The Wildest Sneaker Stories of 2022

The Wildest Sneaker Stories of 2022

This year has been a roller coaster for sneakerheads, with plenty of highs and lows. We’ve seen the release of some amazing footwear collaborations, but we’ve also seen some unexpected drama. From Kanye West losing his adidas deal to Nike suing StockX to Virgil Abloh dropping the Off-White x Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1s, there has been no shortage of nearly unbelievable moments in sneakers this year. Now that I think about it, there have been so many crazy things this year that it’s almost hard to remember which of them happened this year. Two months ago seems like a year ago, 6 months feels like 5 years, and February of 2022 feels like an eternity ago.


Kanye West Loses Adidas Deal 

It’s been a wild ride for Kanye West and adidas over the past 4-5 years, but after Ye, aka Kanye West’s wildly problematic comments this year, the partnership has finally come to an end. From saying slavery was a choice by African Americans to saying that he could say anything, even anti-Semitic things, adidas ended the deal with Ye. At this point, it’s hardly a surprise that adidas ended the partnership, but in the short time since the announcement in October, a lot of other news has surfaced regarding the partnership. 

While sales continued to grow for the Yeezy sneaker line this year, signs of trouble between the two collaborators have been surfacing for years. Although 2022 was the boiling-over point for adidas and their patience with Ye and his Yeezy brand, the writing has been on the wall for a while. According to the Wall Street Journal, adidas executives considered buying the Yeezy brand from West back in 2018 in order to avoid Kanye interacting with employees. In 2020, long-time adidas executive, Jon Wexler, left the Yeezy brand to pursue other opportunities. “Wex” was instrumental in not only bringing Kanye West to adidas, but also in mitigating the chaos that seems to be the status quo of working with Ye. The list goes on and on and the signs seem to get more obvious at every turn.

That doesn’t change how big of a deal ending the partnership was, and continues to be, for adidas. The nearly $2 billion in sales represented somewhere around 7-10% of adidas’ annual revenue depending on whose report you read. While the Yeezy name will go with Ye, the shoe designs are still owned by adidas, and rumors suggest we will see “Yeezys” without the Yeezy branding in the very near future. Plus, according to the Financial Times, adidas has nearly $530 billion worth of Yeezys that they need to get rid of. 

The part about the adidas and Ye divorce that I don’t see talked about enough is the impact this will have on small businesses. Whether you are a traditional retailer, a consignment store, or a sneaker reseller, not having Yeezys as a part of your offerings will undoubtedly take a bite out of your revenues. It will also impact the agencies, creatives, and manufacturers that once relied on the energy of Yeezy releases as a part of their income streams. Not to mention all the businesses and marketplaces that buy and sell, or facilitate the sales of Yeezys.

To sum up the situation, the craziest part about the whole thing is just how many people’s livelihoods were impacted by Ye’s choices. The partnership should have ended sooner, but that wouldn’t have changed how many people were hurt or negatively impacted by his words and actions. He himself kind of predicted the sentiment back in 2016 when he said, “I miss the old Kanye.” Ironically, that song was largely written by and with Malik Yusef, which is so Kanye of Kanye.



The Battle of Nike vs. StockX 

It's the battle of the titans. On one side, Nike is the global leader in sneakers and sports apparel and one of the largest companies in the world. And on the other side, StockX is a multi-billion dollar sneaker resale platform with a massive following. Last February, Nike filed suit against StockX over their "NFTs" (non-fungible tokens), claiming that they violated Nike’s trademarks. Of course, StockX responded with a countersuit. As this case has evolved throughout 2022, despite the massive repercussions it may have, there doesn’t seem to have an end in sight.

Back in February 2022, Nike sued StockX over their NFTs (non-fungible tokens). NFTs are digital assets that are used to represent ownership of something—in this case, sneakers. In its lawsuit, Nike alleged that StockX was using its name, logos, and products without permission and infringing on its trademarks. Naturally, StockX countered by pointing out that it has worked with Nike on various projects in the past. Not long after that, Nike came back swinging with the most damning evidence of the battle so far. Nike claimed to have purchased dozens of fake pairs from StockX themselves, which StockX had “authenticated” as a part of their process. So far neither side has won but both sides appear to be digging in for a long fight ahead.

This battle is far from over but if Nike were to win this case, it could have major implications for other resellers as well as sneakerheads around the world. Many popular resellers like GOAT, Flight Club, and Stadium Goods also offer “authenticated” items, so if Nike were to win it could open up similar lawsuits against those companies as well. Although that scenario seems highly unlikely, it could lead to higher prices or even worse—the possibility of being unable to purchase certain “authentic” shoes on the secondary market altogether! This could spell disaster for resellers not just in the US but around the world as well. While I wouldn’t expect it as a long-term situation, the court battle could have these types of unthought-of impacts on the sneaker game.

When it comes down to who will win this legal fight between two titans of industry, much will depend on each company's respective legal teams. On one hand, you have Nike which is backed by some of the most experienced lawyers in the industry who know how to make quick work of any legal issue they face—not to mention their deep pockets which allow them to hire some of the best lawyers money can buy. On the other hand, you have StockX which is backed by Cleveland Cavaliers owner and multi-billionaire Dan Gilbert, whose legal team is no slouch either when it comes to defending his business interests. 

No matter who wins this case between two giants like Nike and StockX, there are sure to be ramifications felt across all levels of sneaker culture throughout 2023 and beyond. As far as who will actually come out victorious remains up in the air right now but no matter what happens there’s sure to be plenty more drama before this dispute is settled once and for all.


Zadeh-Kicks-Ponzi-SchemeZadeh Kicks Busted In Ponzi Scheme 

This year, shockwaves were sent through the sneakerhead community when it was discovered that Zadeh Kicks, a popular pre-order reseller, was operating a huge Ponzi scheme. It turned out that the company, run by Michael Malekzadeh had been taking pre-orders from customers and then failing to deliver on their promises

After shutting down his business in July, Michael Malekzadeh was arrested when prosecutors accused him of running an illegal business model where he collected payments for pre-orders but never delivered the product. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he used some of the money from other customers to cover returns or refunds on a few orders while avoiding repayment for most customers by lying about delivery times and replying with excuse after excuse. Rumors suggest he also lied to customers about his supplier relationships and falsely claimed that he had access to unreleased shoes from Nike’s factories.

As soon as news broke about this scandal, sneakerheads around the world were left wondering how this could have happened at one of their favorite resellers. What made matters worse was that many of these people had paid hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of dollars for shoes they never received. Many are now seeking compensation for their lost money but it remains unclear whether any will be able to get back what they lost. The most mind-boggling numbers that came to light from the fallout were the 600,000 pre-orders for the Air Jordan 11 “Cool Grey” that were placed, while only about 6,000 orders were fulfilled. Eventually, the smoke and mirrors approach to laundering money failed and Zadeh Kicks was charged with fraud in the amount of around $300 million dollars. Like the Nike versus StockX lawsuit, this scandal has also caused many people to question whether or not there is any real security when it comes to buying sneakers online.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “thousands of individuals and businesses have filed claims against Zadeh Kicks, including one creditor that reported being owed roughly $15 million plus interest, according to documents filed by the court-appointed receiver. The company had 23,000 customers, the affidavit said, and unfilled orders went back as far back as 2018, according to former customers. Some of them were given now-worthless store credits.” 

The story behind Zadeh Kicks is a cautionary tale about the risks associated with purchasing rare sneakers before they are released. While in the early days, Zadeh Kicks seem to run a legitimate business helping sneakerheads secure pairs early and for competitive prices, the signs that something was off, began to show much earlier than this year. Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are there will always remain some level of risk when it comes to buying sneakers early and from “the plug” types of resellers, so it's important to be cautious. And as the saying goes, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.



Nike Ends Its Endorsement of Kyrie Irvin

By most accounts, Nike is the pinnacle partner when it comes to professional athletes. However, for the last year or so, one of their best-selling sneaker lines, the signature line of Kyrie Irving, has been in limbo. It started back in July of 2021 when Kyrie Irving posted to his Instagram claiming that he had no involvement with the marketing or design of the Nike Kyrie 8. Over a year later, Kyrie seems to have followed Ye down the path of self-destruction and anti-Semitic statements and actions. In November, Nike canceled the release of the Kyrie 8 and ended its partnership with Kyrie Irving not long after that.

Talking to friends at Nike, it’s hard to understand where Kyrie is coming from. It’s not like he wasn’t in talks with people at the brand as the Kyrie 8 was being developed. Nor is it likely that he didn’t have all the chances he needed to speak up to his partners at The Swoosh before publicly claiming the Kyrie 8 was “trash” on his Instagram. His choice to not get vaccinated resulted in less time on the court and in the public eye, at least in a positive way, which likely helped make Nike’s decision even easier. The sharing of anti-Semitic propaganda on his social channels in recent weeks was the final straw in a slowly deteriorating situation.

Since losing his deal with Nike, Kyrie has worn black tape over the Swoosh logos on his shoes and written in his own messaging instead. On his first night on the court without a sneaker deal in place, he wrote, “I am free. Thank you God…I am.” On the other foot, he wrote, “Logo Here,” in an apparent attempt to attract new partners for the future of his footwear. Rumors have suggested he may be working with Sia Collective, who is known in the sneaker community for his own challenges, but time will tell if the two can make the most of Kyrie’s surprising choice to push himself away from Nike.

Even without the anti-Semitic statements and seemingly thoughtless choices, it’s hard to envision a future where Kyrie Irving finds success when it comes to his footwear choices going forward. At 30 years old, he is still an incredible player on the court, but the fans looking to buy his footwear are slowly fading into middle age. Unless he’s able to win an NBA title or MVP award, or gain some much-needed positive exposure in some other way, his time in the spotlight is fading, and there aren’t many examples of players launching successful footwear lines in the latter part of their careers, outside of Dwyane Wade. Not to mention, the next generation of hoopers is already drooling over the recently announced Ja Morant signature shoe, the Nike Ja 1.



Virgil Abloh’s Unprecedented Off-White x Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1 Collab

It’s safe to say that the sneaker industry has gone through some major changes in recent years. From celebrity collaborations to high-priced limited drops, it’s been a wild ride for sneakerheads everywhere. To finish off the craziest sneaker moments of 2022 on a more positive note, Virgil Abloh’s highly anticipated Off-White x Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1 collaboration was released earlier this year and it did not disappoint.


Virgil Abloh’s journey from working in stores to creating his earliest streetwear brands in Chicago with the help of Don C, to sitting at fashion shows alongside Kanye West and Tremaine Emory, to launching his luxury streetwear brand OFF-WHITE, and eventually joining forces with luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton in 2018, was the dream journey. The final partnership between LV and Nike was absolutely unprecedented, and if you stop and think about it, would have never even been a thought, let alone a possibility, just five years ago when Virgil launched his first Off-White x Nike collabs. Not to mention, the release of the 200 pairs brought in a record-breaking $25.3 million, proceeds of which will go to the Virgil Abloh “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund. 

The shoes themselves feature Louis Vuitton’s iconic brown “Damier” colors, along with Abloh's signature designs, Louis Vuitton’s famous branding, as well as Nike’s timeless AF1 elements. As you would expect, they quickly sold out when they were released earlier this year, making them highly sought-after collector's items among sneakerheads worldwide. With its iconic Swoosh logo reworked as part of Virgil Abloh’s signature deconstructed look, these shoes are truly one of a kind. With resale prices reaching the price of a house in many cities, these are best placed on display in your Sneaker Throne, no matter how badly you might want to lace them up.

It goes without saying that Virgil Abloh has had a profound impact on the world of fashion and sneakers –– his collaborations have changed what can be done with colorways, materials, design elements, etc., while still remaining authentic enough for everyday wear by anyone who loves sneakers, streetwear, or luxury apparel. The Off-White x Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1 collaboration is just one example of his incredible vision coming to life in the form of tangible footwear art pieces –– which makes them all the more special for any sneakerhead lucky enough to own them. 


With all of these crazy things happening in the world of sneakers this year, 2023 is shaping up to be another wild ride as well. Although, I think we can all agree that next year should be filled with more love, less hate, and more sneakers for everyone.

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