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Virgil Abloh’s impact on the sports industry was greater than we ever imagined

The legendary fashion trailblazer passed at age 41.

Louis Vuitton: Front Row - Paris Fashion Week - Menswear Spring/Summer 2019 Photo by Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images

The passing of the legendary fashion trailblazer Virgil Abloh devastated the world when the news broke Sunday morning. He passed at the age of 41 after a two-year fight against a rare form of cancer called cardiac angiosarcoma.

Abloh put his everything into his art and designs, and left an unforgettable influence on the sports world.

His creativity broke barriers in the fashion industry, from starting off as Kanye West’s creative consultant to then creating one of the most affluent streetwear brands — Off White, to collaborating with major brands such as Nike, and reigning as Louis Vuitton’s creative director.

This is only a limited insight of Abloh’s expansive resume and accomplishments, but how he changed the fashion industry for the NBA hasn’t gone unnoticed. His unique twist on sneaker design is something that will always be eye-catching. Most of his shoes include plastic zip-tie tags along with simple phrases being quoted such as “shoelaces” and “air.”

He conceptualized many different Nike sneakers, but one of his most popular was the Jordan 1’s. Montrezl Harrell was spotted wearing the Off-White Chicago 1’s in a game against the Charlotte Hornets earlier this month.

In March, Abloh created a one-of-a-kind custom Off-White Air Force 1’s just for the Lakers’ LeBron James, which he rocked for the 2021 NBA All-Star Game.

Abloh added his personal touches by writing the phrases “Black Lives Matter,” “Virgil Was Here” and “LeBron” on the midsoles.

PJ Tucker, who’s known for his impressive sneaker collection, paid tribute to Abloh on his Instagram story.

Before his game last night, he showed off his shoes with messages written in Sharpie — “Thanks for a lifetime of inspiration” and “Virgil will always be here,” written in a similar script of Abloh’s iconic lettering.

Abloh’s affect on the NBA went far beyond just the players. In 2020, he collaborated with Madison Square Garden to showcase the Louis Vuitton x NBA menswear capsule collection right on the court, along with the iconic 2020 NBA Finals Trophy in its redesigned travel case.

His luxury twist of athleisure was not just limited to basketball. In his SS19 fashion show, he debuted his “Athlete in Progress” collection, which was modeled by eight female track stars — Dina Asher-Smith, Vashti Cunningham, Cecilia Yeung, English Gardner, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Nafi Thiam, Caterine Ibarguen, and Rénelle Lamote.

“I started talking with Nike about this women’s running project last summer and at the time, I was very much inspired by the aesthetic and style of track and field athletes,” Abloh told Highsnobiety’s Jonathan Sawyer. “As a result, I invited some of Nike’s elite track and field champions to participate in my SS19 Off-White runway show as the natural forerunner to developing and showcasing the collection.”

Taking it a step further, Abloh teamed up with Nike to make a social impact on the city of Chicago. With bold and vibrant abstract designs, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago redesigned their basketball facilities at the Martin Luther King Jr. Boys and Girls Club location in East Garfield Park.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis made sure to pull up and support.

He paved a way for himself, but was also a reminder to the community and this generation to not be afraid to bring your creativity into new spaces.

After the Clippers game Sunday night, Paul George made a heartfelt statement about the loss of the fashion icon.

“[He was] a pioneer for our generation. I think he just created a wave of young Black, young African Americans, & young guys of color, young women of color, to kind of bridge the gap. Especially with something as big as Nike and the fashion world.”

Abloh’s legacy will not be forgotten, and will be an inspiration to athletes and fashion for years to come.