The NBA dress code restrictions on footwear that helped the Air Jordan 1 become famous after it was “banned” by the league in 1985 has loosened over the years, but now they’re virtually gone. Beginning this upcoming season, NBA players will be able to wear any color sneakers they want for all 82 games, whether they match their team uniforms or not.
According to a report by ESPN, the rule change is part of the league’s ongoing effort to allow players to be more expressive on the court.
Traditionally, the rules stated that a player’s shoe had to be at least 51% white (or black for road games), with accenting colors matching their uniforms. When Michael Jordan hit the court his rookie season wearing his first signature shoe in black and red, the league issued a warning to the Chicago Bulls, stating his sneakers were against the rules. Nike used this to their advantage, creating a commercial touting how the NBA banned the Air Jordan, but they couldn’t keep you from wearing them, and demand quickly grew.
Anybody paying attention has certainly noticed that sneaker restrictions in the league have loosened over the years. Beginning in 2012, the league introduced “theme nights,” working with sneaker companies to allow players to wear nonmatching colors for special occasions including Christmas, Veteran’s Day and Black History Month. But in the most recent seasons, the old rules haven’t seemed to be enforced at all. A prime example is Houston Rockets swingman PJ Tucker wearing Travis Scott’s blue Air Jordan 4 collaboration on-court last season. Now the NBA sneaker rule book is officially thrown out — almost, anyway.
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While players will now be able to wear any colors they want for any game, the kicks still can’t feature any third-party logos, as seen on a few of the custom hand-painted shoes that began gaining popularity among players over the last few seasons. Any “sharp protruding objects or reflective elements” are also still not allowed on-court.
Be prepared for the NBA’s sneakers to be more flashy than ever for the 2018-19 season.