Why Memphis Grizzlies players are careful about wearing NBA signature shoes

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Santi Aldama realized he had violated one of the NBA’s most notable unwritten rules.

“Oh (expletive), I forgot,” the Grizzlies center explained.

Aldama wore a pair of signature Giannis Antetokounmpo sneakers during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Wearing Antetokounmpo’s sneakers is acceptable for 80 of the Grizzlies’ 82 games per season, but twice a year Aldama is expected to change shoes when the Bucks star is the opponent.

Aldama also shared another reminder from last season in the shootout when Dillon Brooks mentioned to him that he shouldn’t wear an opponent’s sneaker to come later in the day.

“He went crazy,” Aldama said. “I was like, ‘Aye bro, I wasn’t planning on wearing these, don’t worry about that.’ “

It’s the fault of being a rookie. He wouldn’t let that happen in his second season.

January 19, 2022;  Milwaukee, Wis., USA;  Memphis Grizzlies forward Santi Aldama (7) shoots against Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during the second quarter at Fiserv Forum.  Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch - USA TODAY Sports

Well, Aldama slipped again earlier this season. This time it was his girlfriend who reminded him of his mistake against Brooklyn when he wore the shoes of Nets star goaltender Kyrie Irving.

“It’s a league-wide stigma,” Brooks said.

The rule for LeBron James, other NBA stars

Not wearing an opponent’s sneaker is not a sign of disrespect. Most players say it’s more mental than anything else. NBA players use the smallest things to gain an advantage, and this unwritten rule dates back to the last generation of players.

When LeBron James played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, his teammates weren’t allowed to wear Golden State star Stephen Curry’s Under Armor sneakers.

Hall of Famer Paul Pierce notably didn’t like his Boston or Washington teammates wearing James’ shoes. One of the main reasons was James’ reaction if he saw it.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant wears Nike Kobe 11 '3D' sneakers during the game against the Brooklyn Nets on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022 at FedExForum in Memphis.  The Grizzlies defeated the Nets 134-124.

“If I see a guy wearing my shoes, if he’s not like a real good brother to me – because you know I have guys that are on the LeBron team and that’s what we let’s – but if you’re just a guy and you go to Foot Locker or somewhere and you just got a pair of LeBrons and you want to wear them on a Tuesday night against me? “, said James in a 2015 interview with GQ.

Tyreke Evans and Mario Chalmers passed on the knowledge to Brooks in Memphis. When Tyus Jones played for the Minnesota Timberwolves, he learned from Kevin Garnett and Tayshaun Prince.

Brooks, Jones and Kyle Anderson are among the players who have made current Grizzlies players understand why most NBA players follow this rule.

Jones wears Kyrie 7s to most NBA games. When Memphis played the Nets last month, he chose to wear Kobe Bryant’s shoes.

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“You’re not playing anybody with their shoes on, because they’ve already taken over,” Jones said. “It’s kind of our mentality. We’re playing against someone, we’re not wearing their shoes. It’s not disrespect, it’s nothing like that. It’s a matter of mentality to for sure.”

That feeling has dissipated throughout most of the locker room, especially when the Grizzlies are playing against the Nets. Jaren Jackson Jr. wears Kevin Durant’s sneakers in most games, but he didn’t against the Nets last season. Ja Morant often wears KDs and Kyries, but he opted for Kobe 11s against Brooklyn.

Is it more a question of comfort than of name?

Even though most players in the Grizzlies locker room follow the unwritten rule, not everyone does.

Xavier Tillman Sr. is a huge fan of the comfort of Antetokounmpo’s Nike Zoom Freak series. He heard players talking about not wearing the opponent’s sneakers, but for him there was a problem.

“I’m like, ‘Pull up, I don’t have any other shoes,'” Tillman said.

Tillman mentioned that he wouldn’t feel comfortable changing shoes he didn’t wear regularly, and that’s also the case for Brandon Clarke.

“When I play Durant, I proudly wear his shoes,” Clarke said.

Grizzlies players don’t force their teammates to follow this rule, but it’s something most of the NBA considers. From the Nike brand to Jordan, Adidas, Under Armour, Puma, Li-Ning, Anta, New Balance and 361 Degrees, 22 current NBA players have signature shoes.

“If the shoes are comfortable, wear them,” Brooks said. “It’s just one of those things in the NBA.”

Among active players, Grizzlies players often wear the Nike shoes of Durant, Irving, Antetokounmpo and Paul George. Ziaire Williams, an Adidas athlete, mostly wears Donovan Mitchell’s DON sneakers.

It may have taken a while, but when Aldama played against the Nets on Sunday, he wore Antetokounmpo’s Nike Zoom Freaks. More importantly, when Aldama is scheduled to play against Milwaukee, he will switch to Kyries. He knows the deal now.

“It makes sense not to wear their shoes because it’s a mental thing,” Aldama said.

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