June 12, 2012 BY Brendan Dunne
Can you think of a better way to closeout the 2011-12 NBA season? Prior to last December basketball fans were out of luck, forced to make due with the various promo games that stars were taking part in to keep busy with the Lockout was in full force, and now at the end of it all we have a dream match up between (arguably) the League’s two best players and brightest stars. It all gets going tonight, as LeBron James and the Miami Heat will battle in the Finals for the second time in as many years at the culmination of a season that they’ve said will be a failure if it ends in anything less than a championship. Their opponents: Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, a furious squad of youngsters who have been touted as the next big thing after ripping the symbolic torch from the clutches of the Spurs out West in the Conference Finals. Not to lean too heavily on the NBA’s slogan of choice for the season but, it’s gonna be big; the Finals has gone seven-full just three times over the last two decades, and not since the Ewing/Hakeem match-up in ’94 has the NBA been treated to such an evenly matched showdown on the game’s biggest stage.
In advance of tonight’s tipoff of the LeBron vs. Durant matchup, it only seems appropriate to look back on the footwear of both for the season, another category where both of these premier Nike Basketball athletes performed astoundingly well. The longer tenured LeBron represented the luxury end, with a range that started out at $170 and only went up from there with the performance upgraded post-season Elite version weighing in at a hefty $250. The Nike LeBron 9 has been a sneaker that, even with high expectations, built a furious buzz from the get-go, with pairs later in its lifeline like the “Miami Vice” Elite version and the “Galaxy” All-Star generating the most talk. Kevin Durant’s Nike Zoom KD IV on the other hand was a sleeper hit from the beginning; its impact on the sneaker game was rather unpredictable, but it KD IV burst out of the gates immediately with super-limited releases like the “Nerf” and “Weathermen”. Furthermore the price on pairs represented Durant’s whole humble image, a life-saving $95 that ends up being quite the bargain for a NBA-ready basketball silhouette from the Beaverton labs.
There you have it folks – two of this generation’s premier athletes, the NBA MVP and the NBA Scoring Champ, squaring off in battle for the Larry O’Brien trophy, while in the meantime the respective signature sneakers of each duke it out in hopes of classic status. The obvious ramification of the 2012 NBA Finals as far as Nike Basketball is concerned is that one of its two signature athletes will have earned the highest prize in his respective sport. If LeBron wins, it’ll put an immediate hush on the doubts that have haunted him for years. If Durant wins, basketball experts may have to re-think their positions on just who is the best player in the league. Whatever the outcome is, it appears like a sure-fire win-win situation for both the future landscape of the NBA and Nike Basketball. But will a win be enough to surge either James or Durant ahead of one another in terms of popularity in the sneaker world? We’ve got a look back at the best LeBron 9 and KD IV releases of the year as well as the most impactful ‘NBA Feet’ moments of the season, so join the discussion in the comments below and let us know what your predictions for the 2012 NBA Finals are (vote at the polls on Page 4), and stick with Sneaker News for ongoing NBA Feet coverage for what’s shaping up to be one of the best NBA Finals match-ups in history.