2021 Championship Sneakers: What will a trophy do for the winner's signature shoes?

Trophy Winner Sneakers

The Nike “Art of a Champion” collection. Via Nike

When athletes reach the pinnacle of their respective sports, it comes as no surprise that it does wonders for their popularity. This can often be monetized with product endorsements, adverts or sponsorships, but in a sneaker obsessed world, athlete’s shoes are becoming a larger part of their revenue. Accomplishments like the NBA championships or a Super Bowl can turn a star into a cult hero, and their sneakers, particularly if they were worn on the way to the trophy, can see an exponential increase in sales.

The perfect case of a trophy helping the sales of a shoe was after the 2019 NBA championships, when Kawhi Leonard became a Toronto Raptors legend overnight. Having brought the city a championship in his first year with the team, and thanks to his relatable personality, everybody wanted to get a piece of anything Kawhi’s huge hands touched. Around the same time, New Balance re-entered the basketball sneaker market with the New Balance OMN1S, and with Kawhi Leonard as their main athlete, the sneaker sold out immediately upon its first release. Since then, New Balance’s basketball line has been carried almost single-handedly by Kawhi, who is now on his 2nd signature sneaker with the brand.

Kawhi Leonard New Balance Sneakers

Kawhi Leonard with the New Balance OMN1S and the 997 Sport. Via New Balance

This phenomenon was then experienced by LeBron James a year later, when he won a championship with the LA Lakers in October 2020. Of course, LeBron and his 4 separate sneaker lines were already extremely successful, but his latest chip certainly helped drum up some excitement for his latest model, the LeBron 18. The Melon Tint colorway, which LeBron rocked during the championship celebrations, found LeBron's success particularly beneficial, having become one of the most popular colorways of the LeBron 18 since its release.

LeBron 18 Melon Tint Sneakers

The LeBron18 Melon Tint colorway. Via HighSnobiety

But it’s not just basketball. When Patrick Mahomes won the Super Bowl in 2020, he became one of Adidas’ most valuable assets, an impressive feat considering the lack of focus on sneakers in American Football. And how did Adidas cash in on Mahomes’ increased fame? By collaborating with the QB on a pair of kicks of course, not once, not twice, but on three separate occasions.

Nike Vapormax 2020

This Nike Vapormax 2020 was chosen to be worn by U.S medal winners on the podium in the 2020 Olympics. Via Nike

Whilst these are 3 recent cases of the effect a trophy can have on an athlete’s products, this not a new phenomenon. The Air Jordan 14 is known best for being the shoe Michael Jordan made the last shot of the 1998 finals in, a historic event that no doubt boosted the popularity of Jordan’s 14th model. Even in other sports, Lionel Messi in football, Conor McGregor in MMA, and Naomi Osaka in tennis have all seen increased roles in selling their respective brand’s sneakers after a trophy, belt, or cup. Reaching the pinnacle of your sport puts your name in the history books and gives you a legacy that sports fans will always remember. Sneaker fans are no different, and if they prefer to honor their favorite athlete by buying their sneakers, then brands will make the most of every opportunity to take advantage of this, often to great effect.

Who are your picks for the 2021 NBA championships? What are your favorite signature shoes this season? Hit us up in the comments!

As always, if you are lucky enough to own any of the pairs mentioned above- protect them with Pumps & Kicks- the ultimate sneaker display cases.

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