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With the amount of basketball sneakers that top athletic brands brands have flooded the market with for decades, the list of the best basketball shoes of all time is seemingly endless and could feature hundreds of styles.
However, there are several that have stood the test of time and have and proven to be a step above the rest, creating a select group of the best basketball shoes of all time that are beloved by both ballers and sneakerheads alike.
When sports fans think of all the monumental on-court moments created by legends such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have made, it’s tough to not recall the sneakers they were wearing at the time. And if the stories of the iconic players do not resonate with you, its the bold designs of the silhouette that’s the selling point.
Below, check out some of the best basketball shoes from labels including Nike, Jordan Brand, Adidas, Converse and others to ever hit stores.
Air Jordan 1
Almost undeniably atop the list of the best basketball shoes of all time is the Air Jordan 1. It’s the style that made rocking court-ready sneakers in the streets cool, the silhouette that’s a favorite among ballers and sneakerheads alike. The Peter Moore-designed look dropped in 1985 ready for the hardwood and in the decades after its release has become an icon in fashion. More than 30 years after its release, people still get hyped for a new Air Jordan 1 release.
Air Jordan 11
If not for the Air Jordan 1, a case could be made for the Air Jordan 11 — easily one of the best basketball shoes of all time — to be considered the greatest Michael Jordan signature look to hit the market. The iconic style, designed by Tinker Hatfield, dropped in 1995, and the baller rocked them during the Chicago Bulls’ historic 72-10 season, which culminated in his fourth career NBA championship.
Air Jordan 14
The Air Jordan 14, designed by Tinker Hatfield, was the final signature shoe Michael Jordan would wear rocking a Chicago Bulls jersey. It’s also the style he would win the 1998 NBA Finals in, the last championship of his storied career. Aside from the memories his fans have of the shoe, it’s sports car-themed aesthetics were also appealing (the design was inspired by the baller’s Ferrari F355F1).
Reebok knew it wanted NBA icon Allen Iverson on its ambassador roster, so much so that the brand tasked Scott Hewett with designing a shoe with the baller in mind before Iverson even committed to leave college and turn pro. What the brand came up with was the Question, a stellar look easily on the best basketball shoes of all time list with an eye-catching patent leather toe cap, which was released to the masses in 1996.
No sophomore slump here. Reebok followed up on the classic Question sneaker for NBA legend Allen Iverson with another one of the best basketball shoes of all time, the Answer, an aggressive look that fit the tenacity the Hall of Fame baller played with. Released in 1997, the highlight of the shoe was Reebok’s acclaimed DMX cushioning system.
Nike Air Zoom Generation
Nike Basketball is still making signature sneakers for NBA icon LeBron James, who continues to dominate the court today, but the best shoe for the baller is still his first. King James rocked the Air Zoom Generation during his first-ever game in October 2003, immediately catching the attention of sneakerheads. (In February 2004, he would turn heads during the NBA Rookie Challenge the same weekend as the all-star game with a polarizing “Wheat” pair.) And 14 years later, those same fans — and a legion of new ones — went just as crazy when the Swoosh dropped a retro release of the look for the first time.
Under Armour Curry One
NBA star Stephen Curry made Under Armour relevant in the basketball marketplace. Not long after leaving Nike for the Baltimore-based athletic brand, Under Armour created one of the best basketball shoes of all time, the Curry One, the first-ever signature shoe for the baller — and it quickly became a hit with both hoops fans and sneaker addicts. And it’s special to Curry and the label: he wore the model en route to his first NBA championship in 2015 against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Converse’s standout hoops shoe of the 1980s was the Weapon, which debuted in 1986. It was worn by legends of the game such as Larry Bird, Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Isiah Thomas (who all starred in a commercial promoting the shoe and rapped — with Bird’s MVP line stealing the show).
Converse Chuck Taylor All Star
More than a century old, the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star was the on-court shoe worn by early NBA legends. It made its debut in 1917 under the All Star name, which would change later with the addition of Chuck Taylor, a former pro baller who would go on to work for Converse as a salesman of the shoes.
Now referred to as the Crazy 8, the Adidas KB8 — released in 1997 — was NBA icon Kobe Bryant’s debut signature shoe. (Before the KB8, Bryant wore the EQT Elevation, an inline shoe.) The bold, eye-catching look matched his tenacity on the court and became a favorite among sneakerheads and ballers alike. (He even famously went at NBA icon Michael Jordan every chance he could get wearing the shoe during the 1998 all-star game.)
Nike Zoom Kobe 1
Years after switching brands from Adidas, Nike Basketball created one of the best shoes ever for NBA star Kobe Bryant that would become a classic. The Zoom Kobe 1 was introduced in 2005 and years later hit the market again in Protro form, boasting the same aesthetics but with updated Nike tech.
Fila Grant Hill 2
For a brand with strong tennis heritage, Fila’s basketball range in the 1990s was stellar. And its Grant Hill 2, years later named the 96, was its best silhouette, a model largely considered one of the best basketball shoes of all time. The simple design aesthetics and patent leather on the upper made the second signature look for NBA legend Grant Hill a hit.
Reebok Shaq Attaq
Big men in basketball typically don’t move shoes in retail, but consumers loved the early looks for NBA icon Shaquille O’Neal — especially the Shaq Attaq, released in 1992. And that same passion was alive and well 25 years later when Reebok brought back the Judy Close-designed shoe to retail.
Ewing Athletics 33 Hi
The namesake brand of NBA legend Patrick Ewing produced popular silhouettes in the 1990s, led by the iconic 33 Hi. And thanks to the love for all-things retro, the brand is back and thriving — with the 33 Hi sneaker leading the way.
Nike Air Penny 1
Aside from having arguably the best ad campaign in all of sports, with Chris Rock co-starring as “Lil Penny,” NBA great Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway had some of the most beloved Nike Basketball signature shoes in the 1990s. And although others received much fanfare, it was the first Nike Air Penny 1 — released in 1995 — that fans of the baller remember with the most fondness.
Best Basketball Shoes: Nike Air Foamposite One
The groundbreaking Nike Air Foamposite One, a shoe made for NBA legend Penny Hardaway, was released in 1997 and still has legions of fans today. And although the bold and atypical look was Hardaway’s, the pro baller wasn’t the first player to rock it in game action: eventual pro Mike Bibby wore them while playing college ball for the Arizona Wildcats in the 1997 NCAA tournament against the Kansas Jayhawks.
Nike Air More Uptempo
The Nike Air More Uptempo — one of the best basketball shoes ever — was made famous by basketball hall of famer Scottie Pippen, but it didn’t really matter who wore them because the bold look was destined to be a classic. Released in 1996, the shoe is still beloved today and has been remixed several times, most notably by Supreme in 2017.
Nike Air Max LeBron 7
The Nike LeBron 7 was a turning point for the LeBron sneaker franchise. The model marked the debut of designer Jason Petrie with NBA star LeBron James’ line of shoes. Also, it was the first Air Max LeBron shoe, which was equipped with a new full-length and basketball-specific Max bag with 80% more air than prior iterations of the cushioning tech. A decade-plus after its original release, sneakerheads and hoops fans alike all clamor to get their hands on a pair (especially iterations including the Los Angeles Lakers-inspired “Media Day” look and the all-star game version dressed in blue tones).
Reebok Kamikaze 2
Retired NBA star Shawn Kemp was a beast on the court, and he required a shoe to match his style of play. In 1995, Reebok released the Kamikaze 2 for the athlete, featuring a visually disruptive design that turned heads every time the Seattle Supersonics baller nicknamed Reign Man hit the court. In 2020, for its 25th anniversary, the brand re-released the shoe with its original design aesthetic.
Nike Kobe 4
The Nike Kobe 4 is the fourth Nike signature sneaker for the late NBA icon Kobe Bryant, which is a favorite look of Black Mamba and sneaker fans alike. And although the court-ready model made its debut in 2009 with eye-catching colorways (think the red-and-white look from the 2009 all-star game), Nike Basketball in recent years has updated the silhouette with modern performance tech, which is separated from the original iterations by adding the word Protro to the shoe’s name.
Best Basketball Shoes: Air Jordan 3
NBA icon Michael Jordan achieved several milestones in the Air Jordan 3, most notably lacing up the “White Cement” iteration to win the 1988 NBA Slam Dunk contest. Since its release more than three decades ago, the Tinker Hatfield-designed Air Jordan 3 has become a must-have for sneakerheads all over the world.
Best Basketball Shoes: Air Jordan 4
During the opening round of the 1989 NBA Playoffs, with the Air Jordan 4 laced up, NBA legend Michael Jordan hit “The Shot” against the Cleveland Cavaliers, one of the most iconic moments of his career. So it’s no wonder that the shoe has maintained its status as one of the best basketball shoes of all time decades later.
Best Basketball Shoes: Puma Clyde
Although nowadays the look is considered casual, the Puma Clyde — made famous by NBA legend Walt” Clyde” Frazier — it was a court-ready shoe in the 1970s. And it’s fitting that the shoe still is still desirable today, given Frazier’s bold and appealing off-court style that has made him an undeniable fashion icon.
To Buy: Puma Clyde, $70 and up; Puma.com
Air Jordan 6
Michael Jordan ended his career with six NBA championships, however if you ask the athlete it’s safe bet that his first in 1991 is the most special. And during that first-ever title run, the Chicago Bulls icon laced up the Air Jordan 6. The look was a bold one at the time, executed with inspiration from the baller’s Porsche and equipped with a neoprene sleeve, translucent rubber outsole and visible Air unit in the heel.
Nike Air Force 1
Although it’s worn more for style today, the Nike Air Force 1 was once a mainstay on basketball courts. This beloved shoe that debuted in 1982 was worn by greats of the sport including NBA all-star game veterans and champions Moses Malone and Rasheed Wallace.
Another basketball-turned-lifestyle sneaker is the classic Adidas Superstar. Before rap icons Run DMC made them popular with the hip-hop crowd, ballers including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — a 19-time all-star game veteran and six-time NBA champion — were wearing them on the court.
Air Jordan 12
There’s a reason several signature sneakers for NBA legend Michael Jordan are on this list: because Nike put the best shoes on his feet. One of the more beloved sneakers he laced up during his storied career was the Air Jordan 12, which the hall of famer wore en route to his fifth NBA title.