Miami's got kicks: Bam Adebayo, Derrick Jones Jr. bring the heat to NBA's new sneaker game
The Heat's Bam Adebayo and Derrick Jones Jr. put their personalities on display through their shoe game
You can find Bam Adebayo and Derrick Jones Jr. soaring through the air while throwing down rim-shattering dunks, on the perimeter locking down smaller opponents after a switch or simply exchanging playful jabs at each other in the locker room after a Miami Heat win.
They do all of the above in style. The Heat duo has fully taken advantage of the NBA removing restrictions on what shoes players can wear on the court. They've spent all season showing off their extensive shoe collections, displaying their creativity with custom sneakers and telling stories through their kicks.
"It brings out people's personalities," Adebayo told CBS Sports after recording an 11-point, 16-rebound double-double in a Heat win over the Mavericks on March 28. "Now you get to see a whole montage of different colorways and it's players just expressing themselves with their sneakers."
Adebayo's sneaker arsenal has been boundless. Finally being able to show off all the kicks he couldn't during his rookie campaign last year, he hit the hardwood running this season with a revolving door of Nike Kobe retros, the latest Nike LeBron 16's and classic Jordans. He put his personality on display with custom kicks designed after his favorite cartoons, in the colors of the Heat's ultra-popular Miami Vice jerseys and in any way he felt he wanted to express himself.
While he finds random things to show off through his custom sneakers, Adebayo also uses his on-court footwear as a way to touch the community he's playing in. He credits a special pair of custom shoes he wore back in December, in a home game against the Cavaliers, for helping him elevate his game this season. The shoes were designed after Felicia Turner, a breast cancer survivor he met while in Miami. Not only did Adebayo style some custom kicks to honor Turner, but he invited she and her grandchildren to watch him play at American Airlines Arena.
"That was my most influential shoe. I was just in Liberty City one day. And you just meet people," Adebayo said. "She had cancer twice. She's lost a lot. She has grandkids. They've never been to a game and she's never been to a game. So you just try to do things for people and doing that for her I feel like I got a blessing off it. That night I played very well in those shoes."
Played well might be an understatement. Adebayo finished the game with 18 points, nine rebounds and five assists while shooting a perfect 8-for-8 from the field.
"When you wear someone's name on your shoe, I feel like you're fighting for something more than you usually do," Adebayo said. "That night it was for her, I gave her the shoes at the end of the day and that's a moment that she'll never forget."
Those special shoes wouldn't have been possible before this season. The memories will last a lifetime for Turner and her grandchildren, but that moment flipped a switch for Adebayo, too. Prior to that game, he was averaging 7.4 points, seven rebounds and 1.9 assists on 52 percent shooting. After that moment, however, Adebayo's numbers rose to 9.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists on 61 percent shooting per game.
Turn On Airplane Mode
After telling his sneaker stories, Adebayo walks across the Heat locker room toward Jones, who was sifting through a collection of custom Airplane Mode T-shirts.
"Derrick, you know I jump higher than you, right?" Adebayo quips.
"You do bro, you know I don't [have] any bounce." Jones sarcastically replies.
Though he might jokingly award Adebayo the team's premier high-flyer status, Jones won't come close to backing down to any of his peers when it comes to his shoe game. His locker is stuffed with sneakers that would serve as grails to most sneakerheads.
"Come on, man." Jones says as he shakes his head.
He calls for backup in the form of one of the team's equipment managers.
"Let everybody in the room know," he yells out so the entire locker room can hear.
"He's the shoe king," Ryan, the equipment guy confirms. "He's at a different level."
Airplane Mode then opens the cockpit to the sneaker stash of rare kicks he keeps ready to go in his locker. In plain sight: the Nike Kobe 4 "Rice High School" PE, the Kobe 6 "Supreme Rice," the Kobe 5 "Fade To Black," the Nike KD 4 "Easter" among a dozen others.
Jones, who's enjoying the best season of his young career this year with the Heat, thinks the visual aspect of wearing whatever shoes you want goes a long way in terms of a player's confidence. It's clear he's a huge fan of the direction the league decided to go in.
"As a player, I think you play good when you look good and you feel good. I try to go out there looking and feeling as best as possible so I can play my best game," Jones said. "[The NBA] changing that rule is the best thing that ever happened to this league. Now you have players out there being able to express themselves through their shoes."
The numbers suggest Airplane Mode has felt very good this season, he's taken on the biggest role of his professional career and is averaging highs in minutes, points and rebounds -- all while rocking some of the best kicks in the NBA.
His collection of rare signature shoes spans from Jordans, Kobes and KDs, but Jones puts himself in contention with the top players in the league when it comes to custom kicks. He gives the custom kick nod to Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie, Pistons guard Langston Galloway and Clippers big man Montrezl Harrell. He's not too far off with memorable shoes designed after the Heat's Vice jerseys, after the favorite cartoon characters of his two sons and, of course, kicks that highlight his nickname.
"Airplane Mode, that's just me," Jones says about the priceless blue Jordan 11 customs.
It'll be hard to top the sneaker swag Adebayo and Jones have put on display this season, but both players vowed to just be getting started. With that, the sneaker community rejoices.
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