Published on September 17, 2018 by Cameron Chase Cundiff  

We won’t all admit it, but the average athlete does think about the brand of shoe they are buying. With the NBA season rapidly approaching and the MLB in full swing, and with PUMA deciding to try to get back into the basketball shoe market by recently signing the number one and number two picks in the NBA draft, I thought it would be a perfect time to research and find out who truly ruled the sport’s shoe market in baseball and basketball.  

In the professional basketball game, there is really only three contenders for this illustrious recognition. Those contenders would be NIKE, Under Armor, and Adidas. PUMA won’t be included in this conversation for a least a few more years, or until they sign Tony Parker and convince him to play fifteen more years in the NBA.

Headlining the NIKE basketball brand is Michael Jordan, Lebron James, and Kobe Bryant, basically owing the three players included in every GOAT conversation since Larry Bird had a mustache and wore Celtic green instead of Pacer blue and yellow. And while Adidas is headlined by James Harden and Under Armor by Stephen Curry, two extremely talented athletes, those don’t compare to the three headed monsters of NIKE’s signees.

And as logic would have it, NIKE has ruled the basketball shoe market with an iron grip since 2012, and that grip is only getting tighter as the years go by. The graphic below shows the percent of consumer unit purchases of the three brands we have mentioned.

Percent of Consumer Unit Purchases of Top Three Brands
Brand Name 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
NIKE 65.4 68.7 72.0 77.6 71.8 76.8
Adidas 8.7 10.0 5.9 8.5 11.0 8.3
Under Armor 0.9 0.5 3.1 2.1 3.9 4.2

Kevin Durant said in 2013, “If there's a kid up in the upper level, that really can't see that well but can see the blue part of my shoe or my orange shoe strings or even this silver Nike sign. That's something he's going to remember me by.” That about sums up the NBA shoe market, that KD thinks that a kid will remember the swoosh on his shoes even more than his jaw dropping performances.

Professional baseball and professional football shoe companies see more parity among the purchased amounts by consumers, while NIKE still runs both those markets. But the numbers are nothing like basketball, where NIKE is as closely associated with basketball shoes as peanut butter is with bananas. No? That last one just me?

While NIKE is the unquestioned king of baseball shoes, second place has changed hands multiple times since 2012, with Adidas and Under Armor jostling for the silver medal, as the graph below shows.

Percent of Consumer Unit Purchases of Second Place Brands
Brand name 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
NIKE 59.6 53.3 53.7 43.5 51.9 51.1
Adidas 11.4 7.4 8.8 15.2 16.9 11.2
Under Armor 9.0 13.5 14.3 10.3 6.7 13.6

From these numbers, we can see that NIKE doesn’t nearly have the stranglehold on the baseball shoe market that they have on the basketball market. What’s more, there is more a yearly change from year to the next in terms of how many units were purchased. At the height of the studied years from 2012 through 2017, NIKE held a 48.2 percent difference in amount of shoe purchases than the next closest competition, while in 2015, they held only a 28.3 percent difference.

It’s easy to tell from these statistics what brand athletes connect the most to in baseball and basketball. And with such a big difference between them and the competition, it would be stunning to see anything other than this pattern repeated for years to come.

This blog post was written by Samford University student Cameron Chase Cundiff. You can learn more about Cameron Chase Cundiff at, or on Twitter, @CamCundiff.


Canton, Rafael. “The 10 Most Ridiculous Things Basketball Players Have Said About Their Signature Shoes.” Complex, Complex, 1 June 2018,

All data obtained from