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Five Best Filipino-Inspired NBA Sneakers

The Filipinos’ passion for basketball is unreal—and profitable—so it only makes sense that the global league would capitalize.
Art by Macky Arquilla

With basketball being a religion in the Philippines, it was only a matter of time before the NBA and the biggest brands showed Filipinos some love. Think Kobe’s sold-out visits to Manila, billionaire Manny Pangilinan pitting nine NBA All-Stars against Gilas Pilipinas for his birthday in 2011, and most recently, Jordan Brand opening its biggest outlet in Southeast Asia.

The Filipinos’ passion for basketball is unreal—and profitable—so it only makes sense that the global league would capitalize, which includes footwear repping #PinoyPride. From customs to official releases, Complex Philippines ranks the five best Filipino-inspired NBA sneakers in the past decade.

While design taste and shoe performance are subjective, we considered the model’s history, cultural background, on-court action, and of course, the wearer himself. Motifs look cool, but context and impact matter. Who wore it? Why was it a moment? What long-term impact did it have? We took all of these questions into account to create our definitive list.

#5 adidas Crazy BYW x Jack the Ripper (2022)

Wearer: Jalen Green

History: A welcome gift from adidas Canada for Green’s matchup against the Toronto Raptors

Toronto’s Filipino community and adidas gave Jalen Green a taste of the signature Filo hospitality when it rolled out the welcome mat for the then-Houston Rockets rookie during the ‘22 NBA season.

Besides a night market filled with festivities and lechon, Green received a custom Crazy BYW model designed by Canadian artist Jack The Ripper. The NBA sneakers are inspired mainly by the Philippine flag, sporting the red, blue, and yellow colorway with the iconic sun on the lower lace stay.

Other details include the JG initials, the number 4 for Green’s new jersey number, and the 559 area code for Fresno, California, where he grew up. As far as we know, the pair never saw action in an official NBA game, so that puts it last on this list.

#4 Custom Nike Zoom Freak 2

Wearer: Jordan Clarkson

History: A custom pair gifted by Canada-based Filipino artist Maui Lucero

Reinforcing the stereotype that Canadians are inherently nice, Jordan Clarkson is another NBA star that was gifted a custom pair of Nike Zoom Freak 2 by the country.

The left shoe features Clarkson in a Gilas Pilipinas jersey with the text “Laban Pilipinas.” Meanwhile, the right celebrates Clarkson’s achievement of becoming the first Utah Jazz player and Filipino-American hooper to win the NBA’s Sixth Man of The Year award.

But like Green before him, Clarkson never wore the pair in an official NBA game or other tourneys, so that knocks the model a peg down our list.

#3 adidas D.O.N. Issue #3 “Origin Story”

Wearer: Donovan Mitchell

History: The third Filipino artist to design an adidas sneaker

Jappy Agoncillo became the third Filipino artist to collaborate with adidas with the release of D.O.N Issue #3 last year. Called “Origin Story,” the Filo references include a map of Manila on the left shoe’s outsole and the tiger stripes mark on the heel, a signature mark of Agoncillo.

While the previous entries might’ve had more apparent homages to the Philippines, “Origin Story” enjoyed a wider reach thanks to being an official part of the adidas D.O.N. shoe line (which stands for Mitchell’s quote of “Determination Over Negativity.”)

Representation is great, but coupled with engagement and reach? Even better.

#2 Harden Vol. 5 “Manila Heritage”

Wearer: James Harden

History: Designed by the first Filipino creator for adidas + NBA Playoffs.

Two huge things make this pair great: It came from the first Filipino creator tapped by adidas, and unlike the previous entries, it saw significant action on the court.

The model, created by toy designer Juanito “Quiccs” Maiquez, is inspired by Quiccs’ flagship character, Manila Killa TEQ63, which sports the red, yellow, and blue hues of the Philippine flag.

Other PH references include the country code “+63” and the date “6.26.19,” which was Harden’s last visit to the Philippines, and three dots, which signify the major islands of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

James Harden would debut the model during Game 3 of the 2021 playoffs between the Nets and the Celtics, a milestone that left Quiccs ecstatic.

“I didn’t have a clue that he would wear it that day,” says Quiccs to Esquire. “I would imagine he would wear it someday, but we didn’t know he’d wear it that soon so we were caught off guard.”

“It was (around) 8:30 to 9 a.m. My younger sister messaged me to watch the game. We were very surprised, very happy, and very excited.”

#1 Lebron “Agimat” & “Titan” series

Wearer: Lebron James

History: Where do we begin?

The King has had a long love affair with the Philippines’ passion for basketball, so it’s no surprise who tops this list. Not only are there five variations of the Lebron “Agimat” and TITAN models combined so far, but James has consistently worn them throughout his career.

James wore the Lebron 14 “Agimat” when he torched the Toronto Raptors for 35 points in the 2017 Eastern Conference semifinals. Two more versions of “Agimat” would drop in 2018 (Lebron Soldier 12) and 2019 (Lebron 16 Low) with the latter debuting in a preseason game against the Golden State Warriors.

The 2019 release would also mark James’ first collaboration with local basketball specialty store TITAN. They would pair up two more times: 2020’s Lebron 17 Low, which appeared in a Bubble game against the Raptors, and 2022’s newly-released Lebron 19 “Beyond the Seas.”

The best thing about the Lebrons is the personal touches like the Tagalog inscriptions on the shoes, such as “Para sa Kadakilaan,” which translates to “For Greatness,” a popular motif by James.

The “Beyond the Seas” release features personal messages from James on either side of each shoe. One reads, “The passion for basketball in the Philippines is incredible,” while the other says, “I look forward to returning to Manila again.”

These are incredible details showcased by the GOAT of our generation on basketball’s biggest stage. And that’s why the Lebron Agimats and TITANs top our list of Filipino-inspired NBA sneakers.

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1 year ago

kobe 11 em low ph. and kobe 9 low tsinelas? maybe not included in the decade?

1 year ago

What about the kobe tsinelas?

1 year ago

What about the Nike AirForceOne Filipino Sun aka Jose P. Rizal aka Starburst?

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