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Treating Your Sneaker Collection Like an NBA Lineup

Updated: Oct 13, 2022

Photo by @styleisaweapon. Follow her on IG!

When it comes to building the perfect collection, many sneakerheads attempt to curate a lineup that’s not only rare, but shows off their tastes. Collections are built much in the same way that an NBA basketball team is assembled. Rather than having a franchise player and a haphazard roster full of scrubs, a collector tries to assemble the best possible lineup to show off their unique style. Like a league GM, sneaker collectors have a limited amount of assets that they can use to acquire the shoes at the top of their wishlist .

Typical online marketplaces are driven by one asset: cash. If you don’t have the budget or money to spend on the shoes you want, you most likely aren’t going to be able to pick them up. This is similar to a GM competing with other GMs to sign a player during free-agency in the off-season: if a team doesn’t have the cash that a player can command elsewhere, they likely won’t get him on their roster.

But where a GM really delivers value for their team is in the art of the midseason trade.

In this instance, cash isn’t the only available asset—the GM also has a roster of players that they can offer to create a deal that delivers value to all of the parties involved. Similarly, a sneakerhead looking to acquire kicks from another collector can piece together a trade that’s desirable for both people with the shoes in their own collection.

When you trade sneakers, you’re dealing with variably valued goods, where the value of the item being traded can be far beyond just its cash value. There are dozens of other factors that influence how you value a particular shoe. Maybe you like the model, but don’t like the colorway. Maybe they looked cool in the stock photo, but don’t look nearly as good on your feet. Maybe you wore them once or twice already and now they’ve lost that “new shoe” allure, even though they’re still in great condition.

This is what makes trading so much fun and why Tradeblock was built: the value of a shoe is different to every individual collector and takes into account a lot more than just the current market price.


However, just like there is a hierarchy of players in the NBA, there is a hierarchy of sneakers in the culture. Check out our rankings below, and let us know in the comments if you agree or disagree!

Hall of Fame

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Let’s be honest—very few of us are going to snag a pair of kicks at this level. We’re talking player-exclusive shoes that a brand makes for a specific individual. These are not public releases and any shoes made go directly to the player and his friends and family. We’re talking about shoes like the Jordan Kobe PE Pack which includes a Jordan 3 and 8 dressed in Laker colorways from Kobe’s time as a sneaker free agent during the 2002-2003 NBA season. These types of sneakers are customized to a player’s unique tastes and basically impossible to get, unless you’ve got an incredible plug.

Another GOAT-level shoe would be OG Jordans from the ’80s or ’90s that are still in great condition. But finding a pristine pair of these is like stumbling on a ’57 Chevy in a barn that has less than a thousand miles on it.

League MVP

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A shoe more attainable for us mere mortals is the perennial league MVP. While it is difficult to get, it’s not impossible. These are often limited editions of a famous silhouette (like a Jordan or Yeezy) made in collaboration with an influential artist or cultural icon.

Think of the Off-White Jordans designed by Louis Vuitton artistic director Virgil Abloh or rapper Travis Scott’s Cactus Jack collabs with Nike and Jordan. Both individuals are massively influential to pop culture and have an artistic sensibility that merges high fashion with streetwear. These are the shoes that get released online but get snatched up in seconds by collectors, capitalists, and bots. However, you do stand a chance to make a trade for this MVP if you can make a compelling offer!


Photo from @sneakerheadmchex on IG

These are the most famous models in the most popular colorways. Every time Jordan releases a retro I, IV or XI in the Bred (black and red) colorway, you know it’s going to sell out—even if it’s the fourth time they’ve done it. These shoes are All-Stars for a reason: they’re timeless and every collector respects them.

League Starter

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To be a starter in the NBA, a player obviously needs a high degree of talent. While that player may never have All-Star skills, being in the starting five is definitely an accomplishment. For GMs, these kinds of players—when packaged together—might be able to help them score an All-Star player midseason.

In the sneaker world, these shoes tend to be general releases in non-traditional colorways that appeal to a certain subset of collectors. While their after market value may never increase significantly from the retail cost, they can still be enticing to the right collector.

Sixth Man

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The sixth man is one of the most dynamic players in the league, coming off the bench as a sparkplug. This player might be a major contributor, potentially a starter, on one team, but deep in the bench on another. The value that he adds to the roster is based primarily on his fit in the system the team likes to run.

This is important to understand for sneaker collectors because we all have our own “sixth man” kicks. These can be sneakers that you love irrationally, such as a pair that you had as a kid and have been pining for ever since. Others might be up-and-coming models that fit your style—say, the New Balance Aime Leon Dore 550s. Regardless, the sixth man sneaker has higher-than-normal value for some collectors, who may be willing to part with a more “valuable” shoe, based on market price at least, to acquire them in a trade.


Building the Perfect Lineup with Tradeblock

As in the NBA, trading is a cornerstone of the sneaker community. It’s what sets Tradeblock apart from our competitors. We understand that true collectors are constantly trying to curate the perfect collection, but they don’t always want to spend cash to do so.

That’s why we built the platform to trade sneakers. When you join the Tradeblock community, one of the first things you’ll do is put together your closet, a virtual look at all the sneakers you currently have in your collection. This is a way to show off your kicks to the community while letting potential trade partners scout your lineup. We’ve found that having visible collections opens up a number of opportunities for people in the community to score the shoes they want. They can either offer a straight trade or offer shoes and cash.

On Tradeblock, you also have the ability to create a wishlist of sneakers that you want to add to your collection. Just as a team might signal to the media and insiders that they’re looking to add a star point guard to their lineup, you can let collectors know the specific shoes and colorways that you’re looking for.

And if you’re nervous about getting fake shoes, don’t worry about it. Tradeblock has you covered. When you agree to a trade, both parties’ sneakers are sent to our authentication facility to ensure that you’re never getting fakes.

Ready to start building the perfect lineup? Join the Tradeblock community today at!

Garrett Heath is a social media and content marketing consultant and founder of


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