Paul George recently became Nike’s fourth active basketball player to receive a signature sneaker. It’s a well-deserved accomplishment that was a long time in the making, and didn't it come without some major hurdles. But every time a new athlete is anointed worthy of a signature line, talk inevitably turns to who could be next. Here, we’ve identified 10 athletes who are due, overdue, or deserve to receive their own signature shoe sometime in the future.
10 Athletes That Should Have Signature Sneakers
Who's up next?
Michael Jordan aside, Maya Moore has a case for being the biggest winner in Jordan Brand history. She's a three-time WNBA Champion, a EuroLeague Champion, Liga Femenina Champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist, two-time FIBA World Champion, and two-time NCAA Champion. And that's cutting her list of accomplishments short.
Because of her knack for leading teams to championships, Jordan Brand signed Maya Moore as its first female athlete in 2011. Since then, she's been given exclusive make-ups of various Air Jordans, but never the opportunity to lead her own. In a market that has been void of signature women's product since Candace Parker's last Adidas model in 2011, Moore is the right woman to get the next call. With Jordan's history of breaking the mold and Nike taking over WNBA apparel rights next season, now is the time to get another women's-specific Air Jordan on shelves.
Kawhi Leonard is an annual MVP contender, perennial All-Star, and plays for a team that hasn’t missed the playoffs in two decades. He even won an NBA Championship while going toe-to-toe with LeBron James. It would be more than fair to point out that he’s accomplished more in the NBA than any of the current Jordan Brand signature athletes.
What possible reason is there for him not to have a signature sneaker? “He’s too quiet,” the critics will say. But when all you do is win, you can let your game do the taking,
He only has one pro season under his belt, but Ezekiel Elliott is already showing signs of being one of the NFL's most dynamic players. Just when you think the running back position is headed toward irrelevance, a game-breaking runner like Elliott comes along to carry on the tradition. In his first campaign, he led the league in rushing with 1,651 yards on the ground and broke the rookie record with 15 rushing touchdowns.
It'd be a gamble to give Elliott a sneaker so soon, but if the name of the game is marketability, he fits the bill. According to NFL.com, Elliott already had the league's best-selling jersey before he even played a down. In addition to suiting up for the NFL's most popular franchise, he has endorsement deals with Nike, trading card company Panini, restaurant chain Twin Peaks, and Old Spice, just to name a few. If he truly is following in the footsteps of Emmitt Smith, having his own shoe should be very much a possibility.
Jimmy Butler seemingly has all the makings of a signature sneaker-worthy player. He has a big personality both on and off the court. He’s an All-Star starter (unlike Jordan Brand signature athletes Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and Russell Westbrook). And he plays in a major market with one of the most built-in sneaker followings in existence.
Butler’s future in Chicago may be up in the air at this point, but regardless of where he lands, he’ll take with him a well-rounded game and star persona. Chicago was a no-brainer to make him heir to the Air, but whether he moves on or not, Jordan Brand could use a fresh face for their signature offerings.
Many people believed Kris Bryant was the kind of player that could help the Chicago Cubs reverse 108 years of bad fortune, but probably not as soon as he did. Last year, the Cubs put an end to arguably the greatest curse in sports history when they won the team's first World Series since 1908.
Throughout the playoffs, Bryant's partners at Adidas rallied behind him strongly with the "#$@& Curses" campaign, which proved to be genius marketing as the Cubs clinched the epic series win. As Adidas pushes for a stronger presence in baseball and continues to to grow in the overall footwear market, giving the 25-year-old a signature cleat or trainer line as he enters his prime could pay long-term dividends and solidify its place in the sport.
It’s one thing to be the face of a team or brand, but Conor McGregor is arguably the face of the entire sport of mixed martial arts. Since winning the interim UFC Featherweight Championship in 2015 McGregor has made himself a household name with his outspoken and combative personality, not to mention an ongoing feud with Floyd Mayweather that could eventually result in a mega-fight between the two.
Reebok’s takeover of the UFC has been tumultuous at best, and could desperately use a win. Why not parlay the brand’s partnership and create a signature model for the most valuable asset in combat sports? It’s been years since Reebok has had a relevant signature model, and not coincidentally, it’s been years since they’ve had a talent as popular as McGregor. The sides once joined forces for a customization contest, but it's time for a proper signature model.
Odell Beckham Jr.
Hate him or love him, Odell Beckham Jr. is arguably the most exciting player to watch in the NFL. His 288 catches are the most for a player through his first three seasons and he only trails Randy Moss in yardage over the same period of time. He's made a name for himself by making seemingly impossible one-handed catches look easy, even setting a Guinness World Record for one-handed catches in 2015.
With Victor Cruz likely a one-and-done as a Nike signature athlete, Beckham Jr. perfectly fills that void at wide receiver. Not only does he have one of the league's biggest personalities, but he's just beginning his career in the country's most marketable city. Plus, like Cruz, he's a legit sneakerhead who connects with the target audience.
Few people in the history of the world have ever been as good at what they do as Serena Williams is at playing tennis. That means that if Carmelo Anthony can toil away in mediocrity while wearing 13 different signature models, the Grand Slam record holder deserves better.
To be fair, she did have the long-forgotten Shox Glamor SW back in 2004, and has been the face of models like the NikeCourt Flare. But if there’s ever an athlete deserving of having their name on a sneaker, it’s Williams. At a time when we’re celebrating diversity and women’s equality, there’s simply no excuse for Williams not to have her own line.
Considering the popularity of soccer on the global scale, it's interesting that there isn't more signature product available. In Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale, you have one of the world's greatest players and one of the faces of the world's most valuable club. And he just so happens to endorse the leading soccer brand.
With Leo Messi already locked up long-term and Paul Pogba being heavily featured in campaigns, Bale should be the next member of Team Adidas to get a footwear push. He has the game, look, and charisma necessary to pull it off, and lacing him up in a signature Boost trainer may be just what he needs to start escaping the massive shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo.
NBA players have sold sneakers off their dunking ability alone, so even if that’s all Giannis Antetokounmpo had to offer, there’s a case to be made for him having a signature line. But he’s proven to have a far more complete game and become one of the league’s most popular players, as evidenced by him being voted an All-Star starter for the first time in 2017.
Antetokounmpo’s Grecian upbringing and lack of NCAA experience worked against him early in his career due to fans’ lack of familiarity, but his athleticism and skill have helped him become a must-watch player. As one of the league’s most exciting talents whose best days could still be to come, it’s time the Greek Freak gets a model of his own.