NBA Summer League starts today, meaning we get to see Zion Williamson and the 2019 Draft class in action for the first time. There have been various forms of the Summer League that date back to 1984, but the current format has been in place since 2001. While most NBA fans are still caught up in free agency and where Kawhi Leonard will play next season; but many diehard fans will have their eyes on the various games taking place this month. Summer League not only gives us our first peek of the rookies, but also gives us a chance to see what brand of sneakers a particular player may be wearing in the upcoming season. Here’s a look back on some current and former NBA stars, as well as an NFL Hall of Famer, and what was on their feet in their first professional games.
Beasts of ’03
It’s only appropriate to start with King James in 2003. Prior to his arrival in the league, summer games rarely saw high attendance numbers. But in ’03 that changed. 13,000 people packed into an Orlando gym to see a legend take the floor for the first time. The Air Zoom Generation wouldn’t see a release until November of that year so LeBron wore the Nike Zoom 2K3 while averaging 16 points and 5 assists per game.
Also making their pro debut that summer was another future legend, Dwyane Wade. While Wade had already signed to Converse, he wore two different PE Jordan’s given to him by his mentor, Quentin Richardson, a Jordan Brand athlete at the time. One pair was a black/black patent IX with the other being the Black/Chrome VIII with Richardson’s number 3 on the ankle.
In 2007, a 5’9 guard and future NBA dunk champion quickly made a name for himself in the Summer League. Nate Robinson, a late first round pick by the always dismal Knicks burst onto the scene. With per game averages of 20 points, six assists and four rebounds, Nate Rob lead the Knicks to a 5-0 record and Summer League MVP while wearing the Max2 CB ’94.
Oh Nine ‘n’ Ten
2009 brought us more future stars including beardless James Harden. The Thunder went winless, however we saw why they made him the number three pick with averages of 15 points, three assists and three boards per game. Harden wore a variety of Kobe IV’s, including the recently revamped Draft Day color way.
The following year number one pick John Wall would be the Summer League MVP. Wall had signed with Reebok, who was hoping to make him the future of the brand after the recent retirement of Allen Iverson. Wall played his rookie year and the Summer League in the Reebok Zig Slash, which was ultimately viewed as one of the worst on court performing shoes that season. Wall would move to adidas three years later.
Finally, let’s rewind to 2002, before the Summer League hype. After another All-Pro season, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez suited up for the Miami Heat in the Summer League. This however was not a publicity stunt as Gonzalez had played three years of college basketball for the California Golden Bears. Although his offense left much to be desired, he lead the Heat in rebounding during their five game run. In 2013 Heat president Pat Riley said the only reason Gonzalez didn’t receive a preseason invite was because they knew he wouldn’t quit football, but firmly believes he could’ve carved out a future in the NBA. During his brief tenure Gonzalez wore the Reebok Answer V.
Who is going to be the breakout player in this years Summer League and what brands are we going to see dominate the court? We will be back in a couple of weeks with all of this information!