Lance Thomas, alongside Knicks guard Damyean Dotson, orchestrated a sneaker drive at Sneakersnstuff in New York’s Meatpacking District. Friends and fans chummed it up with Thomas and Dotson, taking pictures and receiving autographs, and donated over 500 pairs of new and lightly worn sneakers, all of which went to the New York City Department of Homeless Services.
“I just know that I always have a bunch of random sneakers around my place that I never use,” Thomas said. “I know a lot of my teammates do as well. I just wanted to fill that void. There’s a lot of homeless families that don’t have those things we just take for granted.”
“Everybody in New York loves sneakers,” Thomas said. “I remember cleaning my sneakers with a toothbrush—I still do it for my special pairs. But I also know everybody has those pair of sneakers they’re not going to wear anymore. And I know there are people who would benefit from those. I just want to close that gap and make sure everyone has a happy holiday.”
Mark Bartelstein, a top N.B.A. agent whose client Gordon Hayward recently signed with the Chinese shoe company Anta, said the companies were battling for a piece of the basketball business because “the money follows what is hot, and the N.B.A. is very hot.” Executives at Puma and New Balance, eager to justify major investments, were quick to agree, pointing to the outsize influence of a league with a global footprint that extends beyond sports. They say that it has never been more important to be associated with the N.B.A.
And yet Puma may be making this bet at precisely the wrong time, as the market for basketball shoes is bottoming out. According to Matt Powell, a sports industry analyst at NPD Group, basketball shoes now account for just 4 percent of the shoe market, down from a high of 13 percent a few years ago. Performance sneakers — shoes worn for athletic activity — are doing poorly more generally.
Jessica Benson: Grizzlies equipment assistant Brianè Miller says she’s been offered $100,000 for the shoes @KingJames gave her during the Lakers/Grizzlies game on Saturday. She’s not interested in selling. “I’m loyal to the max.” Hear from her on why she’s been with LeBron from the jump: