Although brands have saturated the market with basketball sneakers for decades, there are several that have stood the test of time and become undeniable classics. Whether its the stories of the players who wore them or the bold designs of the silhouette, a select group are beloved by both ballers and sneakerheads alike.
Below, check out 17 of the best basketball sneaker models to ever hit stores.
Air Jordan 1
Undeniably the greatest basketball shoe of all time. 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 being the greatest Michael Jordan signature shoe of all time. 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 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 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 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. 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 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 ‘80s 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.
Nike Zoom Kobe 1
Years after switching brands from Adidas to Nike, the Swoosh created a shoe 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 ’90s was stellar. And its Grant Hill 2, years later named the 96, was its best silhouette. 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 ’90s, 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 signature shoes in the ’90s. And although others received much fanfare, it was the first Nike Air Penny 1 — released in 1995 — that fans of the ballers remember with the most fondness.
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 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.
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Check out the behind-the-scenes video of NBA star Stephen Curry’s cover shoot below.