The story goes that big men don’t sell kicks. Save for a few notable exceptions (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s and Patrick Ewing’s run with adidas, a pair of Shaqs from Reebok), signature shoes of centers often go unnoticed and quickly forgotten until we bring them back as retros and we pretend that they were awesome when they first dropped. More often we remember big men kicks for how clunky and/or chunky (the Nike Air Alonzo comes to mind) they looked and how they are inherently designed for people who have a shoe size above 13 and therefore look unnatural for most of the population. Today’s generation has tried to buck that trend by opting rock to kicks designed for their smaller counterparts like DeMarcus Cousins rocking KDs or the Morris Twins wearing LeBrons so the lines have blurred quite a bit, but there is still one big man today that we still remember fondly for the heat he wore from a long time ago. Oh, and he just won his fifth NBA championship last night.
Long before he laced up for the three stripes of adidas, Tim Duncan was one of Nike’s biggest stars under contract. Before Kobe Bryant and LeBron James were on board with the swoosh, it was up to guys like Duncan, Kevin Garnett (before he went on his multi-brand sneaker journey) and Vince Carter to carry the load. While that might sound like Nike was in the dark ages for a while there considering the impact Bryant and James have had on the sneaker game, Duncan lived up to expectations by rocking a pair of signature kicks, some of Nike’s best Air Max kicks while also spearheading the Foamposite movement by being the featured guy in a pair of memorable releases. This was never more evident than when kids were calling the Nike Total Air Foamposite Max “Current Blue” retro the “Blue Duncans”. Not exactly the most clever title in the world but it speaks to how much of an impact Duncan did have in the sneaker world.
By the time he moved to adidas, he continued to rack up rings while also being one of the cornerstones of the brand, teaming up with the likes Garnett (again), Tracy McGrady, Gilbert Arenas and Dwight Howard. Needless to say, Duncan has been the most successful of the bunch. Sneakerheads tend to gloss over Duncan’s adidas years because of Nike bias and also because Duncan wasn’t exactly screaming for heat as much as he was demanding performance (notice how he sticks to his favorites like the CrazyQuick , but he has been a part of several notable releases that people will only appreciate once he has retired. You know, whenever that is because after winning another championship, it sure doesn’t seem like he’s in the retiring mood quite yet.
In the pantheon of sneaker big men, Duncan deserves a spot alongside the rare centers that sold kicks like Kareem, Ewing and Duncan’s teammate David Robinson, who had his share of legendary sneakers as well. But is Duncan the best to ever do it? He never had the peak that Shaq experienced with the Shaq Attaq or the Shaqnosis (Shaq’s budget brands hurt his legacy quite a bit) or was blazing trails like Kareem or Ewing, but he certainly has a longer body of work. Ironically, that’s also the story of Duncan’s NBA career. When all is said in done, people will have fonder memories of the kicks the other centers we mentioned, but Duncan will probably have the last laugh…