Sixteen wins get an NBA team through the Playoffs and to the Finals. For the 2018 Playoffs, Nike is celebrating some historic moments — in both basketball and sneaker — with its Art of a Champion collection.
While 15 of the Art of a Champion releases are detailed here, the final shoe will be defined by this year’s NBA Champion.
The first release from the Art of a Champion collection (first reported as the Champions Think 16 pack) will be the Kobe 1 Protro ‘Final Seconds’ ($175); it celebrates Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Mentality and his performance on April 30, 2006, in Game 4 of the Playoffs. With a not-so-graceful layup he sent the game into OT where, down one, he drilled the game-winning buzzer-beater shot with two defenders right in his face.
The Converse Fastbreak Hi ‘No Easy Buckets’ is an homage to Boston’s Kevin McHale and Game 4 of the 1984 NBA Finals. According to Nike, the bench was cleared after McHale clotheslined LA’s Kurt Rambis on a breakaway dunk attempt — there would be no easy buckets for this championship.
Nike is also bringing back the true Air Maestro II ‘Trifecta’, worn by Scottie Pippen in Game 2 of the 1993 NBA Finals. On June 11, 1993, Pippen became only the twelfth player ever to record a triple-double in a Finals game (15-12-12). Without Pippen there probably wouldn’t have been a Bulls three-peat. The Air Maestro II ‘Trifecta’ drops on May 10.
On June 13, 2004, an elbow to Rasheed Wallace’s chest changed the course of Game 4 of the NBA Finals. While the Lakers were favored to win, that elbow caused Wallace to go off and dominate the final quarter. The Air Force 1 High Retro ‘Rude Awakening’ will release on April 26.
30 points and 40 rebounds. Those are real numbers Bill Russell put up on May 2, 1962, in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. The Converse Chuck 70 Ox ’30 and 40′ releases on May 3 and honors the legendary Celtics’ center incredible performance.
On October 7, 2011, Maya Moore cemented her name in basketball history in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. She dominated in college at UConn, and went “from rookie to royalty” when she hit the game-winning three in that historic Game 3. She led Minnesota to its first-ever championship, the first of four she’s delivered so far. The Air Jordan 11 Low ‘Rook to Queen’ releases on May 24.
On June 10, 2014, Kawhi Leonard dropped 29 points against the Heat’s powerful star-filled team and led the Spurs to victory in Game 3. He helped propel the Spurs to a 4-1 win that sent the Heat packing and earned Finals MVP for his stunning performance. The Air Jordan 1 ‘Pass the Torch’ will release on April 28.
On June 7, 1978, veteran Wes Unseld gave the Bullets their first-ever championship and earned the Finals MVP. Some step to the free throw line and choke, but Unseld sank his free throws and secured the W. Thus, Nike has created the Converse Star Player Ox ‘Intangibles’ to honor that moment. It will release on May 17.
Moses Malone was one of the Original Six to wear the Air Force 1 on-court, and in 1983, he predicted the Sixers would win the title by sweeping all three series “Fo, ‘ fo, ‘ fo.” Moses Malone helped lead the 76ers to victory over the Lakers, but due to a loss to the Bucks, Malone had to revise his prediction: “Fo, ‘ Fi, ‘ Fo.” The Air Force 1 Low Retro ‘Fo’ Fi’ Fo” releases on May 19.
The Nike Zoom KD 4 ‘Battle Tested’ celebrates Kevin Durant’s incredible 34 point and 14 rebound performance in Game 6 of the 2012 Western Conference Finals. He dominated all the way to the Finals, and while OKC lost to the Heat, Durant led all players with 30.6 points per game on impeccable 54.8% shooting. The KD 4 ‘Battle Tested’ releases on June 7.
Nike is celebrating LeBron James’ herculean performance in Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals by bringing back the LeBron Soldier 1. According to Nike, LeBron scored 29 of the Cavs’ final 30 points, including 25-straight and all of the team’s 18 overtime points. While young then, his performance in double overtime gave people a glimpse of the King we know today. The LeBron Soldier 1 ’25 Straight’ releases on May 31, exactly eleven years after that fateful game.
How could Nike celebrate the Playoffs and not include Dr. J? It couldn’t. The Converse Pro Leather Mid ‘The Scoop’, which releases on April 19, honors Julius Erving’s performance in Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the Lakers where he patented a move few could even imagine. That single move, now known as “the scoop,” inspired countless others to follow Dr. J’s flashy style. The
The Air Jordan 14 ‘Last Shot’ is a fan-favorite from the Jordan signature line. Back for its 20th anniversary in 2018, the shoe celebrates Jordan’s final shot in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. The shoe will release on June 14 for $190. Jordan Brand is also honoring MJ’s last shot with the Air Jordan 32 Low ‘Last Shot’.
Known for being one of basketball’s greatest shooters, on June 18, 2013, Ray Allen made one crucial shot. With a feed from Chris Bosh, Allen tied the game with a jackknife three from the corner. Of course, Tony Parker was all over him, but the shot went in and swung the series for Miami. The Heat went on to win Game 7 for a repeat title. The Air Jordan 28 ‘Locked and Loaded’ releases on May 12.
Finally, the Nike Air Force 270 ‘Gold Standard’ honors the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. It will release in June alongside the 16th Art of a Champion sneaker.
Do you have a favorite from the Art of a Champion collection? Sound off in the comments below.