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From Nike to Gucci, a brief history of basketball-inspired sneakers

In 1917, Converse rolled out the forerunner of its now iconic high-top Chuck Taylor All Star, a basketball-specific shoe with a vulcanized rubber sole and canvas upper. For the century since, professional basketball players have been an integral part of the stylish sneaker game. That long-running relationship has never been as apparent as it is this NBA season — thanks in no small part to a rule change regarding the colors of on-court kicks.

In recognition of that long-running relationship, we’ve taken a deep dive – toured players’ shoe closets (one Los Angeles Clipper has amassed more than 3,000 pairs), visited artists who customize kicks at $500 a pop, looked at signature-shoe synergy, compiled a list of league sneaker standouts and much, much more.

An illustration of the Jordan Is.
Alessandro Pautasso / For The Times

NBA sneaker rule change may be a pot of gold at the end of the lace-up rainbow

Thanks to an NBA rule change starting with the 2018-2019 season, players can wear any color sneakers they want. The result? A whole lot of self-expression — and an emphasis on the fashionable side of performance footwear.

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NBA Sneaker All-Stars
NBA / Los Angeles Times

Feats of style: The NBA's biggest sneakerheads dish about their shoe collections

Basketball players including P.J. Tucker, Lance Stephenson, Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell are making a name for themselves because of what’s on their feet.

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Montrezl Harrell
Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

Clipper player Montrezl Harrell builds a stellar sneaker collection — one rare pair at a time

The Los Angeles Clippers forward has amassed a 3,000-pair collection of eye-catching, cartoon-covered kicks. Now that the NBA has changed its sneaker-color rules, more of them could make the leap from his closet to the court.

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Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls backs into Jeff Hornacek of the Utah Jazz during the second half of game five of the 1997 NBA Finals
Jeff Haynes / AFP / Getty Images

How Michael Jordan became a brand

Michael Jordan is permanently captain of the NBA Shoe All Stars. Did sneakers even exist before Air Jordan?

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Sheryl Swoopes and a pair of Air Swoopes.
Nike

Sheryl Swoopes, a WNBA superstar, on her big Nike moment: 'I still get a little choked up'

Sheryl Swoopes, four-time WNBA champion, became the first female athlete to have her own Jordan-style signature shoe with the Air Swoopes.

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Illustration of swoon-worthy sneakers.
Peter and Maria Hoey / For The Times

These sneakers cost more than some cars

Sneakerheads call them “Holy Grails”: the most coveted and seldom seen treasures, akin to that Last Supper tableware that medieval knights never tracked down.

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Nike Adapt BB
Nike

Nike's new power-lacing basketball sneaker set to hit retail Feb. 17

The Nike Adapt BB, a power-lacing basketball sneaker, made its NBA on-court debut on the feet of Jayson Tatum on Jan. 16 in a Celtics vs. Raptors game, and it drops in stores this month..

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PF Flyers and Nike Adapt BB
AP / Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times

Timeline: Highlights from a century of signature kicks

A look at some of the most important signature basketball shoes – on court and in popular culture — from the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star to the PF Flyers to the Nike Adapt BB.

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Gucci sneakers
Gucci

Here's why we're madly in love with luxe basketball sneakers

Consider it official: Designer basketball sneakers are the new brogue. Plus, here's a roundup of our favorites.

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Sneakers by Russell Westbrook
Nike

Test your sneaker knowledge

The “signature” elements in “signature sneakers” aren’t always so front and center. See if you can spot the secret messages in these kicks.

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Salvador Amezcua
Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

NBA stars turn to Kickstradomis for colorful sneaker designs

Salvador Amezcua gave up on art after a car accident but he returned to his craft after a visit with Karl-Anthony Towns Jr. and inspiration for a custom sneaker design for the Minnesota Timberwolves player.

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Spencer Dinwiddie
Mike Stobe / Getty Images

No endorsement deal? No problem. Spencer Dinwiddie created his own sneakers brand

Ignored by the big sneaker companies early in his pro career, Spencer Dinwiddie, a Brooklyn Nets player from Woodland Hills, took a gamble: he launched a self-endorsed footwear brand, K8iros. Will it pay off?

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A player at Nike Sports Research Lab.
Nike

Here’s how brand-endorsed NBA players get perfectly fitting footwear

How can some of the NBA's best players hit the hardwood in a new pair of shoes each game without suffering the new-shoe break-in blues? The key isn't aggressive laundering or a dedicated shoe butler but lots and lots of data collection.

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Eastbay
Robert Carter / For The Times

Eastbay catalog memories: It’s where a generation went to look at sneakers — and dream

Before the rise of online shopping, the Eastbay catalog, a sports bible for young athletes, showed athletes such as P.J. Tucker, Lance Stephenson and Austin Rivers the popular sneakers of the day — Air Jordans, Filas, Reebok Pumps and Adidas Superstars — and more.

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Custom L.A. Times sneaker
Los Angeles Times

Video: Where anyone can have custom sneakers

Los Angeles Times columnist LZ Granderson visits the Ave, an L.A. store that specializes in custom shoes, to see how anyone can have their own designer sneakers.

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Montrezl Harrell's customized sneakers.
Darron Cummings / AP

Video: A tour of Montrezl Harrell's 2,000+ pairs of shoes collection

Los Angeles Clippers player Montrezl Harrell gives us a tour of his vast shoe collection and talks about his philosophy behind collecting.

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Kickasso
Claire Hannah Collins and Mark E. Potts / Los Angeles Times

Video: From cars to shoes, Kickasso is making his mark

Troy Cole, a.k.a. Kickasso, is making a name for himself in the designer shoe game among NBA and NFL players.

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Kickstradomis
Mark E. Potts / Los Angeles Times

Video: Kickstradomis brings originality and pride to his shoe creations

Salvador Amezcua, a.k.a. Kickstradomis, is one of the most-popular shoe customizers right now, making shoes for NBA, MLB and NFL players.

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Illustration by Peter and Maria Hoey / For The Times. Animation by Swetha Kannan. Produced by Tara Paniogue and Vanessa Martinez.

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