20 Best Signature Basketball Shoe/Shoelines Ever

Jordan 4s

Let’s all be real: American sneaker culture has become a wild phenomenon, exploding ever since Jordan – rocking his signature Air Force 1 – dunked from the free-throw line in 1984 (he also dunked all over the Knicks with these bad boys). Some parts of sneaker culture get “over-the-top.” But even then, it’s artistic and endearing to see how much footwear means not only to the athletes that wear them on the court but to the fans who watch in awe at home!

Jordan biblically ushered in the era of the “signature sneaker” concept and brought it mainstream.  If Jordan is the “big bang” for signature basketball shoes, there have been a thousand “supernovas” since, many surpassing Jordan’s sneakers in futuristic style, aesthetics, and really, really sick colors.  Seriously.  The colors on some of these shoes are ****ing incredible.

Criteria

We are going to judge the following signature shoe lines on the criteria below:

  • Look 
  • Feel 
  • Impact and lasting legacy on sneaker culture? 

A Final Note: We try to vary up the list by including multiple lines, and giving honorable mentions to versions of superstar basketball shoe lines that are excellent, but not quite our favorite from that player’s line

Honorable Mention: black-and-white Lebron XV’s – Release Year: 2017

These shoes mean so much, not just to basketball, but to how sports connect to our lives, society, and culture as a whole.  We love Lebron for being bold enough to say, “I don’t give a ****, I’m not on the black side or the white side, I’m on the side of Righteousness and Equality.  The shoes are great too, but the message on these shoes means so much more.  That’s why we lead this list of the “20 greatest signature basketball shoes in history” with this particular pair.  

20. Nike KD4 – Release Year: 2011

Nike-KD-4-Away

The first well-received KD signature basketball shoe. The KD4 has a light, unique, bold design perfect for the slender sharpshooter.  Best for with narrow, long limbs just like KD, these shoes are some of the most breathable on the market.  If you constantly find your feet overheating on the court, causing sweating and blisters and infection, it may be time to go with the breezy KD4!

The adaptive Velcro strap across the laces gives the shoe a unique aesthetic appeal, and the transition from heel-to-forefoot (and vice-versa) is seamless.  With the lockdown stability provided by the adaptive strap, these shoe are the best for slashers who like to cut in the paint and rise up for jump shots on a dime.  Those with wide feet or heavier builds should look to a different model, like the Jordans or Lebrons.

19. Jordan XIII – Release Year: 1997

Air-Jordan-13-Retro-He-Got-Game-2018

The Suede Jordan XIII’s are incredible but just overheat your feet.  If you want that retro “Air Jordan” look, these are absolutely the shoes to go with.  Just breaking into our top 20 list of “greatest signature basketball shoes of all time,” this Air Jordan model is the second of four entries.  

The zipper on the front covers the laces, turning your feet into little missiles.  The Bulls-red, black and white colorway are our favorite, and sneakerheads just marvel at how ahead of its time the Jordan XIII’s were.  The shoes employ carbon fiber for torsional support, and the cushion is extremely responsive.  

It may be 15 years later, but the Jordan XIII’s are some people’s absolute favorites, even above Jordan’s more iconic models.  Because of this incredible legacy and style, we have to give another spot to Air Jordan.

18. Nike Kobe 6 – Release Year: 2011

Nike-Kobe-6-ASG-Red

The first Kobe on this list is the Kobe 6. The “lime green snakeskin” colorway remains in the pantheon of “sweetest colorways ever.”   Keeping with the agile, low-cut design that debuted with the Kobe 4’s (see #3), the Kobe 6’s improved the breathability, stability, and functionality of the Kobe Zoom series.  The polyurethane material gives the snakeskin its distinct look, and the breathable tongue make the shoe among the lightest basketball shoes in circulation.  Fitting the “Black Mamba” persona to a commercial “T,” the Nike Zoom Kobe 6s are awesome.

17. Iverson Reebox Question – Release Year: 1996

Reebok-AI-Question

All true basketball fans know AI changed the game for the better in more ways than one.  Not only was he a legendarily ferocious player standing barely six feet, and not only was he an MVP-caliber player – he brought hip hop style into the NBA.  As far as the culture goes, AI is a hero.

The Question gets a nod on our list partly because of its iconic legacy. Going right at his idol – the GOAT – like that… Iverson is simply a legend.  He played every game like it was his last. 

The Reebok Question has an authentic flair that arguably has not been matched since maybe the Kobe 4s.  The hexalite cushioning keeps pace with other signature basketball shoes on this list, and the puffy look makes the fit all the snugger!  The translucent “cave openings” that show the hexalite cushioning give the shoe a “honeycomb” look.  Overall, we just love these shoes for all the right reasons: good materials, sound construction, and reminiscent of an iconic player with a legendary legacy.

16. Nike PG II – Release Year: 2018

Nike-PG-2-5-Racer-Blue

Enhancing nearly every feature on the PG I, the PG II would be our preferred pick from the former superstar’s line.  Its price point is cheered by many in the sneakerhead community, and the materials function with high-grade excellence.  This high-quality material lends itself to a very comfortable feel and fit for the Nike PG II’s! These shoes are so comfy, many use them as daily wear sneakers – a credit to the Zoom Air cushion technology.  When people begin wearing their basketball shoes around to walk because of the incredible fit, they begin entering “greatest signature basketball sneaker of all time” territory.

15. Grant Hill FILLA 2 – Release Year 1996

Grant-Hill-FILLA-2

The G Hill FILA 2’s get pushed to the latter half of our countdown because of FILA’s relative obscurity as a company.  It doesn’t quite ring like “Nike” as a signature basketball shoe brand, but the Grant Hill FILA’s need some love for a couple of reasons.

The G Hill FILA 2’s – come with tumbled leather top with one of the most singularly unique silhouettes of any signature basketball shoe.  The classic colorway comes in white and black with red lettering on the logo, but a quick search can find all kinds of choices.  The Velcro strap and “triangle” silhouette are two of our favorite features about the FILA 2’s  

The padding on the insole has been an issue for some, so adding orthopedics can really be a game changer with the FILA 2’s.

14. CP3 VI (Jordan Brand) – Release Year: 2012

Air-Jordan-CP3-VI

Besides giving us some of the best steady all-NBA play in the game over the past 15 years, CP3’s shoe line has evolved over 13 models.  For this list, we have to include the CP3 6s as our favorite.

The CP3 VI is well-regarded for its traction – some of the best ever – quality materials, and breathable mesh wear.  Under the Jordan brand, we highly recommend these to anyone who wants to play guard and rock the “Jumpman” logo at the same time.  The red-white-black color scheme is legit if a bit simplistic, but the CP3 VI makes up for it with its dual-density Podulon cushioning foam and insanely strong herringbone for stability.  A snug fit to boot, we would recommend the CP3 VI to any guard who loves players like Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Isiah Thomas, and CP3 himself. 

13. Air Penny 5 Foamposite (1997 Penny Foamposite 1 OG Honorable Mention) – Release Year: 2020; inspired by 1997

Nike-Air-Penny-5

Initially released in 1997, foamposite technology took a while to catch on in the signature shoe world.  However, when the Orlando Magic’s Penny Hardaway saw how the foamposite looked and felt, he became the face of the movement within the shoe industry.  

While we love the original Penny foamposite 1s, Nike really outdid themselves with the Penny V’s, released after Hardaway’s playing career.  These shoes are absolutely brilliant, making our list of the “top 20 signature shoe lines” with ease.  It’s flexible, aesthetically “pops” in its colorways, durable, and its traction is “suction-grip” level.  The heel-toe flex is not stiff, and players report their foot feeling “locked” in alignment with the rest of their body, ensuring a competitive, injury-free experience.  Some love the unique “streetwear” style the material gave off; they can be worn with jeans easily.

12. Kyrie 2 – Release Year: 2015

Nike Kyrie 2

The Kryie 2s break near the top 10 because of a combination of good factors: awesome colorways, great price point, and some really incredible features on an athletic shoe.  Say what you want about Kyrie’s errant, nonsensical standoffishness, the dude has impeccable style.  It shows in his shoes.  The styles are unique, and the design is bold yet lightweight.  It makes your feet look like singular pieces of athletic greatness!

11. Curry 2 – Release Date: 2015

UA-Curry-2

If you go on any social media (e.g. – Instagram, Youtube), the Curry 2s are some of these influencers’ favorites!  The fit and traction get high marks from online reviewers, and the Under Armour Logo really shines with some of the popular colorways: grey and fire-red, blue and gold, or sheet-white.

The Curry 2 hits that mark between sturdy but overheating, and breathable but too flimsy. Finding the perfect medium, the shoe holds up very well over time. Although the lack of overall durability and questionable ankle support bring the Currys down a bit, but we could not believe the amount of love these shoes get online.

Halftime: the Last Top 10 truly represent the “Mt. Rushmore” Level of the Greatest, Most Iconic Signature Basketball Shoes of all Time

10. Reebok Shaqnosis – Release Year: 1996

Reebok-Shaqnosis-Basketball-Shoes-Black

The shoes are most remembered for the trippy visuals: mesmerizing black-white circle patterns swirling around the laces. It takes inspiration from crazy optical illusions with black-and-white spiral swirl patterns. Shaq actually acknowledged his Shaqnosis basketball sneakers were supposed to provide a subtle psychological edge on his opponents by distracting them with their swirling pattern!

The shoe isn’t all iconic looks, rocked by the Big Diesel himself. Hexalite helps cushion the impact, and traction is celebrated even in outdoor court situations. The reasons the Shaqnosis does not climb higher on the list are twofold: cheaper materials and overheating issues with the feet.

9. Nike Air Max Lebron 8 (South Beach Colorway) – Release Year: 2010 (lowcut version re-released in 2021)

Nike-LeBron-8-South-Beach

The Lebron 8s are widely regarded as Lebron’s best signature sneaker shoe of all time.  It marked a watershed moment in Lebron’s professional career when he took his talents to South Beach.  James was momentarily villainized for leaving Cleveland, but the man released these timeless South Beach themed signature basketball shoes, reaching over $1k on the reseller market easily.

The Nike Lebron 8s get a top 10 spot because:

  1. Lebron is the “1B” best player of all time, with “His Airness” 1A
  2. The “South Beach” colorway takes the Miami Vice marine blue/hot pink color scheme to a whole new level
  3. They are functionally some of the best signature basketball shoes ever produced 

8. Harden’s Adidas Vol. III – Release Year: 2019

Adidas-Harden-Vol-3-Grey

The only reason the Harden Adidas Vol. 3 doesn’t make it higher is because of the cornerstone legends that came before it.

As far as functionality and performance go, the Harden Adidas Vol. III’s were arguably the best shoe on the market back in 2019.  They sport fine mesh materials – keeping the shoe extremely light – along with a sturdy rubber outsole.  The boost cushioning has been called “comfortable, responsive, and the best implementation of Boost in a basketball shoe.”

7. Converse Weapon (80s pride) – Release Year: 1986

Converse-Weapon-Red-Original

Coming in at lucky number 7 is, from a business standpoint, the luckiest era in basketball history. The only reason Michael Jordan was able to become a global phenom was because elder statesmen Larry Bird and Magic Johnson had made the game matter again in the 80s. They made the game, the competition of basketball, meaningful again. They brought back everything that made the game special and added even more. And they did it all in the nostalgic Converse weapons.

6. Converse Chuck Taylors – Release Date: 1917

Converse-Chuck-Taylor

Made in 1917, the Chuck Taylors raise to the top 10 because of a simple fact: they are the absolute godfathers – the real ones – the OGs of sneakerland, people have rocked the Taylors throughout every American era.

Fun fact – the Chuck Taylor high tops debuted as the signature shoe line for the 1936 Olympic basketball games. Since then, the sneaker has gradually moved to become a head cornerstone of American sneaker culture. However, with its roots in basketball, we decided the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star sneaker needed a top 10 spot on our list.

5. Nike Air Pippen 2 – Release Year: 1998

Nike-Air-Pippen-2

The Air Pippen 2’s come with high-grade traction, stability, and many attest the Air Pippens, boasting the same “air” technology as the Jordans, stand toe to toe with any Jordan release. The high-top fit goes perfectly with how supportive the shoes feel when laced up.

4. Nike Air Max CB 94 – Release Year: 1994

Nike-Air-Max-CB-94-Suns

There are so many signature basketball shoes for shooting guards on this list… it’s time to bring in the round mound of rebound to clean up the boards.  Perfect for any power forward or Center, the CB 94s combine that retro “Nike Velcro” aesthetic with a durable, cushiony shoe that adds a few pounds of weight for more durability – just like Chuck himself.

As far as aesthetics, the Charles Barkley AirMax’s have the classic “shark tooth” look at the bottom created by zigging and zagging contrasting colors.

3. Nike Kobe 4 – Release Year: 2008

Nike-Kobe-4s

The Nike Kobe 4s clock in at #3. This is partly to pay homage to one of the “Rushmore Greats” in modern basketball – rest in peace Kobe – but also because of the outsized legacy, the Kobe 4s have had on sneaker culture today. Kobe’s signature basketball shoes in the past had high ankle support for stability purposes. Kobe then began favoring lower-cut sneakers to assist with optimal quickness and mobility. Enter the Kobe 4s.

The Kobe 4s were so impactful and popular that top-5 players like Anthony Davis still wear exclusively the Kobe 4s. New school becomes old school, but Kobe 4s are timeless.

2. Air Jordan I – Release Year: 1985

Air-Jordan-1-OG-Chicago

The Air Jordan literally shocked American culture to its core.  The NBA even threatened to fine Jordan $5,000 a game for breaking the rules.  Regardless of whether this actually occurred or not, Nike leaped at the PR gold mine that became the “banned” red-and-black Jordan I signature shoe.  It made Michael Jordan not only gracefully dominant but a bit of an outlaw.  

The shoes flew off the racks at $65 a pop.  Air Jordan I’s were so popular they basically invented the resellers market.  That’s right.  Jordans were so popular that they literally made up over 10% of the entire athletic shoe market.  One man.  So many shoes

The red-and-white shoes meshed with Nike’s black “swoosh” beautifully to become the most artistic, aesthetic signature basketball shoe ever to that point.  It worked with Jordan’s Bulls uniform, and thus a classic shoe design was born that has lasted generations.  Even today, Nike will do new releases of the Retro OG Air Jordans.

1. Jordan XI – Release Year: 1995

Air-Jordan-11-Retro

When Jordan returned in ’95, Jordan returned the only way he knew how: ultimate, unimpeachable style.  The Jordan 11s sported a signature shiny “wraparound” cover that ran across the shoe’s side like a wave.  Coming in color schemes ranging from blacktop/white soles, red bottoms/white-black waves, the shoes mostly were dominated by three colors: red, black, and white.  

Perhaps the best story from the creation of these shoes comes in the use of real tuxedo leather material to achieve the signature bold and “streak shine” finish the Jordan 11s are famous for.  Carbon fiber bottoms and breathable mesh tops revolutionized basketball shoe design.  Not only that, Jordan himself was very involved in ensuring the shoe fit perfectly for his play on the court.  Designer Tinker Hatfield revealed in a 2015 interview just how well Jordan took to the new signature sneaker design:

(The Jordan) 11 is probably the most remarkable shoe, yes. It was a bold approach to use new materials and new technology. We worked so hard on the 11 — and Michael liked it way too much. We showed him the final design in spring of 1995. He was so enthusiastic that he wore the shoe way earlier than everyone at Nike wanted it. But he didn’t care. He saw the shoe and couldn’t wait to wear it on the court.”

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