The NBA is relaxing its sneaker rules, but that change wasn’t in time for these players, who were warned — and in some cases fined — for their shoes.
While most players sign shoe deals just before the draft, the son of former 12-year NBA sharpshooter Jaren Jackson was among a handful of players selected in the first round who opted to wait until after playing in the summer league before inking a shoe deal.
After wearing both Adidas and Nike sneakers for the Grizzlies’ summer squad in Las Vegas, Jackson’s strong showing in helping carry Memphis to the semifinals earned him the multiyear Nike offer. Prior to turning pro, the versatile 6-foot-11 power forward starred in his lone collegiate season at Michigan State, one of Nike’s featured NCAA programs.
Jackson is expected to make an impact on both ends of the floor for the Grizzlies, after showcasing glimpses of his potential during summer league. He converted on 8-of-13 3-pointers on the way to a 29-point summer debut in Utah, then blocked seven shots two weeks later in Las Vegas.
While Memphis is considered a smaller-market team, the league’s recent lifting of its longstanding footwear color restrictions could allow for players like Jackson to stand out and garner attention with flashier, louder sneakers that no longer have to match team uniforms. During summer league, Jackson actually debuted Kevin Durant’s new Nike KD 11 signature shoe, wearing the model in a game even before Durant.
Earlier this summer, Puma made perhaps the biggest splash in advance of June’s draft with aggressive pitches and offers to several top players. As the brand prepares to return to the NBA and basketball market this fall after a 20-year hiatus, Puma ultimately signed top picks Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III, along with Michael Porter Jr. and Zhaire Smith.
After leading the nation in both scoring and assists while at Oklahoma, fifth overall pick Trae Young signed with Adidas. In addition to Jackson, fellow incoming lottery picks Luka Doncic and Collin Sexton also will make their NBA debuts later this fall wearing Nike, which outfits more than 65 percent of the league’s players.