Feb 13, 2020 - Sports

The decline of the basketball shoe

Illustration:Aïda Amer/Axios

Basketball shoe sales are down for the fourth consecutive year, and the industry is being crushed by the athleisure wave.

By the numbers: Basketball shoe sales currently represent less than 5% of the athletic shoe market, a huge drop from their 13% market share in 2014, per research firm NPD.

  • Meanwhile, the athleisure industry grew 7% over a 12-month period in 2019.

Flashback: When Michael Jordan and Nike debuted the Air Jordan 1 in 1984, it revolutionized the sneaker industry and set off a decades-long frenzy around basketball shoes, which became collector's items for some and everyday shoes for others.

The state of play: "This is the culmination of the athleisure trend, where we are wearing athletic inspired footwear and apparel but we don't intend to use them for sport," NPD analyst Matt Powell told MarketWatch.

  • Another reason for the sales slump "can be as simple as what kind of pants people are wearing," says one UBS analyst, who suggests that big, bulky shoes don't look as good with a current fashion trend: tighter pants.

The bottom line: Endorsement deals with top NBA players are still crucial for footwear companies looking to reach new customers, but shifts in consumer taste indicate that they might not have the revenue-driving impact they once had.

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Ethiopian runner smashes half-marathon record in Nike Vaporfly shoes

Ababel Yeshaneh crosses the finish line of RAK Half Marathon. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP via Getty Images

Ethiopian athlete Ababel Yeshaneh broke a women's world record in the half marathon in the United Arab Emirates while wearing Nike's Vaporfly shoes — completing the race on Friday in 1 hour, 4 minutes and 31 seconds, CNN reports.

Why it matters: The record-breaking event comes shortly after Eliud Kipchoge became the first man to run the marathon in less than two hours, while also wearing the Vaporfly shoes. Nike's new shoe technology has proven controversial because of the performance boost it seems to provide. The footwear does meet new rules set by World Athletics that limits the thickness of a shoe's sole and the use of carbon plates, CNN writes.

Go deeper: Nike's magic running shoes ignite debate

The race to catch Nike's Vaporfly shoe before the 2020 Olympics

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Four months ago, on the very same weekend, Eliud Kipchoge became the first human to run a marathon in under two hours, and fellow Kenyan Brigid Kosgei shattered the women's marathon record.

Why it matters: Kipchoge and Kosgei were both wearing Nike's controversial Vaporfly sneakers, which many believed would be banned because of the performance boost provided by a carbon-fiber plate in the midsole that acted as a spring and saved the runner energy.

Go deeperArrowFeb 26, 2020 - Sports

LeBron-Zion lives up to the hype

Photo: Katelyn Mulcahy/Jason Miller/Getty Images

LeBron James, whose play defined the last two decades of NBA basketball, scored a season-high 40 points in his first matchup against Zion Williamson (29 points), whose play could define the next two decades.

Fun fact: LeBron has now faced a fellow No. 1 overall pick 356 times — and he's finished with the scoring advantage in 297 of those games, per ESPN.

Go deeperArrowFeb 26, 2020 - Sports