WEARING IT WELL

Raheel Ramzanali: 4 signature shoes I’m excited about for the second half of the NBA season

Russell Westbrook's new shoe will debut next month. Nike.com

We’ve now crossed the halfway mark of the NBA Season and with that comes the second wave of signature shoes from NBA players to hit the market. Traditionally, players released shoes right before the season so they could show off the latest and greatest to sneaker hungry consumers, but now with the rise of how important the NBA All-Star Game has become in fashion and headlines, more and more guys wait until February to launch their official shoes.

Look, I play basketball at least twice a week and it is still my favorite sport to compete in so I like to keep up with the latest technology and comfort when it comes to basketball shoes. I’m the guy that is trying all of the newest shoes out there and reporting back with friends (What’s up, fellow baller Joel Blank!) on the pros and cons of every shoe. We’ve already had LeBron, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Steph Curry announce their signature shoes so I’m not going to include them in this list. So with that being said, I want to rank (by personal excitement) the upcoming signature shoes from NBA players for the second half of the season.

Russell Westbrook’s Jordan Why Not Zer0.1 

To say that I’m excited about this shoe would be an understatement. I keep refreshing my browser to see if Nike somehow messed up and made these available before the Feb. 15 launch date. Westbrook is the most intriguing player to me in the NBA. He plays with a reckless abandonment that people either hate or love. When he’s on the court he’s running all over the place and I’ve always wondered how Jordan Brand would design a sneaker that captures not only his game, but keeps him safe out there playing the way he does. Enter the Jordan Why Not Zer0.1 - Westbrook’s first ever signature shoe. Westbrook has always played in the latest Jordan shoes, but finally we’re given a pair of shoes that are built for his exact specifications. These are by far the most intriguing shoes of the 2018 releases because the tech specs are second to none and the style, like Westbrook’s game, is either a hit or miss depending on your aesthetics since they look like a futuristic shoe tank.  Launches Feb. 15; $125. 

James Harden’s Harden Vol. 2

While this shoe hasn’t been officially announced by Adidas just yet, the Shoe blogs have all but confirmed that they will be releasing within the next month or so. Last year’s Harden Vol. 1 was a huge success since it was the first Harden signature shoe with Adidas AND it featured the most comfortable cushion in the game, Boost. While some performance reviews thought the shoe was a big heavy, the Vol. 2’s look like they will be the perfect combination of weight and comfort with Adidas Boost and what looks like to be a mostly PrimeKnit upper. Like James, the initial colorways of the shoes are unique and very fashion forward. Here’s hoping the Harden Vol. 2’s can help James and the Rockets make a deep run to the finals. Launches TBD; Price TBD. 

Paul George’s PG2

Before last weekend’s matchup against the Cavs, OKC forward Paul George finally announced his much anticipated follow-up to the PG1 with the PG2s. I’m especially excited for these shoes because they are budget friendly at $110 AND include some of the best technology that Nike has to offer with a new Adaptive Lockdown System + a 10mm unit of Zoom Air for the ultimate cushion! As George put it, these shoes are built for guys that play hard on the defensive side, but also like to get buckets. My only beef with these shoes are that they look like the Nike HyperRev 2015 (shoes that PG played in before he got his own signature line) and not something totally new like Westbrook or Harden’s shoes. Launches Feb. 10 (Playstation edition); $110.

LeBron James’ Nike Zoom Soldier 12

One of my favorite things to look for in the NBA playoffs is if LeBron is wearing his actual signature shoes or shoes from his secondary Soldier line. The Soldier line is regarded as the best performance shoe for everyday players since we’re all not freaks of nature like LeBron. Now these shoes aren’t the best looking since they feature straps on straps on straps, but they really are great to play in. I still contend that the Zoom Soldier 9 is the GREATEST performance shoe ever since it has the best lockdown and comfort that was built for a king, but enjoyed by us peasants. Nike hasn’t even announced the release of this shoe yet and really we haven’t seen any leaks regarding the 12th version of this shoe, but as it is with every Soldier shoe, it will be announced in April right before the playoffs. Launch TBD; Price TBD.

Let me know which shoe you’re excited about and what you’re currently playing in by tweeting me @The_Raheel.

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Carlos Correa had a big home run Saturday night. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

With four wins in a row, including the first two of this series, Houston had a chance to keep their momentum going to lock up a series win on Saturday in this four-game set. Although Texas would make it interesting late, the Astros would hold them off to get the victory.

Final Score: Astros 6, Rangers 5

Astros' Record: 23-17, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Luis Garcia (1-3)

Losing Pitcher: Dane Dunning (2-3)

Action in the first

After getting trounced the night prior, the Rangers managed to grab early momentum with a run to start the scoring Saturday night against Luis Garcia. It came after a one-out triple set up a sac fly, giving Texas a 1-0 lead. Houston quickly took control back in their favor, though, putting up four in the bottom of the inning on a two-RBI single by Alex Bregman and a two-run homer by Carlos Correa, making it 4-1 Astros.

The scoreboard went quiet after that inning, with both teams slowing down at the plate. Garcia put together a decent night, allowing just the one run over five innings of work, erasing some runners throughout the night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 94 P.

Rangers tighten it up late

Bryan Abreu was the first reliever to enter for Houston, taking over for Garcia in the top of the sixth. He worked around a leadoff single, keeping it a three-run game, then returned for a 1-2-3 top of the seventh. Correa led off with a double in the bottom of the inning, setting up a two-run Kyle Tucker homer, extending his recent hot streak and the lead to 6-1.

Ryne Stanek took over on the mound for Houston in the top of the eighth but worked himself into trouble with a single and walk to set up a three-run homer by Joey Gallo to make it a two-run game at 6-4. He would manage just one out before a walk would prompt Dusty Baker to move on to Brandon Bielak. Bielak would allow a run while getting the final two outs, making it 6-5.

Astros secure the series

After a scoreless bottom of the eighth, Ryan Pressly would try to notch another save and close the door on the Rangers. He would get the job done, sitting the Rangers down in order, keeping Houston's winning streak intact.

Up Next: The finale of this four-game set will start at 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Lance McCullers JR. (3-1, 3.10 ERA), fresh off of a recent gem, will look to continue his success for the Astros, while Kyle Gibson (3-0, 2.28) will try to stay perfect on the season for the Rangers.

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