Basketball sneakers have surely evolved through league history, taking on more inventive designs, more innovative technologies and more daring silhouettes.
For the past handful of seasons, he has baffled teammates and sneakerheads alike by playing almost exclusively in the Nike Air Max 90, a low-cut retro running shoe originally released nearly three decades ago.
Typically, the 6-foot-8 defensive wing will often color up his own size 15s on the brand’s customizable NIKEiD website, splashing in Atlanta Hawks team colors in the past, and now relying on current Jazz hues of green and blue. He also buys and wears retail pairs right out of the box, simply adding his custom orthotics before hitting the court.
While in Oregon to take on the Portland Trail Blazers, the Nike Sportswear team surprised him with a duo of player exclusive pairs, a tribute to his decade long run as a Nike athlete and his love for the vintage runner.
“Call them the Air Max Thabo 10!!” Sefolosha captioned on Instagram. “Today was a special day for me. I can’t believe Nike made me my own pair of shoes!!”
With the league’s new loosened color rules in mind, the colorful first pair worn in Portland honors Sefolosha’s heritage, with a palette referencing the flags of both South Africa and Switzerland. His jersey number is featured on the toe, while “2009-2019” is stitched along the inner collar, and the names of his wife and two daughters each added to the lace tips.
The sockliner graphics include a music note (an ode to his musician father and his current team), while his rookie year basketball tattoo is also highlighted, with “The Game Chose Me” printed in both English and French. Nike also presented him with a black and red-to-orange gradient pair, matching the Jazz’s loud and vibrant city edition uniforms.
“People ask me all the time, ‘How do I play in them?'” Sefolosha has said. “I just lace them up and run.”
As always, Houston Rockets power forward PJ Tucker continued his ridiculous run of rare sneakers on the road in Miami, breaking out an exclusive unreleased LeBron James model from his Heat era. Creatively dubbed the “LeBronald Palmers,” the South Beach-flavored low-tops feature a festive palm tree graphic and shades of yellow, teal and salmon. They were originally made as a summertime gift from Nike to James, with only a few dozen pairs believed to be in existence, often fetching more than $3,000 each.
Debuting a second new colorway of his Curry 6 signature sneaker, Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry’s simple black and white look also carries a layered meaning. Inspired by his “WOE” inner bicep tattoo, the acronym is short for “working on excellence,” a mantra phrase from his wife’s cousin, Toronto-based musician Devontee.
“That’s my pursuit, every single year, to continue to get better on and off the court in every facet of my life,” said Curry. “I got that tattooed to remind myself of that every single day, and to bring that storytelling to this shoe is definitely something I’m extremely proud of.”
Elsewhere in the league, Chicago Bulls power forward Lauri Markkanen returned to action after missing the team’s first 23 games with injury, picking right back up with a series of rare LeBron sneakers, none louder than the lion-inspired LeBron 11 from 2014. LA Clippers center and all-out hustler Montrezl Harrell also continued to surprise, sporting the All-Star edition of Allen Iverson’s Reebok Answer 7 sneaker from the early 2000s, originally released for the 2004 league showcase in Los Angeles.
Check out all of the best sneakers from around the NBA this week, and vote for your favorite pair below in our latest poll. For real-time updates on the feet of the game’s biggest stars, be sure to join our ESPN SneakerCenter Facebook Group.