The NBA Finals are here and as usual the league is stepping up its marketing efforts. And this year’s gimmick is, well, a shoe in.
To commemorate this year’s championship tournament, the National Basketball Association teamed up with long-time licensing partner Reebok, a subsidiary of Adidas, to create a new limited-edition, black-and-gold “Finals Shoe.”
But Miami’s Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade or Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki won’t be wearing them. These shoes aren’t meant for playing basketball.
“This is clearly designed not to be a performance shoe, but more a fashion statement,” said Brian Keegan, senior director of apparel, sporting goods and basketball partnerships for the NBA.
For sports buffs such as Carl Costantini, the NBA Finals have gone to their heads—and feet. The New Jersey resident took the day off from managing his construction company to buy a pair. Instead, he left with six.
“What I’ll probably do is keep one of them and sell five of them,” Costantini said. “I’ll see what they go for. It’s my first time collecting sneakers. I used to collect a lot of items, sports memorabilia. We’ll see how far it goes and where they go. I don’t know. Maybe they’re worth nothing.”
The shoes are truly one of a kind. Each was individually spray painted by graffiti artist Oscar Gale, who goes by the name “Toast.” The shoes also feature unique finals markings, and the undersole has an image of the NBA trophy. If the already unique graffiti look isn’t enough, Gale will customize the shoes at no extra charge.
But don’t expect these babies to be around for long. Only 60 pairs were made, to go along with the number of NBA Finals to date. The NBA Store put 48 pairs up for sale, with the other 12 to be sold online. So you won’t find them at Foot Locker or any other sports apparel retailer.
At $175 a pop, fans are willing to foot the bill.
“I came to get these DVDs for my sons, and they brought these sneakers out so I had to get them,” said Jon Johnson, who bought five pairs of shoes. “So now this is where I’m at. I’m spending $1000 now.”
“He’s crazy,” said wife Angie.
It’s all part of the finals frenzy, which is great for the NBA. The NBA Finals is the busiest time of year for the league—and for its retail business. Fans are snatching up custom jerseys, limited-edition basketballs and finals paraphernalia.
Miami’s rising star, Dwyane Wade, is the No. 1 selling jersey, with fellow teammate Shaquille O’Neal at No. 6 and Dallas’ powerhouse Dirk Nowitzki at No. 12.
“Our consumer products business is up again this year, so it’s a great time of year for us,” Keegan said. “It’s a great matchup, and it’s going to be good for our business.”
Jacob Suarez, 12, said he would buy the shoes if they came in his size.
“They’re unique,” he said. “If I go to my school, I would be the only one with it, and it would bring out my style.”
And it’s all about style and, of course, strategy, says the NBA.
“Every year, we go through this time period and we create custom items designed to capture fans’ interest and take advantage of this exciting time,” Keegan said. “The limited-edition finals shoe is the next evolution of our custom items for finals.”