Why the Hightop Has One Foot in the Grave

Posted On: 05-19-2010

This season's Western Conference Finals matchup between the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers is a meeting of the two most talented guards of this era—Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant.

Between them, these two balletic floor leaders have collected a combined 17 all-star nominations and 19 playoff trips in the past 10 years alone.

But there's another, less obvious line that ought to be appended to their résumés. These two guys, more than any other pair of players in the NBA, have helped hasten the eventual demise of one of modern basketball's most celebrated icons: the hightop sneaker.

After playing his whole career in bulky hightop and midtop shoes, the Lakers' Mr. Bryant asked Nike to make him low tops for the start of last season. The reason: He thought they'd help him move around better. Soon after he started wearing them, teammates Lamar Odom, Luke Walton, Shannon Brown and Josh Powell switched too.

Getty Images

Steve Nash drives against the Lakers.

Mr. Nash said he has always preferred lowtops, probably because he grew up playing soccer in low-cut cleats. On the rare occasions when he's worn hightops on the court, he says he wasn't impressed. "I just felt less mobile," he said.

Sacramento Kings president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie, who was one of the first NBA players to switch to Nike shoes in the 1970s from the then-popular Converse brand, says the league's tendencies are simple—if a star does something, other players will follow. "If they started wearing sandals, so would everyone else."

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