Sneakerheads everywhere argue what the
greatest basketball shoes of all time are on a daily basis more vigorously than Republicans argue with Democrats about anything. You’ll never see an argument between two random people escalate quicker than if there’s a kid from Brooklyn talking sneakers with a kid from L.A. It’s exactly like the Hatfields and McCoys only with skinny jeans, baseball caps, and vintage kicks on their feet. But, realistically creating a top 10 is almost impossible. There are just too many levels and parameters to sneaker greatness: functionality, flash, style, originality, available colorways, comfort, how they look with shorts, how they look with jeans, can you actually hoop in them. Somehow we still managed to put together a ranking of 10 kicks any respectable sneakerhead should have in their closet at all times. You may even wanna grab two pairs of each, just in case.
Cover Photo: Focus On Sport / Contributor
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Greatest NBA Sneakers
10. Adidas KB8 (Kobe Bryant)
Before Kobe was with Nike, he was rocking Adidas. "The Feet You Wear" campaign was a monster in the mid-to-late '90s and to this day, it still doesn't really make sense. But, the KB8s were massive and Bryant made them look good.
9. Nike Air Zoom Generation (Lebron James)
The first Lebron James shoe was an exact replica of who Lebron James was as a rookie: bright, shiny, tough, and smooth. The shoe design was based on the H2 Hummer that James was driving in high school, except this shoe came with a $90 million contract, so paying for gas on that H2 wasn't a problem for LBJ.
Photo: Pinterest/Fair Use
8. Air Jordan 1 (Michael Jordan)
It's hard not to have this classic and trendsetting shoe on any sneaker list. Michael Jordan was fined every single game he wore these shoes, because the design and colorways didn't adhere to the NBA league uniform rules. Nike picked up the tab on those fines. Good move on their part.
7. Reebok Question (Allen Iverson)
Allen Iverson crashed onto the NBA scene like a 6'0" juggernaut. With endless energy and scoring ability, he averaged 24 points per game and 7 assists in his rookie season. He also crossed up MJ twice on the same play in these shoes, successfully providing an answer for the shoe's namesake of who Iverson really was going to be in the NBA.
6. Converse Weapon
This was the classic '80s shoe worn by Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Mark Aguirre, Isiah Thomas, Kevin McHale, and also every kid who played basketball in any rec league (until the Jordans came out).
5. Adidas Shell Toe Classic
These were literally the shoe of the entire NBA until Converse stepped it up with the Weapon. The classic shell toe is still a culture classic and is worn all over the world daily. If you don't have a pair of shell toes in your closet, you're doing it wrong.
4. Air Jordan VI Infrared (Michael Jordan)
The Jordan shoe game is strong, and these Infrared 6s often get overlooked. The two holes in the tongue were complete game changers. No other shoe had ever looked like that, and there's never been another like it. The neon red jumped off the perfectly matted black canvas so brightly you almost needed sunglasses to look at them.
3. Reebok Pump Omni Lite (Dee Brown)
The Reebok Pumps were possibly the best sneakers to ever master the art of pointless marketing disguised as performance design. Sure, Jordans are/were marketed in a way that changed the shoe game, but the Reebok Pump literally sold everyone on the idea that an air pump shaped as a basketball would actually make your shoe fit better and thus, make you play better. If you weren't wearing Jordans in the mid-to-late '90s, then you probably had some Pumps, and you showed people how they worked all the time.
2. Air Jordan IV Fire Red (Michael Jordan)
The Jordan III was incredibly popular while MJ was simultaneously starting to become the unstoppable force that we all know now, but when the Jordan IV came out, the bar was raised. Once again, no one had ever seen a design with features like this shoe, and in fact it spawned designs for other Nike shoes that were released around that same time (Nike Flight series).
1. Air Jordan 11 Concord (Michael Jordan)
If you ever hooped, there's a 99 percent chance you owned a pair of these shoes. The Concord 11s have become the standard by which all basketball shoes have been measured. They're arguably the best shoe of any genre or category ever constructed. What other shoes exist on Earth that can be worn on the court, casually anywhere in any situation, or even with a tuxedo?