Each NBA playoffs, a new player emerges, making a name for himself on a national stage and helping his franchise advance beyond expectations.
In the absence of Boston Celtics All-Star Kyrie Irving, backup point guard Terry Rozier literally has been filling his shoes on the court, thanks in part to a pre-playoff raid of Irving’s sneaker closet.
“I go to his house every chance I get,” Rozier told ESPN’s Chris Forsberg. “You got a guy like that who’s with Nike and gets all the free stuff … I’m going to take advantage, too.”
Rozier hasn’t been alone in showcasing several exclusive Irving models. Teammate Jayson Tatum broke out the rare “Wheaties” pair during the second round, a model made only in the low three digits, celebrating Kyrie’s upcoming “Uncle Drew” movie.
When he isn’t wearing several of the signature Kyrie models while helping Boston overcome the odds of its injury-riddled season, Rozier has been showcasing some Celtic pride with a pair of spirited hand-painted custom kicks.
Dylan Robie, a local 18-year-old high school senior, stylized a white pair of the Kobe AD with ample graphics for Boston’s rising star after a series of Instagram direct messages with Rozier’s brother. A series of gold clovers accents the black-and-green upper, with a cartoon depiction of Rozier’s mask-donning “Scary Terry” character along the side.
As the Celtics prepare to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James, it’s safe to assume that James will have a new batch of Nike LeBron 15 exclusives for the Eastern Conference finals. During the Cavs’ sweep of the Toronto Raptors, James debuted one of the most simple versions of his 15th shoe, a clean black-and-white pair highlighted by a “4 Horsemen” emblem along the heel.
As James entered the league 15 years ago, the “4 Horsemen” nickname was quickly coined to celebrate the chess moves he and his close friends and business associates — Maverick Carter, Rich Paul and Randy Mims — planned to make together throughout his career.
While several current signature models have been drawing the most attention throughout the playoffs, of course, Rockets wing PJ Tucker has been raising the stakes all postseason with a flurry of outlandishly rare (and pricey) sneakers that are actually making their way onto the hardwood.
His latest surprise was a pair of Air Jordan Retro 5s made exclusively for the Oregon Ducks basketball team. To discourage players on the team from selling the high-value pairs, each player’s version featured his jersey number stitched into the tongue. Only a few dozen pairs are believed to have been made otherwise, and they ended up in the hands of Nike execs — and apparently, to no one’s surprise, Tucker as well.
For longtime Air Jordan designer and Oregon alum Tinker Hatfield, getting requests for the annual retro Jordan rarities he creates for the school’s football and basketball teams is nothing new, as pro players of all sports, movie stars and musicians often reach out. As Hatfield joked years ago, the celebs often attended rival schools but still are desperate to hunt down a pair.
“I’m going, ‘Wait a minute, didn’t you go to Syracuse? You want to wear a U of O shoe?'” said Hatfield. “Or someone else called me, and I know for a fact, and I’m going, ‘Dude, you went to USC — I’ve seen you standing on the sidelines at USC, and you want a U of O shoe?’ I just think that’s hilarious.”
Though Tucker attended the University of Texas a decade ago, he’s often tracked down even the rarest Ducks exclusives, perhaps none more impressive than the “Duckman” pair spotted in the second round. The last pair listed on eBay — possibly the exact pair worn by the ever-flexible size 12-14 Tucker — was priced at $12,500.
Check out all of the best sneakers from the second round of the playoffs below, and vote for your favorite.