From overly built high-tops to space-age heat-molded constructions to the phone-syncing sneakers of today, NBA players have laced up more collective design, technology and innovation than any other association.
The league has long fueled the footwear industry throughout its history, with iconic on-court moments giving life to off-court trends, all while providing fans with a tangible connection to their favorite stars.
To honor the NBA’s 74th season and a new step toward the future of the league, we’re looking back at the 74 best basketball sneakers worn throughout league history.
MORE: The Bottom 10 sneakers in NBA history
74. Nike Adapt BB
Marty McFly’s “power lacing” Nike MAG sneakers first floated the idea of a smart shoe in 1989, and exactly three decades later, the Adapt BB blended art and science to bring self-lacing tech to the NBA hardwood.
73. Under Armour Curry 4
In need of some momentum for his sneaker line after slow sales on his third model, the Warriors star debuted the Curry 4 a full six months early in the 2017 NBA Finals, reigniting interest during another title run.
72. Dada CDubbz
With the “Bling Bling” era of the early 2000s underway, Webber debuted his signature CDubbz with new partner Dada in a chrome All-Star edition, stealing the show.
71. Starbury 1
The design itself might not be the most revolutionary — but the $ 15 price point alone made Marbury’s family-friendly sneaker a thoughtful premise.
70. New Balance OMN1S
After a decade-long hiatus, New Balance’s relaunch of its new well-received OMN1S model couldn’t have gotten a better on-court co-sign. Leonard wore it for one of the more impressive Finals MVP runs in league history.
69. Nike Zoom Soldier X
The Soldier X will always be remembered as the sneaker worn by James during Cleveland’s triumphant 3-1 comeback in the 2016 Finals. Laceless with three lockdown straps, the unique ninja-esque look was all business.
68. Under Armour Curry 1
Worn during Curry’s breakout 2014-15 MVP season, the Curry 1 helped take Under Armour to new heights in just his second season with the company. UA’s basketball shoe sales rose 754% during the spring quarter, just as Curry’s Warriors were headed toward their first championship.
67. Nike Hyperflight
When Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman died in 1999, designer Eric Avar was moved to create a new basketball shoe inspired by Bowerman’s thirst for innovation. The result was a gleaming patent leather marvel with black framing lines.
“We probably made it look more futuristic and fancy than he would have,” Avar said.
66. Nike Kyrie 4
Irving’s fourth model raised the bar for storytelling, releasing in a variety of layered themes honoring elements of Irving’s life, along with a lighthearted “Cereal Pack” that became an instant hit.
65. Adidas Gil Zero
Though Kobe Bryant is often credited with turning players on to low-tops, Arenas’ debut Adidas sneaker did release prior to it and was well-liked for its clean design and the Wizards star’s showman persona.
64. Nike PG 1
George’s debut signature sneaker instantly became one of the brand’s best rollouts, as players around the league and gyms nationwide quickly adopted it, and PG had his own endless range of flavorful player-exclusive editions.
63. Nike Command Force
Robinson might have been the NBA headliner for the high-top, bulky sneaker, but the Command Force was best known as Billy Hoyle’s shoe of choice in the classic movie “White Men Can’t Jump.”
62. Ewing 33 High
Long before Big Baller Brand came along, Ewing launched his own sneaker brand. The straightforwardly named “Ewing 33” still sees monthly rereleases in New York to this day.
61. Adidas Forum
After the Superstar became known as one of the premier all-leather sneakers, the luxe leather Forum upped the ante, eclipsing the $ 100 mark in an era when triple-digit sneakers were a rarity.
60. Adidas Mutombo
Mutombo’s first Adidas sneaker celebrated his African heritage. Launched in the early 1990s during a resurgence of African music and art, the Mutombo made for one of the more unique and detailed sneakers the brand has ever released.
59. Nike Kyrie 1
Irving’s debut model set the foundation for what is currently the industry’s fastest-selling series. With jagged grip lines inspired by the Sydney Opera House and details layered throughout, the Kyrie 1 set the stage for the storytelling and themes that would come to define Irving’s line.
58. Air Jordan 20
Featuring a laser-etched strap adorned with more than 200 graphic icons, Michael Jordan’s life story was celebrated along the daringly modern sneaker.
57. Reebok Omni Pump
The instant Brown bent down to “pump up” his Reeboks before each round of the 1991 dunk contest and his trophy-clinching no-look dunk, the Omni Pump was cemented among the greatest sneakers worn in All-Star Weekend history.
56. Pro Keds Royal Plus
Before the design and technology boom of the ’80s and ’90s, Keds had a run as one of the most worn basketball sneakers of the 1970s, with its iconic dual stripe along the midsole and clean, classic colors aplenty.
55. Nike Kobe 9 High
Bryant’s ninth Nike sneaker took a drastic shift, debuting the new Flyknit material for basketball in an exaggerated high-top cut. Released after his recovery from a torn Achilles, the heel of each shoe featured nine red stitches as a nod to his comeback effort.
54. Reebok Answer 1
Following up the Question was no small task, but Iverson’s second sneaker, the aptly named Answer, elevated his line with a sleeker look and the introduction of the wildly comfortable DMX air-transfer cushioning system.
53. Adidas The Kobe
Adidas tapped automaker Audi to co-create his signature series at the turn of the millennium. Inspired by the sleek lines and molding of the TT Roadster, The Kobe was worn for Bryant’s first three NBA championships.
52. Nike LeBron 15
The LeBron 15 was an open canvas for a flurry of #LeBronWatch colorways inspired by some of the greatest Nike sneakers in company history. James played in all 82 games, adding to the nightly anticipation of the 51 different versions he wore of his 15th sneaker.
51. Adidas T-Mac 1
With ever-so-slight cues from the brand’s iconic Superstar sneaker, Tracy McGrady’s modern shell-toe look for a new millennium became one of Adidas’ best-selling basketball shoes ever.
50. Reebok Pump
The Pump launched a new era of technology for Reebok (and copycat brands to follow), adding adjustable padding to the collar of the high-tops and helping to jump start the company’s basketball category.
49. Nike Flightposite 1
A follow-up to the instant classic Foamposite, the Flightposite 1 added a zipper-shrouded upper and a chameleon-like launch colorway. Time magazine named it the “Worst of Design for 1999.” Among sneaker circles, however, the shoe was loved for its responsive performance and its futuristic look.
48. Reebok Answer 4
With one of the most unique on-court looks of his series, Iverson’s zippered fourth sneaker became more than just a great design, with his iconic tattoo graphics added in throughout.
47. Nike Total Foamposite Max
As the cushioning, materials and technology arms race was reaching its height during the late-’90s, no shoe represented the bells-and-whistles approach better than the Total Foams.
46. Reebok Shaqnosis
The shoe was simply mesmerizing. The concentric rings and snappy name were a perfect fit for O’Neil’s outsize personality during his final season in Orlando.
“I just colored it in black and white,” designer Jonathan Morris said. “Maximum contrast is what they always tell you to do in art school.”
45. Nike Flight Huarache
While certainly not official endorsers, Michigan’s “Fab 5” helped put the Huarache on the map in 1992. An adapted hoops version of Tinker Hatfield’s classic Air Huarache running shoe, the neoprene basketball model was actually Avar’s first design with the company.
44. Nike Shox BB4
Carter leapfrogged 7-foot-2 Frederic Weis in these shoes on the global stage of the 2000 Olympics. For a futuristic new sneaker technology touting hops at the turn of the millennium, there was simply no better visual to remember it by.
43. Converse Weapon
Several stars around the league wore them in the ’80s, but the Weapon will always be defined by the Lakers colorway worn by Magic Johnson and the black and white edition worn by Larry Bird.
42. Nike Shake Ndestrukt
Avar described it as an “alternative product,” so it was only right that Rodman, the league’s most eccentric and colorful player, became the face of the funky side-lacing sneaker.
41. Adidas Top Ten
With 10 marquee NBA stars wearing it to close the 1970s, the Top Ten became one of Adidas’ first flagship basketball models and helped influence countless additional Adidas models since.
40. Converse Pro Leather
Erving’s scoop layup forever linked the Pro Leather to on-court greatness, while the simple design has stood the test of time to become an off-court favorite decades later.
39. Nike CB 94
The most memorable sneaker of Barkley’s career played up his loud personality and willingness to say what’s on his mind at all times. The harness design looked to support his explosive frame on the court, but it also spoke to his infamously brash antics of the era.
38. Nike Zoom Glove
Few shoes have personified the player better than Payton’s Glove. The timeless zippered upper gave it a sleek look that has resulted in a cult following ever since.
“It was almost a complete departure toward utter simplicity at the time,” Avar said.
37. Reebok Kamikaze 2
Throughout the mid-’90s, Reebok found success with its high-contrast designs, creating looks you could spot on television even long before high-definition TV.
“We wanted to make something really unique to match the characteristics of Shawn Kemp’s game,” Morris said.
36. Nike Air Max Uptempo 1995
Nike’s first full-length Air Max sneaker, the Uptempo, has long been a favorite for its wavy lines, bold colors and recognizable dot-pattern outsole, defining the design language of the beloved franchise.
35. Air Jordan 14
Inspired by Jordan’s Ferrari 550 Maranello, the XIV represented the way MJ could maneuver, accelerate and brake in an instant. Jordan also happened to be wearing it for his series-clinching jumper in the 1998 Finals.
“You can’t write a better ending,” Air Jordan vice president Gentry Humphrey said. “It just doesn’t get any better than that.”
34. Nike Garnett 3
With an atom-graphic design on the bottom and a radiant, gradient-fading mesh upper, the Garnett 3 was all about highlighting the youthful power forward’s expressive game on the court.
33. Nike Air Zoom Generation
There may never again be as much design pressure on a single shoe as the Zoom Generation, given James’ $ 90 million rookie shoe deal. The company’s top three designers, Hatfield, Avar and Aaron Cooper, tackled the project, pulling inspiration from James’ Hummer H2.
32. Nike Blazer
The very first Nike basketball sneaker, worn by Portland Trail Blazer Geoff Petrie, the Blazer has become a timeless staple of Nike’s Sportswear division ever since, and it’s a hallmark of the sport’s long-dominant brand.
31. Air Jordan 13
Hatfield turned to a behind-the-scenes nickname that only MJ’s closet friends used: the “Black Cat.” The persona fueled the paw-inspired stance of the model that got an added boost from its starring role in Spike Lee’s “He Got Game.”
30. Nike Huarache 2K4
Designed in tandem with Bryant just after he signed with Nike in 2003, the 2K4 grounded the industry with a much-needed modern and simple design at a time when every brand was releasing space-age products.
29. Nike LeBron 8
Nike was understandably nervous about the response to James’ latest launch, coming on the heels of “The Decision.” The very first colorway dropped in a perfectly themed teal and pink “South Beach” look and became the most collectible LeBron sneaker yet.
28. Air Jordan 5
Inspired by the “nose art” seen on fighter planes, the Air Jordan 5’s graphic midsole design invoked Jordan’s aerial acrobatics on the floor, while the 3M reflective tongue and clear rubber outsole made it a crossover hit off the floor.
27. Nike Kobe 6
Bryant launch the most distinct design of his series, draping the entire synthetic upper of the Kobe 6 in a snakeskin-textured pattern to drive home his “Black Mamba” persona. The bright green “Grinch” colorway he debuted on Christmas might go down as one of the greatest themed colorways we’ve ever seen.
26. Nike Air Swoopes
A groundbreaking moment in the apparel industry, Sheryl Swoopes became the first women’s basketball player to have her own signature shoe. A headliner on the iconic 1996 U.S. women’s national team and the first player to sign a WNBA contract, Swoopes and her sneakers carried the women’s game to new heights.
25. Nike Penny 1
With a recognizable contrasting wing along the side and a subtle pinstriped tongue tying back to the Orlando Magic’s uniforms, Penny Hardaway’s debut signature model also unveiled one of the league’s best player logos, the “1 Cent” icon.
24. Air Jordan 12
Following up the instant classic XI was no small task. The XII went in an entirely different direction, mixing together full-grain leathers, lizard-textured panels and gold accents throughout. The boastful heel tab read: “Quality Inspired By The Greatest Player Ever.”
23. Adidas Crazy Light
At just 9.8 ounces in the industry-standard size 9, the high-top Crazy Light broke new ground in hoops, pushing below the 10-ounce barrier for the first time. The shoe’s ad campaign was equally ambitious — chopping off portions of heavier competitor kicks with chainsaws and guillotines to convey just how light 9.8 ounces truly was.
22. Nike LeBron 7
Worn during the final season of his first stint in Cleveland, James’ seventh model marked a new era for his line. Newly appointed designer Jason Petrie poured nearly every Nike technology into it. Boasting a new full-length Air Max unit and Flywire support, the patent leather panel rounded out what is considered James’ best-looking shoe.
21. Fila Grant Hill 2
Hill was the fourth NBA player to have a signature shoe for his rookie season, but it was his second model that helped put Fila on the map in the basketball space. With a unique patent leather frame design, the shoe stood out on the court. It also crossed over into pop culture when it was worn by Tupac Shakur in the CD booklet portrait for “All Eyez On Me.”
20. Nike Zoom Flight 95
Headlined by Kidd during his first All-Star season, the Zoom Flight 95 introduced a new era of modern design from Nike. Elevated carbon-fiber weave textures and a high-contrast black and white colorway stood out, but none more than the iconic spheres along the midsole.
19. Air Jordan 6
Styled in amped-up Bulls hues, the “Infrared” 6 has long been a defining chapter of the Air Jordan series, worn by Jordan during his first NBA championship in 1991. The rubberized tongue, clean toe and Porsche-inspired heel tab only added to the shoe’s much-loved look.
18. Nike Penny 2
Launched during the height of his career, Hardaway’s second sneaker featured a similar design to the Penny 1. The “Li’l Penny” ads featuring a miniature alter ego voiced by an up-and-coming comedian that made the line a massive success.
“Chris Rock was great, because it was the comedy from Li’l Penny that made everyone love those commercials,” Hardaway said.
17. Nike Kobe 5
Only minor tweaks were made on the Kobe 5, continuing a working formula for Bryant’s low-top series that became known for its performance. Players at all positions around the league wore the shoe that was on Bryant’s feet for his fifth and final title.
“It means we were doing it right,” Bryant said at the time. “Because professional athletes aren’t going to throw shoes on their feet just to throw shoes on their feet.”
16. Adidas KB8
The black and white launch colorway and “Feet You Wear” design approach gave the shoe a distinct look. Worn throughout Bryant’s breakout season, his first signature model is long remembered for being worn during his regular-season and ’98 All-Star Game matchups against his idol Michael Jordan. Decades later, the since renamed “Crazy 8” has become Adidas Basketball’s most recognizable and popular retro sneaker.
15. Nike Dunk
While most memorable sneakers get their validation on the NBA floor, the Dunk has always been a bit of an outlier, first finding its footing in two-tone team colors as part of Nike’s “Be True To Your School” campaign during the 1980s. Throughout the 2000s, the Dunk experienced a massive resurgence as it was adapted into a skateboarding model, making for one of the most versatile Nike silhouettes in company history.
14. AND1 Tai Chi
Vince Carter, then a sneaker free agent after a hard-fought split with Puma, never received a dime from AND1. Nobody at the brand was even aware he’d be taking the floor for his electric 2000 dunk contest in the yin-and-yang inspired, white and red sneakers.
“That shoe got all of its traction from the dunk contest. Period,” former AND1 VP Ryan Drew said.
The Tai Chi would go on to become the brand’s first and only performance sneaker to sell more than a million pairs.
13. Nike Air More Uptempo
Designer Wilson Smith III created Nike’s most brash execution of an “Air Max” shoe yet, literally lettering out A-I-R along the sneaker to highlight the brand’s decade-defining technology.
“This was a bold shoe,” said Scottie Pippen, who wore the shoes in the 1996 Finals to cap off the Bulls’ 72-10 season. “I think Nike did a great job of really making a statement with this shoe.”
12. Puma Clyde
Frazier was a foundational figure who helped to define the league’s on- and off-court style. Puma not only made him the face of the brand, the company also awarded him the NBA’s first signature sneaker. Ever since, the Clyde has been an ongoing staple model for the company, and it now sets the foundation and inspiration for its current basketball relaunch.
11. Air Jordan 4
After Jordan’s third signature model became known for his iconic free throw line dunk and a series of Spike Lee commercials, it was the starring role the Air Jordan 4 received in Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” that took the Air Jordan series beyond hoops and into pop culture yet again. The unique rubberized wings, elongated heel tab and “cement” splatter-painted midsole all made the Jordan 4 an off-court favorite and one of the brand’s most frequent retro releases.
10. Nike Hyperdunk
The Hyperdunk launched Nike Basketball’s new Flywire and Lunar Foam technologies in 2008, but it was Bryant and a majority of the 2008 USA national team wearing it at the Beijing Olympics that ultimately made the shoe a must-have. At 13 ounces, it was one of Nike’s lightest basketball shoes ever.
“I like to push those boundaries,” Bryant said at the time. “It was pretty easy for me to jump into a shoe that fit everything that I had been talking about for years.”
9. Adidas Superstar
The shoe may have been worn by some of the NBA’s best and originally released in 1969, but it was ’80s hip-hop that gave the Superstar its legendary status. Worn and championed by Run DMC, the recognizable three black stripes and its defining rubber “shell toe” combined to form Adidas’ most iconic sneaker. The shoe has long transcended the basketball court. The brand even placed a pair of 15-foot-long Superstar statues at its U.S. headquarters to celebrate its impact.
8. Reebok Question
Iverson’s debut Reebok signature sneaker would go on to change the trajectory of the company that had bet big on him. He was just the fifth rookie to have his own shoe.
“A lot of guys had contracts with different shoe companies, but they didn’t have their own signature shoe, so I’d kinda puff my chest out a little bit,” Iverson said with a laugh.
His shifty rookie-season crossover on Jordan in the white and red-accented colorway gave the shoe an electric moment to build on. Iverson’s star power skyrocketed from there — with endless toe colors released ever since — as the Reebok Question became the brand’s most beloved basketball sneaker.
7. Nike Kobe 4
Boasting Zoom Air, Lunar foam and Flywire, the Kobe 4 was expected to pack more tech than any of Bryant’s prior models, but creating a lower cut was Bryant’s biggest focus. Bryant wore the Kobe 4 throughout his championship 2009 season, validating a low-top approach that has since taken over the league. This past season, 104 NBA players wore the rereleased version.
“Some products are much more radical than others. Some are much more traditional,” Avar said. “The 4 was a little in the sweet spot. It was just enough classic, just enough modern, that it has stood the test of time.”
6. Air Jordan 3
Had it not been for the Jordan 3, Michael Jordan very well might have fled to Adidas in 1989, once his Nike contract was set to expire. Knowing Jordan wanted a more broken-in shoe after missing most of the prior season with a foot injury, Hatfield selected soft leathers and designed a mid-cut height.
He also looked to involve Jordan in the design process, leading to the exotic elephant print along the toe and heel, along with the introduction of the Jumpman logo along the tongue. All these years later, the shoe is still one of the most wearable and versatile Air Jordan models.
5. Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star
Standing the test of the time for more than 100 years, the ubiquitous All-Star Chuck Taylor got its roots in hoops before becoming one of the world’s most-worn sneakers, period. The simple canvas design, available in high- and low-tops, may not have boasted much, if any, technology, but it remained a mainstay across the NBA’s earliest decades.
The All-Star has since become the most purchased sneaker in industry history. Just before the shoe’s celebrated century mark in 2014, Converse announced it had sold more than one billion pairs of Chucks. With endless editions and designs abound, the brand continues to sell more than 100 million pairs per year, with no signs of slowing down.
4. Nike Foamposite One
“I had never seen anything like it in my life,” Hardaway said.
The process to create the Foamposite was lengthy, requiring heating a liquid and molding it into what became the foam shell that defined the sneaker. Nike ultimately partnered with now-defunct automaker Daewoo to help actually produce it, after two years of R&D on its own.
The concept car of sorts wasn’t even originally planned to be Hardaway’s shoe, until he happened to get a glimpse of it at the bottom of a duffle bag that Avar had brought to a design meeting.
“He looked down into the duffle bag, and was like, ‘What’s that!?'” Avar said. “So I take it out and start to explain it, and right away, he’s like, ‘That’s what I want my next shoe to be.'”
3. Nike Air Force 1
The Air Force 1 has long been celebrated for its never-ending colorways and designs. Whether a detailed artist collaboration, simple two-color edition or the perennial favorite all white, the Air Force 1 has been adopted by all genres and all eras since its 1982 introduction.
Nelly’s 2002 song celebrating the sneaker fueled the momentum of its modern run, with Nike now selling more than 10 million pairs annually. As NBA players’ arena entry outfits take on further focus in the years to come, the Air Force 1’s presence in basketball culture is firmly here to stay.
2. Air Jordan 1
A sleeker version of Nike’s Dunk and Air Ship models, the Air Jordan 1 laid the blueprint for the industry’s signature shoe formula as we know it today. The black and red colors (and an Air Ship prototype) drew the ire of the league office, which effectively banned the model from being worn in games. That only added to the aura of Jordan’s first sneaker.
Nike modestly projected $ 100,000 in sales before launching it. The Air Jordan 1 went on to sell nearly three million pairs in 1985 — around $ 195 million at retail — setting the stage for the sporting world’s most iconic signature franchise.
1. Air Jordan 11
The patent leather, carbon fiber, clear outsole and unique Cordura mesh all blended together to result in the industry’s greatest basketball sneaker design of all time. That’s before even accounting for the fact Jordan wore the XI throughout a season in which the Bulls won 72 games and he racked up regular-season MVP, All-Star Game MVP and Finals MVP trophies.
As Hatfield loves to point out, some at Nike actually wanted to stop the XI from releasing altogether. Jordan was retired from basketball when it was designed, with a return to the NBA not guaranteed. Of course, Hatfield’s insistence to keep working on the shoe paid off, as the XI has become a regular December retro rerelease, with Nike selling more than a million pairs each holiday season.