Whether you’re a basketball fan with an eye for style or a devoted sneakerhead, each NBA season brings new thrills that exist at the intersection of the two worlds. Every game had its own highlights, which range from record-breaking scores, the historical rise of teams like the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks and big on-court reveals of player exclusive sneakers. PE debuts are a hot topic of discussion, as they combine the latest innovations in performance technology with the styles of the best dressed guys in the league. Inspired by each player’s on-court reputations, hobbies outside of the sport and regional or historical player ties, every PE sneaker tells a unique story about the player it’s created for.
To gear up for the forthcoming NBA season, HYPEBEAST is looking back at the hottest player exclusive sneakers from the 2021 NBA season. Featuring picks from Nike, PUMA, Air Jordan and more, the list of shoes includes drops that have influenced not only the sport of basketball, but also the footwear game as a whole.
P.J. Tucker’s Nike Kobe 5 Protro PE
Fans of P.J. Tucker are well aware of his affinity for fashion, so it’s only fitting that his Kobe 5 Protro PE presents a stylish twist on one of Kobe’s best sneakers. The performance synthetic upper features a tonal animal print, which debuted in 2019 with Tucker’s unreleased “Cheetah” Nike Air Yeezy 2. Flywire technology runs throughout the sneaker to provide the extra support needed during high-pressure games. More than just a sneaker release, working with the Kobe 5 allows players to pay tribute to the late icon on the court.
Zion Williamson’s Air Jordan 35 “Voodoo” PE
Playing for the New Orleans Pelicans, rising player Zion Williamson debuted a folklore-inspired “Voodoo” twist on the Air Jordan 35 last season. While the AJ35 tends to be a popular choice for player exclusive sneakers, Williamson’s pair trades in the typical high-tech, performance styling for one that has a more handcrafted feel. Made from a variety of brown and faded green textiles, these player exclusive sneakers tell a story that’s not only about the player, but also about New Orleans.
Carmelo Anthony’s Air Jordan 35 “Carmerlot” PE
Taking the cover of Wine Spectator in May of 2021, this player exclusive AJ35 speaks to Carmelo Anthony’s passion for fine bottles of wine. The luxurious connotations of the alcohol are captured through deep red tones on the sneaker in a luxe suede finish. Towards the heel of the sneaker, a unique embroidered grape symbol drives the inspiration home. Anthony was first spotted in this pair during a New Year’s Day game where he earned the 14th spot on the NBA’s All-Time Scoring list.
Luca Doncic’s Air Jordan 35 “Cosmic Deception” PE
First spotted on-court during a game in April 2020, the Air Jordan 35 Low “Cosmic Deception” has been customized to match the style of the stand-out player. Featuring a celestial graphic on the heel, a silver iridescent Jumpman on the right sneaker and Doncic’s personal logo on the left, this sneaker comes through in an unmissable, vibrant colorway. Touches of neon green and pink give this player exclusive model a chaotic touch, which speaks to this guard’s energetic approach to the game.
LaMelo Ball’s PUMA Court Rider PE
After much speculation over which sneaker LaMelo Ball would choose for his PE, he unveiled a player edition of the PUMA Court Rider at the start of 2021. The custom bright blue colorway matches the flashy reputation that he’s earned through both on- and off-court shenanigans. To give this sneaker a personal touch, PUMA included Ball’s personal logo at the heel.
Kelly Oubre Jr.’s Converse All-Star BB Evo PE
During Kelly Oubre Jr.’s first season with the Golden State Warriors, he was spotted in several different colors of player exclusive Converse sneakers. Inspired by his nickname, “Wave Papi,” the Converse All-Star BB Evo PEs worn by Oubre have wave-inspired patterns that range from abstract tie-dye prints to more graphic illustrations. As a player who’s known for always pushing the limits of fashion, the 2021 NBA season also saw Oubre debut multiple pairs of PE sneakers that were mismatched.
Stephen Curry’s Under Armour Curry Flow 8 PE
The recent rise of Under Armour in the basketball space is parallel to Curry’s impressive rise as a basketball star. Since Curry got picked up by Under Armour in 2013, the player developed his first signature shoe, the Curry, in 2015 and teamed up with UA to create the Curry Brand. Last season, the Golden State Warrior was spotted in different pairs of Curry 8 Flows with this blue gradient player exclusive pair that created buzz online.
To be among the first to see the latest in player exclusive sneakers, tune into the NBA 2021-2022 pre-season, which tips off on Sunday, October 3. Regular season begins on Tuesday, October 19.