It’s Gotta Be the Shoes

Arc’s Sneaker Preview for Early 2017

In the fall of 1985, the Air Jordan 1's were released. More than thirty years later, basketball sneakers are not only retaining their cultural import — they’re expanding it.

For sneaker heads, Michael Jordan remains on top. Brand-wise, he is an empire. Yet he’s lifted all aboats: the shoe market in general has never experienced higher demand.

At the beginning of the decade, the hottest releases were expected from Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James, with occasional re-releases, such as Nike’s Air Max and Huaraches, or Reebok’s Pumps, sprinkled in.

In the past two years, the ascendance of Steph Curry’s line, arguably as popular as a decade-plus mainstay, LeBron, combined with the trailblazing popularity of sneakers outside the NBA universe — Kanye’s Yeezys, for example — has increased the buzz and demand surrounding the sneaker season’s upcoming releases.

This past year, Curry became number one in shoe sales for current NBA players, with LeBron, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Chris Paul rounding out the top five. An industry that was once oversaturated in re-releases of Air Jordans, along with the yearly LeBron or Kobe release, is now reaping the benefits of an off-court shoe sales rivalry between Nike’s LeBron and Under Armour’s Curry. (Of course it helps that they’ve developed a bit of an on-court rivalry as well!)

Heading into 2017, the sneaker industry can be divided into four categories:

  • Jordans
  • current NBA superstars
  • throwbacks
  • non-NBA pioneers, e.g. Kanye

When we get to the point where the industry accommodates non-basketball-player offerings, it can be daunting to try to make sense of it all. That’s why we’ve got you covered.

So here it is: Arc’s sneaker preview for the new year. These are the fifteen hottest upcoming releases for first quarter, 2017 (in order of release date).

Nike LeBron 14 — January 1, 2017

Price: $175

Since their announcement last year, public information surrounding the LeBron 14's has been kept to a bare minimum. In August, after announcing a New Year’s Day release, the picture on the left circulated around the internet — presumedly it was a picture of the 14's. The latest buzz resulted from a story last week from ESPN’s Cavs beat writer, Dave McMenamin. After reporting that LeBron was seen warming up in a never-before-seen, all-black shoe, McMenamin had this to say about what he saw:

LeBron James wore an all black pair of the yet-to-be-released Nike LeBron 14 to shootaround Thursday but took them off before talking to the press so reporters couldn’t snap photos of them. They don’t look like the images that leaked in August at all. James let ESPN.com inspect them, as long as we promised not to take a photo, and they are very sharp. One clue to what to expect when they drop in January: strap.

We’ll just have to wait and see…

Air Jordan 15 Retro “Stealth” — January 7, 2017

Price: $190

The second offering following Jordan’s 1998 retirement, the Air Jordan XV’s were originally released in 1999–2000. Most notably, Reggie Miller wore them during the 2000 NBA Finals.

The design of the XV’s originated from the aircraft prototype X-15, which was developed by NASA (!) during the 1950s. The sides of the XV were made from woven kevlar fiber. The Jordan XV’s were the first Air Jordans to be negatively received because the quality of the shoes themselves was poor. With that said, if Nike is reserving the first slot of 2017 for the “Stealth”, their track record warrants giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Adidas Yeezy 350 Boost V2 — January 7, 2017

Price: $220

Who would’ve thought switching from Nike to Adidas would allow Kanye to release one of the most sought-after sneakers in recent memory? Back in 2009, the release of the Nike Air Yeezy was met with an underwhelming reception. Retailing at $245, with an inflated re-sale price upwards of $4000, it was easy to dismiss the shoes for what they were — a mediocre shoe unjustly elevated to the status of a collector’s item.

When the Yeezy 2’s released in 2012, they weren’t any better. Only diehard fans were buying them. Three years later, despite signing a new contract with Adidas, Kanye was overlooked as a designer. Then the Yeezy 350’s dropped. Unveiled initially during the summer at New York Fashion Week, the lows caught the eyes of media outlets for their simple design and use of performance-based technology. By the winter of 2016, they were sold out and being re-sold for at least $1000.

With the new edition being released in the first week of next month, you’ll need to camp out to get your hands on a pair.

Adidas Ultra Boost Uncaged “Chinese New Year” — January 13, 2017

Price: $275

Taking a page out of the Yeezy Playbook of Design, Adidas has been doubling down on the Yeezy 350s’ success ever since.

The Primeknit and Boost combination takes a simple approach this year, with a white knit upper featuring specks of black and red throughout, in an array of swirls to compliment the unique lace option included in this release.

Air Jordan 4 “Royalty” — January 13, 2017

Price: $190

While the matter of which Jordan is most popular all-time has never been settled, the four models that make up the Air Jordan Mount Rushmore is not — Jordan I, III, IV, and XI, with V, VI, and VII being the first three models left off the mountain. Initially released in 1989, it was the first Jordan shoe that impacted the global market. Spike Lee starred in the ads for Jordan IV after Spike featured the shoes in his movie Do The Right Thing. The Air Jordan IV’s were on Jordan’s feet when he made “The Shot” in Game 5 of the opening round of the 1989 NBA playoff series between the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“Royalty” will help kick off Jordan Brand’s retro catalog for the new year with a bang. The simple colorway pairs a black base with Metallic Gold on the Jumpman branding — while the tongue keeps the traditional ‘Flight’ work mark intact

Nike Kobe A.D. — January 20, 2017

Price: $160

The Kobe A.D. is Kobe Bryant’s twelfth signature Nike shoe.

What’s most notable about this shoe is that it’s the first sneaker to release after Kobe’s retirement from the NBA. It features a mix of Flywire, mesh, Lunarlon, and Zoom Air.

At a more reasonable price than many other releases making up this list, it should sell relatively well for the newly retired Bryant.

Nike Kyrie 3 — January 21, 2017

Price: $140

Despite not being one of the league’s top ten talents, Kyrie finds himself fourth in regards to the top-selling NBA player shoes.

After last year’s breakout performance in the NBA Finals, expect increased popularity and demand for Kyrie’s third release.

Kyrie’s handle and driving ability surely factor into his marketability. Playing alongside LeBron for the foreseeable future bodes well for him, as it almost certainly means more Finals appearances. If Kyrie can capitalize on this with good play, his shoe line will continue to outpace his position in the league.

Air Jordan 13 “Black Cat” — January 21, 2017

Price: $190

Released during Jordan’s sixth championship season in the Fall of 1997, this model was known for its cushioning along the feet. In the movie He Got Game, the Air Jordan XIII was worn by Jake Shuttlesworth (Denzel Washington). Ray Allen, who played Jake’s son Jesus in the film, wore them when he broke Reggie Miller’s all-time record for made three-point shots during the 2011 season. Although not matching up to the insurmountable hype surrounding some of Jordan’s classic releases, the 13's have been re-released in 2004, 2005, 2008, and 2010–2015, to exceptional acclaim, which bodes well for 2017’s “Black Cat” edition.

Air Jordan 6 “Chameleon” — February 9, 2017

Price: $225

The original 6's were worn by Jordan during his first championship run in 1991. The next year, they were heavily featured in the cult classic White Men Can’t Jump. Jordan Brand’s latest special edition colorway is slated to release during this upcoming February’s All-Star Weekend 2017 festivities. Jordan Brand always brings the heat for All-Star Weekend, and this year in New Orleans will only add to that legacy thanks to an all-iridescent Air Jordan 6 that changes colors on the premium leather upper from black to a full-color spectrum of shiny teal and more.

Nike KD 9 — February 16, 2017

Price: $150

We’ll look back at the KD 9's as the first shoe Durant released during his tenure with Golden State. They 9's are frontloaded with new advances — the only problem is it has led to a corresponding increase in price for consumers. Durant’s shoes used to retail for around $85–88 dollars, but now they sell for $150. For Durant, the increase in price is simple, he’s just not an “$88 player” anymore. He’s one of the best players in the league and his shoes should match that.

OVO X Air Jordan 12 — February 17, 2017

Price: $225

The missing link to Drake’s coveted Jordan Brand collaboration was recently showcased at a Jordan pop-up in Salt Lake City, Utah to celebrate Mike’s infamous Flu Game during the 1997 NBA Finals. If you can remember, the Air Jordan 10 OVO “White” made its appearance at last year’s All-Star Weekend festivities to coincide with the NBA’s showcase finally arriving in Toronto. We were then treated to the Air Jordan 12 OVO “White” this past October via a limited run at OVO Toronto and Los Angeles locations and on Nike SNKRS. The premium OVO construction utilizes an upgraded ‘Stingray leather’ on the mudguard for a caviar-like effect with metallic gold accents hitting throughout the smokey black outsole.

Air Jordan 13 OG “Chicago Bulls” — February 18, 2017

Price: $190

The Air Jordan 13 White/Red is set to making another comeback, following its last retro release back in 2010. Featuring a white tumbled upper that runs up the tongue, as well as on the unique side panels that the Air Jordan 13 possesses. Red accents surround the ankle hologram and run down to the midsole. Finishing off the look are black hints on the outsole, with minimal detail on the branded tongue as well.

Air Jordan 6 Alternate — March 11, 2017

Price: $190

Air Jordan 6 takes on the “Alternate” concept that first began in early 2015. Jordan Brand is offering up iconic Air Jordan models in other colorways that MJ could have theoretically worn during his playing days. The Air Jordan VI saw a lot of screen time in the movie Creed in 2015. Adonis Johnson (played by the other Michael Jordan) can be seen sporting the black/infrared and the white/varsity red-black colorway through most of the movie, most notably during the training montage before the big fight that Rocky films have become famous for.

Air Jordan 12 Low Georgetown — March 18, 2017

Price: $190

The Jordan 12's were the first model released after the creation of subsidiary Jordan Brand. The Air Jordan XII has no Nike branding on it of any kind, while all the models before it have Nike Air or other Nike branding outwardly (Air Jordans I-VI) or simply on the insoles (Air Jordans VII-XI).

This release will kick of the March Madness celebration and is named “Georgetown”, a nod to the Hoyas basketball team having donned the Jordan brand for over a decade.

Nike Air Max 1 “Elephant” — March 26, 2017

Price: $150

Released in 1987, the Air Max line has become, along with Jordan, Nike’s most popular and successful line. The shoes were initially advertised in 1987 with a TV campaign that used the Beatles’ song “Revolution”, the first time a Beatles song had been used in a TV commercial. They were also endorsed by Bo Jackson in exchange for a $100,000 fee, with advertising agency Wieden and Kennedy coming up with the slogan “Bo knows…”

For this year’s Air Max Day, celebrating the 30th birthday of the iconic Nike franchise and Air Max 1 sneaker, Nike set up a voting feature to decide which Air Max model release would coincide with the celebration. After voting closed, the winner was revealed to be the Air Max “Elephant.”

Naturally, the first quarter’s hottest releases will culminate with Nike’s most classic line. Before Air Jordan, the Air Max was the only line frequently re-releasing its models, paving the way for the successful lines that followed.

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