Kawhi Doesn’t Need Nike

Kawhi Leonard as a Raptor in 2019. PHOTO CREDIT: Chensiyuan//Wikimedia Commons

Kawhi Leonard is having one hell of a season. He’s averaging a career-best 27.1 points per game. He’s in the playoffs and about to go on to the second round, despite Paul George’s up-and-down performance

Leonard’s got it all and he’s doing it all while rocking a pair of New Balance kicks. You’d think being the best ball player to do it in a pair of dad shoes would have him going down in history. But our favorite Brooklyn Net Spencer Dinwiddie says otherwise.

Dinwiddie claims New Balance is hurting Leonard’s legacy. After all, every top guy was a Nike guy.

But Kawhi doesn’t need Nike to cement his legacy. The fact that he doesn’t have a Nike check on his kicks doesn’t matter.

For some players, the shoes are everything. Michael Jordan and his shoes are forever the greatest marketing play in Nike history. Allen Iverson made Reebok relevant. Penny Hardaway turned Foamposites into a household shoe. And Rasheed Wallace kept it a hundred in a pair of Air Force 1s.

But guys make the shoe, the shoe doesn’t make the guy. Dwyane Wade is a good example of this. He won a championship in a pair of Converse Wade 1s. Wade was the face of Converse basketball and made the brand somewhat relevant on the court. 

He represented the USA in the Olympics wearing Jordans. Soon, the brand made him one of the more recognizable faces of its roster. 

Wade ended his career wearing Chinese brand Li-Ning. The signing propelled Li-Ning into the NBA sneaker world. They have since signed C.J. McCollum

Leonard’s biggest issue might be that he never was one of Nike’s premier players. And that’s fine. Nike’s roster is front-loaded with players like LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Giannis Antetokounmpo. This is the brand that misspelled Stephen Curry’s name at a pitch meeting and got away with letting him walk to Under Armour, after all.  

Curry proves that a player doesn’t need Nike to be one of the faces of the league. He brought Under Armour to the NBA’s forefront. Sure his sneakers are the most boring kicks I’ve ever seen, but when you think Under Armour, you think Steph.

His insane three-point shooting is the legacy. When Curry retires, he’s still going to be the best three-point shooter in league history.

Leonard’s in a similar boat. He’s already earned one hell of a legacy after his gutsy performance in last year’s playoffs. He’s the guy that brought Toronto a championship. Kawhi literally broke Drake’s curse.

Nike might’ve helped Leonard’s career. But behind James, Irving, Antetokounmpo and George, it might have been a while before we saw Nike Kawhi 1s. All in all, Leonard’s proven that he can dominate in his own way.

BANNER: Chensiyuan//Wikimedia Commons

Editor in chief. Always editing like it's going out of style. Read my words or catch me on The Casuals. Member of the Cult of Carson Wentz. Paul Pierce roasted me for being a Knicks fan. On the bright side, Mike D’Antoni liked my Knicks Chris Duhon jersey so that’s something. I ran a Nets blog so I started from the bottom. Currently working in broadcast news and freelance NBA pieces. Six years covering college sports, ranging from track to volleyball to basketball. Had the best wrestling podcast in the nation, but I might be a little biased here. Lil B retweeted an article I wrote. It's my greatest accomplishment #TYBG

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