The playoffs have long served as a platform for stars like LeBron James and Stephen Curry to debut new sneakers, as the growing stakes of each round offer up a chance for iconic moments to be linked to their footwear for decades to come.
In Cleveland, LeBron James added to his impressive #LeBronWatch campaign throughout the opening round, donning colorways of his new LeBron 15 inspired by past models from his line of favorite Nike shoes from his childhood. Styled in a similar black, silver and royal blue colorway, his Shox BB4-inspired version harkened back to the classic Vince Carter-headlined model from 2000, and instantly became one of his most well-received pairs of the year.
Houston Rockets wing PJ Tucker continued his season-long streak of breaking out rare sneakers, showcasing his affinity for vintage and obscure pairs and his ability to unveil current models as well. As rapper and Houston native Travis Scott conveniently sat courtside, Tucker debuted Scott's upcoming "Cactus Jack" collaboration with Jordan Brand, setting the internet ablaze in real time as fans got a clear look at the Houston Oilers tribute colorway atop the iconic Air Jordan IV. Earlier in the series, Tucker broke out an exclusive pair of the LeBron III Low from 2006, originally made only for LeBron and his "4 Horsemen" circle of close friends.
In surprisingly quiet fashion, Derrick Rose debuted his ninth signature shoe with Adidas, which isn't slated to release until later this fall, throughout a revitalized showing against the Houston Rockets. While Rose's star power has surely faded over the years, his 13-year Adidas contract, signed in 2012, still mandates a new "DRose" signature sneaker every season, regardless of how he plays.
As the custom sneaker trend continued to make waves, both Markelle Fultz and Trevor Booker showcased the best hand-painted concepts throughout the opening round. Booker's pair of Hyperdunks featured none other than Pacers icon Reggie Miller painted along the side, in his infamous "choke sign" pose. Fultz's clean blue-and-red edition of the LeBron 15 featured a repeating "F2G" graphic along the midsole. The acronym has served as a driving motivational phrase throughout the No. 1 pick's up-and-down rookie season, standing for "Faithful 2 The Grind."
Check out all of the best sneakers spotted during the opening round of the playoffs, and vote for your favorite pair below.