LaMelo Ball and the best debut performances in a first signature sneaker — The Undefeated

In the NBA’s 75-year history, less than 85 players have been awarded a signature sneaker.

LaMelo, the Charlotte Hornets’ 20-year-old point guard and reigning rookie player of the year, was the latest member of that elite club during the first week 2021-22 NBA season. In Charlotte’s opening game against the Indiana Pacers, Ball debuted his first signature shoe, the Puma MB.01, while scoring 31 points, including a career-high seven 3-pointers, along with nine rebounds and seven assists.

Puma’s first signature athlete since the brand returned to basketball in 2018, Ball didn’t disappoint during his first official game wearing the MB.01. In the Hornets’ 123-122 win, Ball The youngest player in the league’s historyTo start a season with a performance that included 30+ points, five-plus assists, and five-plus rebounds. Ball received even a third quarter MVP award. “M-V-P!”As he took the free throw line in his bright orange-red sneaker, there were cheers from the crowd.

LaMelo ball, Charlotte Hornets’ guard, debuts his first signature shoe, Puma MB.01 in the season opener against Indiana Pacers on October 20.

Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

“It felt great,”After his first game in the PumaMB, Ball told The Undefeated. “You gotta love wearing your own stuff, your own hoop shoes. Blessings.”

There’s no question that Ball had one of the most exciting debuts of a first signature sneaker. From Michael Jordan to Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Trae Young, here’s a look at where his performance falls among the 15 best first signature debuts in NBA history.

Michael Jordan

Game: Nov. 17, 1984 — Chicago Bulls vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Shoe: “Chicago”Air Jordan 1

Stat line: 16 Points (4-for-17), 7 rebounds, 5 steals, in 109-100 Bulls defeat

Michael Jordan (right), in action against the Philadelphia 76ers at Chicago Stadium.

Manny Millan/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

In his The NBA regular-season debut was Oct. 26, 1984, Jordan took the court for the Bulls wearing the Nike Air Ship — not his first signature shoe, the Air Jordan 1. It was actually the Air Ship that led to the infamous policing of Jordan’s footwear during his first season in the league. A vice president of the NBA sent a photo of Jordan wearing the Air Ship during a preseason match. Send a cease-and-desist to the company located at Beaverton in OregonJordan has been officially forbidden from lacing up “certain red and black Nike basketball shoes.”

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Nike responded by marketing the Air Jordan 1, and not the Air Ship, as the sneaker that the NBA. “banned.”As Nick Engvall, a long-time sneaker fan, explains in a 2015 sneakerhistory.com story, Jordan didn’t debut his signature shoe for the first time until 11 games into his rookie season. On Nov. 17, 1984, against the 76ers, the Bulls’ then-21-year-old shooting guard unveiled the “Chicago”Air Jordan 1: 16 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Following the debut, according to Engvall, Jordan played solely in the Air Ship until late December, after which he went to the Air Jordan 1 full time in the lead-up to the shoe’s March 1985 retail release.

Shaquille O’Neal

Game: Nov. 6, 1992 — Orlando Magic vs. Miami Heat

Shoe: Reebok Shaq Attaq 1

Stat line: 12 points (4-for-8), 3 blocks in 110-100 Magic victory, 18 rebounds and 3 blocks

Two weeks before the Magic selected the 20-year-old O’Neal with the No. Leonard Armato, O’Neal’s agent denied that the 7-foot-1 center from Louisiana State University had signed an apparel and footwear deal with LA Gear. Instead, O’Neal decided to roll with Reebok in a multiyear deal worth $3 million annually after the sportswear company based in Stoughton, Massachusetts, won a bidding war with Nike. The partnership made the big man the headliner of Reebok’s popular Pump technology and guaranteed his signature “Shaq Attaq”Line

Wearing a size 23, O’Neal debuted the Shaq Attaq 1 in his first NBA game, making him just the fourth rookie in league history to receive a signature shoe during his rookie season. In the Shoe by Judy Close, O’Neal scored 12 rebounds and grabbed 18 points. Reebok promoted the Shaq Attaq throughout the 1992-93 season with a $20 million ad campaign, highlighted by a commercial that aired during Super Bowl XXVII that was co-written by O’Neal as he starred with former NBA centers Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Penny Hardaway

Game: Nov. 3, 1995 — Orlando Magic vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Shoe: Nike Air Max Penny 1

Stat line: 28 Points (10-for-17), 8 assists and 5 rebounds in 99.88 Magic win

Miami Heat player Billy Owens (left) tries to block a shot by the Orlando Magic’s Penny Hardaway (right).

RHONA WISE/AFP via Getty Images

In Hardaway’s mind, he played his way into a signature sneaker during his second year in the NBA. In 1994-95, Hardaway, a 6-foot-7 point guard for Magic, was selected as a first-team All NBA selection. His averages were 20.9 points (on 51.2% field shooting), 7.2 assists and 4.44 rebounds per game. Throughout his prolific sophomore campaign, Hardaway laced up two Nike models — the Air Up and Flight One — before the swoosh decided he was deserving of a signature silhouette. “Nike was like, ‘You know what, it’s time to get your own shoe,’ ” Nick DePaula told Hardaway in 2008. “ ‘You’ve become a big enough name, and you’ve really earned it.’ ” The night of the Magic’s 1995-96 regular-season opener, Hardaway dropped 28 points in the Nike Air Max Penny 1. The Nike Air Max Penny 1 was Hardaway’s debut shoe. “1 Cent” branding that’s become one of the most recognizable signature logos in history.

Allen Iverson

Game: Nov. 1, 1996 — Philadelphia 76ers vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Reebok Question

Stat line: 30 Points (12-for-19), 6 assists for 111-103 Sixers losses

You’ve certainly seen the footage from March 1997 of a then-21-year-old rookie Iverson crosses the finish lineJordan, the greatest ever, is undoubtedly. On Iverson’s feet was a white, red and navy pair of the Reebok Question — the future Hall of Famer’s first signature shoe that kicked off what has since transformed into a lifetime partnership with the company. Iverson signed a record 10-year, $50 million deal with Reebok in June 1996 before either he nor the brand knew where his NBA career would take him. “I deserve to be No. 1,”Iverson said this the night before the draft. He was wearing a Reebok lapel pin and a gold Rolex.

The 76ers selected the 6-foot, 165-pound point guard from Georgetown University with the top pick, making him Reebok’s second No. 1 overall signee in five years after O’Neal in 1992. Iverson made his NBA debut on Nov. 1, 1996, with a 30-point performance in his signature Reebok Question — a clever play off his nickname “The Answer,”which is tattooed to his left bicep. Since then, the Question has been the most re-released basketball shoes in Reebok’s history.

Kobe Bryant

Game: Oct. 31, 1997 — Los Angeles Lakers vs. Utah Jazz

Shoe: Adidas KB8

Stat line: 23 points (5-for-13), 5 assists during the 104-87 Lakers victory

Kobe Bryant (left), of the Los Angeles Lakers, drives to the basket against Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz in a game on October 31.

Vince Bucci/AFP via Getty Images

Game: Dec. 25, 2005 — Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat

Shoe: Nike Zoom Kobe 1

Stat line: 37 Points (12-for-30), 8 Rebounds, 6 Assists in 97-92 Lakers Loss

Gary Payton (left), Miami Heat, defends Kobe Bryant(right), Los Angeles Lakers, Dec. 25, 2005 at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami.

Victor Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

Bryant’s legacy includes signature lines for two companies and his mark in sneaker history. He was an Adidas endorser for six seasons, before joining Nike in 2003. After that, he continued to wear the swoosh all his NBA career. While Bryant’s debut performances in his first signature for both Adidas and Nike were impressive, true to Mamba Mentality, of course he outdid himself the second time around. Bryant, then 19, launched Adidas KB8 in a game against Jazz on Oct. 31, 1997. Bryant scored 23 points and had five assists in 33 minutes. Bryant launched the Nike Zoom Kobe 1 on Christmas Day 2005 with 37 points, eight rebound and six assists. It’s worth noting that in late January 2006, less than a month after he debuted the shoe, Bryant delivered a career-high 81 points in the Nike Zoom Kobe 1.

LeBron James

Game: Oct. 29, 2003 — Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Sacramento Kings

Shoe: Nike Air Zoom Generation

Stat line: 25 Points (12-for-20), 9 assists and 4 steals in the 106-92 Cavaliers’ loss

Detail of Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James’ shoes during a game against the Sacramento Kings at ARCO Arena on Oct. 29, 2003.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

James, 18, was the most anticipated rookie debut in NBA history. In May 2003, James signed a seven-year, $90 million contract with Nike. This was a month before he was selected by the Cavaliers as the No. James was the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. He signed a $70-million, seven-year contract with Nike. This is still the most lucrative NBA rookie sneaker deal. Nike released the following statement ahead of James’s career-defining game against the Kings on October 29, 2003. “Pressure”CommercialThe video features James in the Nike Air Zoom Generation, his first signature sneaker. It was created by Tinker Hatfield and Eric Avar, along with Aaron Cooper. James was stunning with the Zoom Generations on him at ARCO Arena. On a 12-for-20 shooting percentage, James scored 25 points. He also had nine assists, six rebounds, and four steals. He also did his first ever career dunk with a steal and breakaway, which resulted in an action picture that was displayed in a museum. James was the first rookie since Jordan to reach at least 20 point, five assists, and five boards per game in his inaugural NBA season.

LeBron James, of the Cleveland Cavaliers, goes for a dunk during a game against the Sacramento Kings at ARCO Arena on October 29, 2003.

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Dwyane Wade

Game: Nov. 2, 2005 — Miami Heat vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Converse Wade 1 Shoe

Stat line: 23 points (9-for-18), 6 rebounds, 10 assists, 6 rebounds in the 97-78 Heat victory.

Dwyane (left) drives to the basket for the Miami Heat during a game against Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum, Nov. 2, 2005.

Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Game: April 16, 2011 — Miami Heat vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Shoe: Jordan Fly Wade 1

Stat line: 17 points (6-for-13), 7 rebound, 5 assists in the 97-89 Heat victory during the first round of playoffs

Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat, in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference playoff series. It was held in Miami on April 16, 2011.

Marc Serota/Getty Images

Game: Oct. 30, 2012 — Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics

Shoe: Li-Ning Way to Wade 1

Stat line: 29 Points (10-for-22), 4 assists and 2 steals in 120–107 Heat win

Dwyane Wade, of the Miami Heat, handles the ball against Boston Celtics on October 30, 2012 at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami.

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Wade, a three-time champion, is part of a select group of NBA players who have received sneakers from three different brands throughout their careers. Chris Webber, FILA Dada, Nike, and Kevin Garnett, NIKE, AND1, Adidas and Anta are the other members. That means Wade experienced three signature debuts — and he balled out in each one of them. On opening night of the Heat’s championship 2005-06 season, the 6-foot-4 shooting guard produced a stat sheet-stuffing performance with 23 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks in the Converse Wade 1. Wade had switched from Converse to Jordan Brand in April 2011 and was able to sport the Jordan Fly Wade 1. He scored 17 points, seven boards, five assists, and seven rebounds. Wade’s signature debut score was 29 points. He was wearing the Li-Ning Way Of Wade 1 in 2012 when his partnership began with the Chinese footwear company. The future Hall of Famer was now retired and received eight more Way of Wade signature models as well as a lifetime contract with Li-Ning.

Derrick Rose

Game: Oct. 27, 2010 — Chicago Bulls vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Shoe: Adidas AdiZero Rose 1

Stat line: 28 Points (12-for-31), 6 assists and 4 rebounds in Bulls loss 106-95

Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls, handles the ball against Oklahoma City Thunder at Ford Center on October 27, 2010, in Oklahoma City.

Larry W. Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

The timing of the arrival of Rose’s first signature shoe couldn’t have been more perfect. Rose was the NBA’s No. 1 overall pick in 2010. Rose was the No. 1 overall pick of his hometown Bulls in the NBA two years ago. Rose began his third season with the Adidas adiZero Rose 1. He scored 28 points in the shoe’s debut, and by May 2011 that season, he became the youngest player in league history to be named MVP, at age 22. “When you have a signature shoe, it boosts your confidence a little bit more,” Rose spoke to ESPN in 2019. “When you’re out there, it gives you a little bit more swag. Back then, I just couldn’t believe it.”Rose has 11 Adidas models to his credit and is one of eight players from league history to receive at least 10 signature shoes consecutively, alongside Jordan, Bryant Jordan, Carmelo Anthony Chris Paul, Iverson, Iverson, and Kevin Durant.

Kyrie Irving

Game: Dec. 4, 2014 — Cleveland Cavaliers vs. New York Knicks

Shoe: Nike Kyrie 1

Stat line: 37 Points (12-for-18) in win by the Cavs over 90-87

The shoes of Kyrie Irvin of the Cleveland Cavaliers during a match against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, Dec. 4, 2014.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Irving caught the ball at half court and sized his defender. Irving dribbled left and right, then left and again, driving to Madison Square Garden for a layup. The go-ahead bucket in a matchup with the Knicks on Dec. 4, 2014, sealed a win for the Cavaliers and capped off Irving’s debut performance in the Nike Kyrie 1 with 37 points.

Stephen Curry

Game: Jan. 9, 2015 — Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Shoe: Under Armour Curry one

Stat line: 23 points (8-for-15), ten assists, 2 steals in 112-94 Warriors victory

A view of the Under Armour Curry One shoe worn by Stephen Curry in the match against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Oracle Arena, January 9, 2015 in Oakland, California.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Curry, who had worn swooshes on both his feet for the first four of his professional years, decided to leave Nike in October 2013 to join Under Armour. A signature line wasn’t in the plan for Curry at Nike, but Under Armour delivered. On January 9, 2015, the Under Armour Curry One was unveiled by the Warriors point guard, with 23 points and 10 assists at Oracle Arena, Oakland, California. “It’s a dream come true,”Curry said that the next night. “There’s a long line of players who have had a signature shoe before, obviously all different brands. But to bring the Curry One to life with Under Armour is something I’ve been looking forward to.” Later in that 2014-15 season, Curry was named league MVP and led Golden State to the franchise’s first title in 40 years. He’s now on his ninth signature model and the face of his own Curry Brand at Under Armour.

James Harden

Game: Oct. 26, 2016 — Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Shoe: Adidas Harden Vol. 1

Stat line: 34 points (9-for-19), 16 assists, 8 rebound in 120-114 Rockets loss

The shoes of James Harden, during a game against Los Angeles Lakers on October 26, 2016, at Staples Center Los Angeles.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

On Oct. 1, 2015, Harden’s 12-year, $200 Million apparel and footwear dealAfter Nike, Harden’s brand sponsor for the first six of his years, declined to match the huge offer, Adidas officially began. Adidas celebrated the moment — and its new signature athlete — by Send a truck loaded with sneakersThe tagline “The Wait Is Over” in bold red type, to Harden’s home ahead of the 2015-16 NBA season. The Adidas Harden Vol was his first signature. 1. Harden was asked by a member the media if he thought his sneaker was the best in the league during an interview that night. “I think I do,” Harden said. “I’m extremely excited about it. Everything I do is swaggy, you know.”Harden proved his words true when he stepped onto the Vol. 1s for Houston’s opener of the 2016-17 season. Harden scored 34 points, 17 assists, and seven rebounds against the Lakers at Staples Center, his hometown in Los Angeles.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Game: Sept. 1, 2019 — Greece vs. Montenegro in first round of FIBA Basketball World Cup

Shoe: Nike Zoom Freak 1.

Stat line: 10-points (4-for-9), 8 rebound, 2 steals in 85-60 Greece victory

Giannis Antetokounmpo slashes the rim during a FIBA Basketball World Cup Group F Game between Montenegro, Greece, and Nanjing, China on Sept. 1, 2019.

WANG ZHAO/AFP via Getty Images

Game: NBA debut, Oct. 24, 2019 — Milwaukee Bucks vs. Houston Rockets

Shoe: Nike Zoom Freak 1.

Stat line: Scored 30 points (11-for-17), 13 boards, 11 assists in 117-11 Bucks win

Close-up of Giannis Antitokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks’ player against the Houston Rockets, Oct. 24, 2019, at Houston’s Toyota Center.

Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

Antetokounmpo was born to Nigerian immigrants, and raised in Athens (Greece) so it was only natural that he unveiled his first signature sneaker. The following week, the “Greek Freak”Antetokounmpo was named 2019 NBA MVP. Nike also announced Antetokounmpo as being the first international player to receive a Nike shoe in brand-record history. “I wanted my shoe to basically introduce me and my family to the world,”Antetokounmpo talked to The Undefeated about the launch of the Nike Zoom Freak 1 in Athens. A few months later, he took the court in the Freak 1 for the first time at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China during Greece’s opener against Montenegro. Antetokounmpo only played 16 minutes, scoring 10 points and grabbing eight rebounds, in the sneaker’s World Cup debut. He scored a triple-double of 30-points, 13-rebounds and 11-assists in his first NBA game with the Freak 1.

Zion Williamson

Game: April 20 — New Orleans Pelicans vs. Brooklyn Nets

Shoe: Jordan Zion 1

Stat line: 33 points (14 for-19), 7 rebounds and 4 assists in the 134-129 Pelicans’ loss

The sneakers of Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans, before a game on April 20, at the Smoothie King Centre in New Orleans.

Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

Williamson was the most talked about NBA prospect since James in 2019. He was also the most sought-after rookie in footwear companies for more than 15 years. The Pelicans selected Williamson with the No. Williamson signed a $75 million endorsement deal with Jordan Brand for a five-year contract. The partnership would ultimately make Williamson the seventh player since Jordan to receive a Jordan signature — and the first Generation Z (born after 1996) athlete to receive a shoe. “The opportunity to have the Jordan Brand give me a signature shoe was something I feel like I couldn’t pass up on,”A 20-year old Williamson spoke to The Undefeated in April before the announcement of the Jordan Zion 1

The Pelicans star was a dominant player when he laced his shoe against the Nets. He scored 33 points on 74% shooting, with seven rebounds, and four assists. No player in Jordan history — from Russell Westbrook (20 points in the Why Not Zer0.1 in 2018) to Paul (16 points in the CP3.I in 2008) to Anthony (20 points in the Melo 1.5 in 2004) and even Jordan (16 points in the Air Jordan 1 in 1984) — scored more points in his signature debut than Williamson.

Trae Young

Game: May 23 — Atlanta Hawks vs. New York Knicks

Shoe: Adidas Trae Young 1

Stat line: 32 Points (11-for-24), 10 assists, 7 rebound in 107-105 Hawks’ win during the first round playoffs

Frank Ntilikina, New York Knicks (right), defends Trae Young (left), of the Atlanta Hawks in Game 1, a first-round playoff series that took place in New York City on May 23rd.

Seth Wenig/Pool/Getty Images

Young couldn’t wait to debut his first signature sneaker — so he didn’t. The Adidas Trae Young 1 wasn’t set to release until October. After the Hawks reached the 2021 NBA postseason fifth-seeded in the Eastern Conference, the All Star point guard decided to get his sneakers on time. “I just wanted to be able to play my first playoffs in my own shoe,” said the then-22-year-old Young, who broke out the shoe for Game 1 of Atlanta’s opening-round series against the fourth-seeded Knicks. In the Trae Youth 1 at Madison Square Garden, he scored 32 points including a game-winning floating basket with 0.9 seconds to go to lift the Hawks to victory of 107-105. Of all the debuts of a player’s first signature, Young’s performance was certainly the most clutch. He averaged 28.8 and 9.5 points in 16 games during 2021 NBA playoffs while wearing the AdidasTrae Young 1.

LaMelo Ball

Game: Oct. 20 — Charlotte Hornets vs. Indiana Pacers

Shoe: Puma MB.01

Stat line: 31 points (11 for 23), 9 rebounds and 7 assists in the 123-122 Hornets victory

LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets, wears his signature Puma MB.01 sneakers in a game against Indiana Pacers at Spectrum Center on Oct. 20, 2018.

Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Four years ago, before Puma MB.01 The signature shoe of Ball was the “The” “MB1” at the age of 16 under his family’s Big Baller Brand. Ball teamed up for a collaboration with SLAM magazine. hilarious commercialThe shoe was promoted. Lonzo, his older brother, had a rap song called “Melo Ball 1.” But there isn’t any record of Ball lacing up his BBB signature in a game. He was picked by the Hornets with No. Ball was the No. 3 pick. Puma signed a multiyear contractto be the face for the company in basketball. Puma began teasing Ball’s signature shoe on social media in July, before he was spotted wearing a pair for the first time while sitting courtside at NBA summer league a month later.

Mid-October saw the brand announce the MB.01. This makes Ball the fourth Puma signature basketball athlete after Walt Frazier (1973), Ralph Sampson(83) and Vince Carter (99). “I live by the motto, ‘One of One,’ which means I am not like everyone else,”Ball stated this in a statement. “I stand out as being different and I’m 100% myself. The motto was really the inspiration behind the MB.01. I wanted to create a different kind of sneaker. One that is ‘Not From Here’ with a unique design, bright colors and the best technology for a better on-court performance.” With 31 points, seven 3s and a win in Charlotte’s season opener, Ball couldn’t have even imagined a better first game in his Puma MB.01.

Aaron Dodson writes about culture and sports for The Undefeated. He primarily writes on sneakers/apparel and hosts the platform’s “Sneaker Box” video series. During Michael Jordan’s two seasons playing for the Washington Wizards in the early 2000s, the “Flint”Air Jordan 9s ignited his passion for kicks.


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