard to argue with him.
Fellow Adidas sponsor Dame Lillard has also reached a new level for the third seed Blazers. In 16 games since the All Star break, Lillard has averaged 28.9 ppg/6.3 apg/4.5 rpg and has led the NBA in second half scoring (15.6) over that stretch. John Wall fits in as a super-charged pace changer that can set up teammates and finish explosively. There are quite a few options for Adidas as well, but young Wizards 3-and-D threat Oubre makes sense in a lineup with plenty of playmakers.
Lastly, our prayers have been answered and Kristaps Porzingis has recovered for this pickup game to full unicorn mode – a two way beauty. Should this team get in a tight game, who better to turn too then elite closers like James and the unguardable stepback or Dame and the ability to change time.
Chris Paul, Victor Oladipo , Russell Westbrook , Carmelo Anthony, Kawhi Leonard
CP3 commands team Jordan and he will have plenty of scorers to feed in this dangerous small ball unit. Oladipo is the rising star of Jordan Brand as he was named an All Star for the first time this season. An explosive athlete, Oladipo is averaging 23 points per game and he is a pest defensively – leading the NBA at 2.3 steals per game(3.6 over his last 5).
Oladipo joins forces with previous OKC teammate Mr. Triple Double Russell Westbroook. It is commonly accepted that pickup basketball is the time to get your shots up – no problem for Russ as he can win games for you with the jumper but also lose them. Nevertheless, Russ won’t be taking it easy on anybody just because it’s pickup and his competitive fire is nearly unmatched.
The legend of Hoodie Melo comes out in pickup, which is a better version than OKC’s low efficiency Melo. Lastly, Kawhi Leonard holds down the center spot for MJ. Leonard is dominant on both ends (when healthy) and he will swing games for this squad with his bursts of brilliance.
Stephen Curry, Kent Bazemore, Emmanuel Mudiay, Dennis Smith Jr. , Patty Mills
Steph is going to have to lead his undersized squad with a barrage of threes, but don’t ever count Mr. Curry out. Doubted his whole career Curry has overcome many obstacles, and this author can’t say enough prayers for a quick recovery from his latest MCL tear.
Steph should attract so much attention that the explosive Dennis Smith will have driving lanes to make plays and throw down hammers. Bazemore joined Under Armour when he was a teammate of Curry’s on the Warriors, and he will provide UA with a solid three-and-D option. Bazemore can swipe steals and his bench celebrations are some of the best in the Association.
Patty Mills of the Spurs can give this team even more spacing and he is capable of providing some alternate play-making if defenses focus all their efforts on stopping Under Armour’s main man. Lastly, Emmanuel Mudiay continues to be a project that may never live up to his high lottery billing, but running with his fellow Under Armour athletes may give him a lift. This team’s path to success will be the three ball, which as we all know can swing a game to 15 in a short time.
Dwayne Wade, CJ McCollum, Terrence Ross, Evan Turner, Glenn Robinson III
After Shaq and Baron Davis retired, Dwayne Wade left Jordan Brand in 2012 to sign on as the main man for Chinese retail company Li Ning. The 12x All Star leads a fascinating squadron that will be carried by Wade’s timeless bucket getting. The future Hall of Famer will do his part to get Li Ning a ring…
McCollum will be this teams go-to scoring threat and he is lethal from all over the floor. CJ continues to excel in Portland’s potent scoring backcourt and he will look to bring that success to this pickup circuit. CJ brings along Portland teammate Evan Turner and his massive contract. Turner is a versatile player who can grab rebounds, set up teammates, and get the occasional bucket.
Terrence Ross has been stuck in NBA purgatory with the Magic and he is battling injuries but next to Wade and CJ his high flying exploits should shine. Ross is a competent three point shooter, hitting 37% on 4 attempts for his career, which will give this team needed spacing. Lastly, GR3 is a 6’6″ athletic combo forward who experienced his best NBA season last year. Robinson had ankle surgery in the offseason which has limited him to 14 games with the Pacers, but the 24 year old has upside if he can put it all together.
Those looking to increase their clutch factor should think about purchasing Li Ning shoes, because Wade and McCollum are as good as it gets down the stretch.
Tony Parker, Matthew Dellavadova, Milos Teodosic, Lou Williams, Dwight Howard
The speedster and former finals MVP is no longer at the peak (sorry) of his career, but Tony Parker is still able to get in the lane for his signature floater and mid range game.
Joining the lifetime Spur is the supposed “curry stopper” from St. Mary’s, Matthew Dellavedova of the Milwaukee Bucks. Delly is the guy no one wants to see in a pickup game because he can hit a three on one end and make questionably dirty defensive plays on the other. The Clippers rookie Teodosic will be throwing highlight reel passes all over the hardwood and he may even light up a cigarette in between games for good measure.
Certainly MR. 30 and 30 Dwight Howard will appreciate the great looks from his guards as he will have to carry the rebounding load on his large shoulders.
If Dwight controls the paint this team should get enough stops to allow for Lou Will to cook. Williams is one of the few NBA players who approaches playing at the highest level the same way many of us approach pickup, get bucket after bucket. Sweet Lou may struggle without his customary sixth man role but can pull up from anywhere…
Other (Anta, Q4, Big Baller Brand)
Lonzo Ball (Big Baller Brand), Rajon Rondo (Anta), Klay Thompson (Anta), Langston Galloway (Q4), E’Twaun Moore (Q4)
It may be unfair to compare Lonzo and Rondo but these two playing together should feature exceptional passing and defense with limited outside shooting. Lonzo is 12 years younger than Rondo and features incredible upside as a terror in the open court and expert playmaker. Ball has been able to contribute across multiple statistical categories, and his one of a kind BBB shoes have to factor into that.
Rondo is not the defensive force he once was but he still sets his teammates for easy buckets and that has to sit well with his fellow Anta sponsor, Klay Thompson.
Klay will carry this team with his ability to splash from long range, not to mention his stellar defense and supreme confidence. This team should be able to defend on the perimeter due to the length of Ball, Rondo, Thompson, and Galloway.
Galloway is a spot up shooter with good lateral quickness and he makes sense in this lineup of creators and shooters.
Lastly, Moore is a very nice role player who is having a career year with the New Orleans Pelicans this season. Moore provides a nice mix of three point shooting and wing defense, fitting in well with this “other” team. Galloway and Moore are pioneers in joining Q4 and if Moore’s strong play continues more should follow him in joining the up and coming US brand.
Good stuff, man! My name is Derek and I’m the founder of the (formerly) Fox Sports Engage syndicated sports and entertainment site nocoastbias.com. In short, the site is a hub for the most talented writers from across the country and I think you would be a great fit. If you’re interested, feel free to shoot me an email at derek (at) nocoastbias (dot) com. Thanks!
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Thanks for reading Derek. I’ll reach out via email.