TV Review – “SneakerCenter feat. Kawhi Leonard” on ESPN+

ESPN+ is loaded with context that looks beyond the final scores of your favorite sports and into all of the details that bring the full product together. SneakerCenter focuses on all of those “sneakerheads” in and around the world of sports, as well as the history of sneakers in sports.

The latest episode features NBA star Kawhi Leonard being gifted with a pair of customized sneakers as well as Black-ish star Miles Brown, who discusses where his sneaker obsession began and which ones are his favorites.

A week after an episode in which most of the segments fell flat for me, SneakerCenter strayed a bit from its traditional format this week. While there are still a few things that could be tweaked from this week’s episode, I feel like they’ve found a better flow.

The episode still begins with a tease of its “Special Edition” segment, which still comes at the very end. This time though, the “Special Edition” guest was not the athlete whose name appears in the title, but rather actor Miles Brown from the hit ABC comedy Black-ish.

Those who were expecting to see Kawhi aren’t left out in the cold for long, as the next segment explains how he will be involved in the episode. It’s one of my favorite segments and one I’ve been clamoring for more of since SneakerCenter started its run: “1 of 1.” A new sneaker customizer takes Kawhi’s own sneaker from New Balance and turns it into a work of art for the NBA star. While we still don’t get to see too much more other work from the artist, we do get to spend a little bit more time watching him work on this custom pair, which is certainly an improvement.

Another great thing this episode does is take “Live @ Da BBQ,” a segment that usually jumps into something mostly irrelevant from what the episode was focusing on, and ties it into what was already going on. We go to Kawhi’s Funhouse, where the extremely reserved star is making a rare public appearance. The SneakerCenter crew deliver the shoes to a patented robotic response from Leonard.

Unfortunately, we don’t get to hear any more from Leonard in the episode. I would have liked to see a chat with the quite, mono-toned superstar and hear a little more about his history with sneakers.

The episode continues by actually managing to improve on one of my least favorite segments, “Slept on Butters.” In the past this has been a segment in which one of the hosts just lists some of his favorite shoes that weren’t very popular. That’s it. It offered nothing else. In this episode though, it ties into the topic we were on by focusing on New Balance sneakers and actually gives a nice little history lesson to wrap it all up. It’s still probably my least favorite segment of the episode, but it’s much better than it has been.

We then jump into “Insoles,” which focuses on NBA star Spencer Dinwiddie’s own sneaker line. He mentions not being signed by a marquee sneaker brand and deciding to start his own instead. Dinwiddie talks about his creative past and how it led him to start his own business and create his very own customized shoes all while playing in the NBA. Honestly, this is a story I would love to hear more about and wish it received a little more time.

The next segment, “Next on the Menu,” focuses on former college basketball player-turned-model/sneaker designer. Velez talks about her incredibly impressive sneaker collection that includes more than 250 pairs. She also discusses creating her own customized sneaker with Adidas.

We then jump into a second “1 of 1” segment! Ask and you shall receive, right? This episode literally doubles the amount of time spent on “1 of 1,” by giving us a look at a second customizer who is working on hand-painted sneakers for Miles Brown. This segment also shows off a lot of her other work which is a lot of fun to see.

Finally, we get to “Special Edition,” where we catch up with Brown as he talks about his love of sneakers. Brown makes for a different interview from what we’re used to seeing on this show for two reasons. The first is his profession. The actor/dancer has a different perspective on sneakers from the athletes we typically see on SneakerCenter. The second is his age. Brown is considerably younger than every other guest. He actually talks about being baptized in a pair of Carmello Anthony sneakers. Anthony was drafted to the NBA in 2003. Does that make you feel as old as it made me feel?

Overall, there is a lot to be happy about with this episode of SneakerCenter. The segments mesh together much better than previous episodes, allowing it to flow from one to the next. I would still like to see more time spent on some of the more deserving segments while some others get removed, but this was a step in the right direction. This is definitely an enjoyable episode.

The first six episodes of SneakerCenter are available now on ESPN+. Fans can subscribe to ESPN+ for just $4.99 a month (or $49.99 per year) and can cancel at any time.

Mike Mack
Mack is the Editorial Director for Marvel and ESPN content and he has covered comic cons, theme park events, video game showcases and other fun events. He is a fan of theme parks, sports, movies, Marvel Comics and is a self-proclaimed "nerd."