Over the past 18 months, Kawhi Leonard and New Balance had been quietly targeting the debut of the reigning Finals MVP's first signature shoe for All-Star Weekend in Chicago. Leonard's namesake model, simply dubbed The Kawhi, features multiple details specific to the current face of the company. It features his "KL2" logo along the tongue and a brain matter design throughout the upper and outsole grip, speaking to Leonard's cerebral game. His signature is stitched along the heel, and a soundwave graphic -- believed to depict the pitch of his viral laugh from last season's introductory news conference -- accents the collar.
After a two-year-long period leading up to the relaunch of New Balance Basketball, Leonard emerged as the right endorser to carry not just his own sneaker, but the pressure of carrying the entire company's return to the sport.
"We wanted someone who wanted to take on the responsibility of being the face of a brand and truly launching a global brand," said Pat Cassidy, New Balance's global director of consumer marketing. "That's something that he was looking for."
With the debut of The Kawhi at All-Star Weekend, Leonard becomes just the 17th player across the league to have his own signature shoe. Wearing the shoe on court for the first time, Leonard scored 30 points in Sunday night's All-Star Game, capping a big weekend for New Balance. The company's collaboration capsule with Chicago native Joe Freshgoods was well received, with Chance the Rapper wearing "JFG" 992 sneakers during his All-Star halftime performance, and kids lining up at the brand's first All-Star Weekend pop-up shop.
FIRST LOOK: New Balance The Kawhi.— Nick DePaula (@NickDePaula) February 17, 2020
Kawhi Leonard will debut his 1st signature shoe in tonight's All-Star Game. pic.twitter.com/sj8gUToVVS
Leonard hoisted the Kobe Bryant MVP Award just after the final buzzer, and Bryant's presence was felt throughout the night.
Joel Embiid commissioned two artists to customize two pairs of his latest Under Armour models to honor Bryant, with a purple and gold snakeskin pattern executed along the panels of the Anatomix Spawn.
"We wanted to pay homage to Kobe, but in a subtle way, without having to do portraits or text," said Moe G. of Kreative Custom Kicks, who spent 10 hours completing the size 17 pair with his partner, Dez.
First time All-Star Bam Adebayo had a more overt tribute pair in store, as a cloud and sky backdrop helped to highlight portraits of both Bryant and his daughter Gianna along the right shoe. The opposite sneaker was styled in black and yellow, celebrating some of Bryant's most iconic expressions on the court.
With the All-Star Game returning to Chicago for the first time since 1988, Kemba Walker's kicks looked to highlight Chicago Bulls legend -- and his former Charlotte Hornets boss -- Michael Jordan and the impact he had on the city.
Designed by four local students and featuring the eight colors of the city's different train lines, the "WINGS" Air Jordan Retro 10 worn by Walker celebrate the Jordan Brand's program that provides educational opportunities and access to workshops all around the world. Jordan's giveback foundation has provided over 1,650 students with full college scholarships throughout North America and China since launching over a decade ago.
LeBron James had his own nod to Jordan's legacy, with two pairs of special themed LeBron 17s touting a twist on the original "Space Jam" movie. With James slated to star in the upcoming "Space Jam 2," his sneakers drew their hues from Mr. Swackhammer, the villainous owner of Moron Mountain and coach of the Monstars in the original movie. After starting the game in a purple pair styled after the Danny DeVito-voiced character's suit, James switched into a pair for the second half that played up the neon and green tones of the portly rival of Jordan's.
While Nike and Jordan Brand combined for a dominant 16 endorsers in this year's game, Adidas was represented by five players, the company's most in an All-Star Game in nearly a decade. Starting point guard Trae Young debuted the next iteration of the brand's laceless N3XT L3V3L model, complete with graphic "ICE TRAE" lettering along the heel and Icee-inspired baby blue and red accents.
Fellow first-timer Brandon Ingram debuted the brand's long-awaited Yeezy BSKTBL model, after Kanye West's first basketball sneaker had been in the works for more than three years. Just before tipoff, Ingram approached Kanye courtside and had the music icon autograph each shoe, before putting them back on for the first quarter.
Check out each of the best sneakers worn in the 2020 All-Star Game in Chicago, and vote for your favorite pair in our poll below. To keep up on all the latest sneakers around the league throughout the year, follow @SneakerCenter on Instagram.