For basketball players, regardless of whether they’re professional, streetballers or even regular folk who use the sport as a way to merely keep fit, sneakers are the first accessory that they all search for.
And for most of them, price is not even an afterthought. Even when the price reaches ridiculous levels, the shoe will be purchased.
I have listened in on many conversations down my local outdoor basketball courts over the years. Mainly about the NBA – about certain players and where they will be traded and where they will be better off – but when the chatter switches to fashion, it’s a clear cut guarantee that footwear will dominate.
[Above: Nike Kobe X, a 2015 best seller, retailing at €162]
[Below: Jordan XI, considered as the most popular basketball sneaker ever]
So why do sneakers stand out when it comes to basketball additions?
It’s a mixture of things. Basketball sneakers are lighter yet provide more comfort than your ordinary street shoe and others are often mesmerised by the snazzy design that graces the front, and once you put those factors together … it’s a winning combination of fashion and cosiness.
[Under Armour Curry One, a popular seller from a company founded in 1996.]
These days though, sneakers mean so much more to players, especially for the professionals, and sometimes, they don’t even realise it themselves.
When the Great Britain national side revealed that their jersey was tailored by Adidas in 2009, it created an awkward situation for their star Luol Deng, who was (and still is) headed by Nike.
A deal was made after a few weeks of negotiations and Deng, one of Nike’s big signings along with LeBron James and Kevin Durant was permitted to wear Adidas attire, while representing Great Britain.
But while Deng was aware and got the situation sorted, the business involving Croatia’s U19 star Dragan Bender is much different as he is taking center stage at the ongoing under-19 FIBA world championships in Crete.
With Bender in tow, Croatia were picked as one of the favourites for this year’s U19 tournament, but did Bender’s choice of sneakers play a part in ending Croatia’s hopes?
Or did rivals Jordan Brand end it?
Croatian star forward Dragan Bender will not play at the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship as he will leave the team over a contract dispute.
Vladimr Vanjak, Croatia’s head of delegation at the tournament in Heraklion (Crete), Greece, confirmed to FIBA.com that Bender will be leaving Greece on Sunday.
He said: “The fact is that Bender denied [refused] to play in the Jordan Brand shoes but our Federation has a contract with Jordan and everybody has to play in Jordan Brand. He denied to do that but he didn’t say anything before coming here. That’s the problem. I talked with my Secretary General and other people who made the decision because we have a very serious contract with Jordan. If he cannot play in Jordan Brand, he cannot play. That’s it.”
Bender, who was expected to be one of the biggest stars at the tournament, has a contract with adidas and the Croatian national team is signed to a long-term deal with Jordan Brand.
With rosters finalised, Croatia will play out the 2015 U19 Worlds with 11 players.
It seems harsh on Bender, who at just 17 has been told he must go against his personal contract that he has with Adidas or leave the national team.
Or could Bender of sorted this before the tournament began? It begs the question: Did the player and the agent read the small print in the contract that states that the player must exclusively wear Adidas at all times.
I’ll leave it to you guys to debate that…
“They said to me, if Dragan doesn’t use Jordan Brand shoes, he can’t play,” Bender’s agent wrote to Draft Express.
“We are very sad. He wanted to defend the colors of his country, but it looks like commercial reasons are above sport reasons. I am so sad for all his teammates his coach. They did a great job during the past three weeks [preparing for the tournament].”
Basketball shoes have a powerful effect on a basketball player. It’s the most talked about fashion accessory in the sport and an item so powerful, that it could cost Croatia its chance of U19 glory.