LOOK: Lakers’ Kuzma Arrives on Opening Night Wearing the Same Shoes Lebron Did in His 2003 Debut

Kyle Kuzma

Getty Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma.

Sometimes an homage to a player doesn’t have to come after they’ve retired. Kyle Kuzma paid subtle tribute to the iconic Lebron James, now his teammate, as he entered Moda Center in Portland for the Lakers’ season debut.

NBA on ESPN pointed the subtlety out on Twitter right away. Either someone’s been doing their homework, or the shoes were meant to make a clear statement of their own. Knowing Kuzma, there’s probably a little more to unpack here.

What Are the Shoes?

The shoes are the Nike Zoom Flight 2k3 model. They’re rare nowadays, but can be found in some corners of the internet.

And, probably, if you know the right people. Which it turns out Kuzma certainly does.

Nike Zoom Flight basketball shoes

sekaimonThe Nike Zoom Flight 2k3 basketball shoes.

Welcome to the Shoe Business

It was just yesterday that Kuzma was announced to be the first brand ambassador for online sneaker marketplace GOAT. It’s likely that this is exactly where he got the shoes.

GOAT is a marketplace for authentic rare sneakers that launched in 2015. According to their website, GOAT’s goal is to be the go-to location for buying and selling rare sneakers, and to create a community for people to do so safely and securely.

According to footwearnews.com, Kuzma said in a press release:

“GOAT has inspired me to start collecting more seriously and build my style around sneakers. People assume that, as an NBA athlete, you can get access to any kind of sneaker you want, when in reality, it’s hard to get the exclusive releases or shoes from the past and feel confident they’re authentic. GOAT gives me a second chance at not only the limited releases I missed but also the shoes I wasn’t able to afford growing up.”

A History of Fashion Statements

NBA fashion, Kyle Kuzma fashion

Kyle Kuzma has made a name for himself as a fashionable NBA player.

Last season saw a rookie class that was perhaps abnormally committed to bold fashion choices. Kuzma in particular was almost always wearing something avant-garde, and doing so with a confidence that muffled the haters (check the comments on the above tweet. Almost all of them are making fun of his jeans).

Wearing these shoes was no accident, as Kuzma has been known to make unabashed statements using his pre and post-game attire, sometimes (often) to the delight of his teammates:

Sometimes it’s just about fashion–the man likes to dress well. Other times, though, there’s a little more to the story. And after a dramatic off-season where attitudes about LeBron’s move west have ranged from ecstasy to outright revolt, the shoes could be a way of reiterating just how welcome James is to the squad.

Shoes With History

Scottie Pippen Nike Zoom Flight 2k3

GettyScottie Pippen wore the same shoes in his final game on 02/04/2004

These shoes are no stranger to big moments and big stars. According to SoleCollector.com the shoes were also worn by Scottie Pippen in his final game with the Chicago Bulls on February 2nd, 2004.

Kuzma’s nod to the past was both a fashion statement and an homage to his now-teammate, who will likely go down as the greatest basketball player of all time.

It’ll be interesting to see where else these early-2000s shoes pop up, and which other vintage sneakers Kuzma will rock throughout the season via his partnership with GOAT.

READ NEXT: Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma Used NBA 2k19 This Offseason to Improve Game

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