Posted by Adam Protass on

ll-Star Weekend, which kicks off tonight, has always been a barometer for how far the NBA has come as a brand. It's where powerful forces (media, celebrity, advertisers, the league's old and new guard) meet -- and, on occasion, remember fallen icons like Kobe Bryant.
But it is also basketball's biggest party of the year. And that means one thing: Players will be in full-swag mode right up until Sunday's 69th annual All-Star Game tips off at the United Center in Chicago. Chances are we'll see most, if not all, of them step onto the court in some kind of ultramodern, statement-making shoe.
Professional b-ballers are extremely competitive, and a bit show-offy. By now, they've caught onto the fact that it's not just highlight-reel dunks and long-range three-pointers that can elicit oohs and aahs from crowds. It's also about how you look in action.
James Harden wore patterned Adidas sneakers at last year's All-Star Game.
Which is why, over the last decade, Russell Westbrook (feet pictured top), Damian Lillard and others have become global ambassadors for sportswear giants -- Westbrook for Nike, Lillard for Adidas -- upping their style game while essentially serving as major marketing pawns for these brands to stand out and generate social media hype.