Over the years there have been a countless number of incredible basketball shoes released. From signature lines donned by greats such as MJ, Lebron and Kobe; to shoes designed for big men like Shaq, Charles Barkley, and Shawn Kemp; not to forget kicks sported by great guards like Scottie Pippen, Gary Payton, and Penny Hardaway. There is no way I could have compiled a list of top ten best shoes of all time. Instead, here is a list of the most memorable shoes of my time, as seen through my eyes. Ranking is in no particular order, as each shoe could easily make an argument for the top spot.
Nike Air Jordan 1
Even though I wasn’t born at the time of this shoe’s release, I’ve got to give credit to the shoe (and legend) that started it all. Designed for MJ in ’84, these shoes were outlawed by NBA commish David Stern for not having enough white in the original black and red colorway. Just as exhibited my MJ’s style of play, nothing could stop His Airness, and he chose to sport the shoes anyways despite a $5,000 fine per game (paid by Nike). The following season a new colorway was created, allowing MJ to wear his signature kicks fine-free.
Adidas T-Mac 2
These beautiful kicks were sported by one of the best young players to ever play the game, and one of the few to make the jump from high school successfully. T-Mac’s career was sadly cut short due to knee injuries, but the 7-time All-star was dominant during his time. Early on in his career it was even debated whether he was a greater talent than young Kobe. I remember wearing these through my middle school basketball career, hoping they would zap a little of the future HOF’s greatness into my lackluster scoring game.
Nike Shox BB4
Vinsanity’s ability to jam on any man, woman or child who stood in his way may have contributed to the amazement of this shoe, and the introduction of Shox technology to a basketball shoe. Every basketball fan dreamed of dunking like Vince, and instead of trying to do the man justice with the use of words, here’s a link to a clip of his nasty slams.
Nike Air Penny 1
Stepping up to fill the void left by Air Jordan’s absence, Penny and Shaq nabbed the attention of many NBA fans young and old. These are the first basketball shoes I can remember putting on my feet at a young age. The Air Penny 1 inspired Nike’s Uptempo line for versatile players. The Uptempo line was a happy-medium between Nike’s Flight line, designed for guards looking to increase agility, and Force line for bigs requiring a little extra support down low. If you’d like a refresher to remember how talented Penny was, check out the 30-for-30 titled, This Magic Moment.
And1 Tai Chi
At the peak of And1’s streetball popularity and trash-talking apparel, these eye-catching shoes were the talk of many teenagers when released in the early 2000’s. Whether spotted on the feet of Hot Sauce while breaking the ankles of helpless defenders, or Vince Carter during his 2000 Dunk Contest victory, these striking shoes and colorways were the talk of many basketball fans. Despite their drop in brand popularity, these shoes have recently made a comeback due to their attractive design.
Reebok The Answer IV DMX
The choice between AI’s Questions and Answer IVs (also the 5s are SO sweet!) was not one made easily. Captivated by Allen Iverson’s unique style of play, and proof that anyone can be competitive despite their size, the Answer IVs are possibly my favorite shoes ever. The design was worn by the greatest undersized guard of all-time during his run to an MVP trophy and Finals appearance. They were re-released recently, and sadly I didn’t jump on the chance to buy the amazing shoe that now I wouldn’t outgrow within a year.
D-Rose took the NBA by storm, using his explosive athleticism and slashing ability to win a Rookie of the Year in 2009 and MVP in 2010-11. Rose is a Chicago native who inspires many with his style of play. Just kidding, I wouldn’t recommend these shoes unless you feel like blowing out your knees.
Air Jordan XI
This list wouldn’t feel complete without another pair of J’s. While just about all of them could be included on the list, I had to force myself to choose just two. The XIs were the first basketball shoe to feature patent leather and is regarded by many as best shoe of all time. Not only that, but Jordan wore them in the greatest movie ever, Space Jam, giving them a few added points in my book. The GOAT also wore them en route to his 10th All-Star appearance, 8th scoring title, another MVP and 4th NBA title.
Nike Zoom Lebron II
Along with Air Jordans, the list wouldn’t be complete without including a pair of shoes designed for a King. These shoes were designed for The Akron Hammer early in his career and were nabbed by just about any basketball fan who could get their hands on them. Just about every one of Lebron’s signature shoes could have made the list, this pair has always just been my personal favorite. The shoe included increased Zoom Air support for larger players, detailed laser-graphics, and a removable ankle strap to suit each player’s unique needs.
I’m not certain about the performance aspect of the Sprees, but who really cares, they have spinning rims on the sides. These shoes are almost as questionable as making Latrell Sprewell the face of your brand, despite the fact that he once choked his own coach in 1997. These weren’t a pair of shoes I ever had a desire to wear, but they sure as hell caught my eye when seen on the feet of others. Rumor has it they may even be making a comeback.
Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars
Have to give a shout out to the basketball shoe that truly started it all. First available prior to the Great Depression. With the assistance of a few modifications, the canvas shoe with rubber soles was the most popular basketball shoe through much of the ‘60s. Although these shoes don’t meet performance standards required by today’s athletes, they are still worn by many as casual sneakers.
Kobe Bryant Signature Shoes
The Black Mamba has tons of great shoes, whether early in his career when sponsored by Adidas, or for the many years he donned the Nike Swoosh. Kobe was the face of the NBA for as long as I have been a fan, and the game has been forever changed as a result of his greatness. Sadly, I cannot say that I have ever sported a pair of Kobe’s shoes, mainly due to their high price point (and my heart’s soft spot for MJ’s).
Made famous by Dee Brown during the 1991 Dunk Contest, these shoes with pumps on the tongues are basketball shoes of legend. Designed to inflate around the ankle for improved support, these beautiful shoes are ones that no basketball fan should forget.
Trimming this list down to 10 leaves me feeling like I have done many great shoes an injustice. To give every shoe the proper respect they deserve, I think the list would have been closer to 150, especially if colorways were included. Share a picture and a comment to shine the spotlight on your favorite pair of shoes and help me to do the world of kicks the justice they deserve.