NBA luggage has been decreasing in size in the last few years. The dopp kit has given way to the cross-body bag. Neither will fit a pair of shoes. Now, there are exceptions: when LeBron kitted out his team in Thom Browne during last year’s playoff run, he carried a duffel bag that certainly could have fit his size-15 kicks. And this year, Jordan Clarkson has displayed a bizarre affinity for the kind of leather satchel my friend Sam describes as “like when you go to a flea market desperate to spend money and all they have is this thing so you buy it.” But for the most part, luggage is an afterthought. So sneakers go in the hand.
But they’re not just sneakers anymore. Now, carried manually down the pregame tunnel, they’re something new: accessories. Stylist Kesha McLeod, whose clients include last year’s MVP James Harden, notes that the hand-carried shoe is the final frontier of professional accessorizing. “They already have the backpack. They already have the toiletries. They already have their Beats headphones,” she tells me over the phone. “Why not add a different element to what they do?” Why not, indeed! The NBA, like every other professional sport, is a copycat league. When someone figures out something that works, everyone is quick to do the same. That’s true of the Warriors’ “elevator doors” set, and it’s true of fashion. The shoe-in-hand is just the latest not-yet-trickled-down innovation. “They’re already checking out Barneys,” McLeod says. “They’re shopping out Bergdorf [Goodman]. And they’re all wearing the same thing! So we needed something different.”
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