NBA Sneaker King Power Rankings: Kawhi Leonard keeps showing off new signature; P.J. Tucker remains at the top


The NBA All-Star break has come and gone, signaling the final stretch before the season winds down. This is the time when elite teams pull away from the mediocre pack and distance themselves as the playoffs near. It works that way for the league’s biggest sneakerheads, too.

From this point on, you’re going to start noticing more sneaker heat on the court than you have all season long. This is when the true contenders for the NBA Sneaker King crown emerge. The season’s best customs, retros and new releases will all be unveiled within the next month.

Here’s the first taste of what the NBA sneaker scene is looking like after the All-Star break.

10. Ja Morant

Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant is really good at basketball. There, no need to complicate it any more than that. He’s also really into his kicks and loves to show off new stuff. Since returning from the break, he’s been on a hot streak when it comes to his sneakers. He recently broke out the Nike Kyrie 6 ‘Oracle Aqua,’ one of the many shoes he rocked from Kyrie Irving’s signature Nike line this season. Those sneakers are great, but the reason Morant makes the cut here is because he’s also making use of the Nike Adapt BB 2.0 ‘Chicago’ Gamer Exclusive. The shoes won’t release to the public in a classic release, but rather can be unlocked by reaching certain accomplishments playing NBA 2K.

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Ja Morant wearing the Nike Kyrie 6 ‘Oracle Aqua.’
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9. Troy Brown Jr.

It’s time to start paying attention to Wizards swingman Troy Brown Jr. when it comes to the NBA sneaker scene. As it turns out, he’s legit when it comes to breaking out must-see kicks. Brown simply makes the cut this week with what could be the cleanest player exclusive of the Nike Zoom Freak 1. The creamsicle-colored features a vibrant blue mid-sole with colored specs and a yellow tab on the pull tab. If Brown is breaking out heat like this, he’ll definitely move up the list as the season winds down.

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Troy Brown Jr. wearing a Nike Zoom Freak 1 PE.

8. Bam Adebayo

Life is good for Heat big man Bam Adebayo. He’s finally getting the national attention he deserves while breaking out and making his first All-Star team this season. Adebayo is also making a name for himself on the NBA sneaker scene. Recently, he flexed on us all when he laced up the Nike Zoom Freak 1 Kentucky PE. The shoes are made strictly for University of Kentucky basketball players, but we have a hunch that Adebayo might have a hookup or two there. As if those kicks weren’t enough, Adebayo then went the custom route to pay homage to his upbringing in North Carolina. Sneaker customizer Marcus Rivero (@SolesBySir on Instagram) put together the shoes for Adebayo.

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Bam Adebayo representing his alma mater with the Nike Zoom Freak 1 Kentucky PE.
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Bam Adebayo in custom pair of kicks representing his childhood home.
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7. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is easily one of the NBA’s brightest young stars. On the court, he can attack from all levels and usually does it with a fresh pair of kicks on his feet. This week, Gilgeous-Alexander has been showing off his extensive Nike Kobe line collection. The highlight of this week’s run was the Nike Kobe 5 Protro ‘Big Stage/Parade,’ a shoe that pays tribute to the late Kobe Bryant’s fifth and final championship. 

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Shai-Gilgeous Alexander wearing the Nike Kobe 5 Protro ‘Big Stage/Parade.’
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6. Jayson Tatum

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum continues to show out this season on the court. A common denominator during all his on-court accomplishments is the Jordan 34 player exclusive kicks he always has on his feet. This week his highlights include a Jordan 34 ‘Lemonade’ PE. Why lemonade? Nothing more than the dude loves him some lemonade. Tatum also made use of a Jordan 34 ‘U-City’ PE, which pays homage to his native St. Louis. 

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Jayson Tatum wearing a Jordan 34 PE.
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Jayson Tatum wearing another Jordan 34 PE.
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5. Kawhi Leonard

If you didn’t believe the hype earlier when we broke down how the time after the All-Star break is sneaker nirvana, then we’ll just point to Kawhi Leonard as a clear example. Leonard, who debuted his first signature shoe with New Balance during the All-Star Game, has continued to break out new colorways of his new kicks. Keep scrolling to get a better look at the New Balance KAWHI.

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Kawhi Leonard in his signature New Balance KAWHI sneaker.
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Kawhi Leonard in another colorway of his New Balance KAWHI kicks.
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4. Royce O’Neale

Jazz forward Royce O’Neale has been making noise with his sneakers all season long, but even he is picking up the heat after returning for the All-Star break. O’Neale is known to break out some real creative custom kicks, but the ‘Dragon Ball Z’ inspired Nike KD 12 sneakers he pulled out last week absolutely set a new standard for how good a custom can look. Sneaker customizer Andrew Lewis (@Andr3wtl on Instagram) is the one that put together the shoes like he’s done for O’Neale many times this season.

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Royce O’Neale wearing a ‘Dragon Ball Z’ inspired custom.
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Royce O’Neale in a Nike Kyrie 6 PE.
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3. LeBron James

It needs to continue to be said that LeBron James is enjoying one of his better sneaker seasons in a long time. What makes that statement even crazier is the fact that James’ signature Nike line has been thriving for over a decade. This season you just don’t ever know what King James is going to lace up next. His highlights since returning from the All-Star break include the Nike LeBron 17 low ‘Tune Squad’ and the Nike LeBron 7 ‘China Moon.’

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LeBron James wearing the Nike LeBron 17 low ‘Tune Squad.’
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LeBron James wearing the Nike LeBron 7 ‘China Moon.’
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2. Jeff Teague

It sure seems like Jeff Teague was able to bring his sneaker collection with him when he got traded from the Timberwolves to the Hawks this season because he hasn’t fallen off one bit. He broke out the Nike Hyperdunk ‘UNDFTD,’ a shoe that released in 2013 in a collaboration between Nike and Los Angeles-based apparel brand Undefeated. Teague kept the heat coming when he laced up the Nike Kobe 4 Prelude ‘Finals MVP,’ a shoe originally designed to celebrate Kobe Bryant’s first Finals MVP award in 2009.

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Jeff Teague wearing the Nike Kobe 4 Prelude ‘Finals MVP.’
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1. P.J. Tucker

It isn’t really an NBA Sneaker King power rankings if P.J. Tucker isn’t fighting for the top spot. This was a light week-plus for Tucker, who nonchalantly broke out a couple pairs of kicks that had not seen the light of day in a decade or so. Tucker laced up the Jordan 13 ‘Playoffs,’ a shoe that dropped in February of 2011, for a matchup against the Warriors. Nice flex, but is there more? With Tucker, there’s always another pair ready to go. He broke out the Jordan 14 ‘Black CDP,’ a shoe that dropped in 2008 as a part of a countdown pack series that also included the Jordan 9. If Tucker has all the old countdown packs in a storage unit somewhere and just realized it, the NBA sneaker scene is about to get that much hotter.

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P.J. Tucker wearing the Jordan 13 ‘Playoffs.’
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