I know that after reading the title for this post you’re probably thinking to yourself, who’s to decide what are the 10 best sneakers of all-time? Sneakers are sort of like ice cream: There’s no way you cannot love them, but they come in so many different styles and flavors that it’s almost impossible to pick a definitive top 10 best of all time. From the early 90’s the sneaker culture began to evolve very quickly. New models, designs and technology took the market by storm & it repeatedly raised the bar year after year. Although the more modern shoes are incorporated with better technology (Air Max, Flywire, Hyperfuse, Zig Tech, AdiZERO) there are some sneaks that just have too much of a classic value to be ignored on this list.
If you asked what factors influenced my ranking decisions, everything from the design, colorway, performance, popularity, rarity and overall likeness played a role. Growing up watching players like Shaq, Iverson and Jordan hoop in some of these shoes played a major role as well. It’s no coincidence that some of the best shoes from these guys were worn during their best seasons â€“ seeing as that’s what makes them so special. At the end of the day, everyone has their own taste in sneakers, however if you grew up watching/playing basketball and have any sort of collection, your list might look a little like this.
adidas Crazy 8
Although adidas’ foundation lays is in it’s “originals” department, and it has really made more of an impact as a lifestyle brand, they have managed to put together some very good basketball shoes. During the ’90s the Adidas Superstar was a staple in sneakerhead closets all over the globe. That was by far the most iconic and influential shoe in adidas history, however thanks to a young Kobe Bryant, the Crazy 8 is still every hooper’s favorite adidas shoe to play ball in. After watching young Kobe (with the afro) grace the courts of the old Forum with these back in ’97, there’s no way you can deny that they are the best adidas to ever hit the hardwood.
Nike Air Max LeBron VII
I think LeBron would tell you himself that these right here were an obvious game-changer. The Air Max LeBron VII was by far the highest-selling LeBron shoe at its time of release. If you look at the design of the LeBron V, then the LeBron VI, the VII shoes are miles of improvement. The shoe was responsible for introducing Air Max technology to the LeBron collection as well as introducing Flywire technology to the world. Nike really won with these; LeBron had an MVP season wearing endless colorways, including a gorgeous mix-matched hardwood classic pair. The design of this shoe was so perfect that it seemed like Nike couldn’t stop making different colorways. There are endless unreleased player exclusives that any sneakerhead would do anything to have in rotation.
Air Jordan 8 “Aqua”
Tinker Hatfield is arguably the best basketball shoe designer of all time. During Jordan’s early days, Hatfield was responsible for the greatness that took place on his feet, drawing inspiration from unthinkable places and turning that into some of the greatest shoes in the history of basketball. Tinker Hatfield made a name for not only himself, but Jordan as a brand of it’s own. The Air Jordan 8 played a major role in this as it was the second Jordan to not feature a Nike swoosh logo. The “Aquas” were worn by Jordan in the ’93 All-Star Game and are easily one of the most popular colorways of any Jordan model to this date.
Air Jordan 10 “Chicago”
This shoe was an instant classic. Needless to say, the design is extremely unique and at the time of its release, Michael was on a baseball field somewhere. The best part about this shoe is that it was made to honor Jordan’s short-lived (at the time) but historical career. The sole of the shoe features a brief summary of Jordan’s career to that point & what made it even more special is that once he decided to come back, he laced these bad boys up and dropped a double nickel on the Knicks in the Garden, 45 on his back and all.
Air Jordan 7 “Olympic”
The first Jordan shoe to not feature a Nike Air on the outer parts of the shoe, the Air Jordan 7 played a monumental role in the growth of brand Jordan. Following up the iconic Jordan VI model was a difficult task, however the great Tinker Hatfield found a way to deliver an amazing follow-up shoe. The “Olympic” Jordan VII was particularly special because Jordan wore these during his days as a part of the Dream Team.
10. Reebok “Question”
Allen Iverson‘s career speaks for itself, and the Reebok Question is where it all began. If you’ve never seen the video of A.I shaking Jordan out of his white/red XII’s then you just don’t understand what these shoes exemplified. As a ball player, back when these shoes released, wearing these meant you had no respect for whomever it was guarding you. It made you want to take a break from those Jordans for a little bit and not many shoes had that significant of an impact. The Iverson brand would grow to become the peak of Reebok basketball shoes and the Question is the shoe that’s responsible for that.
9. Reebok Answer V
Jordan was undoubtedly basketball’s pioneer in terms of style. However, once A.I made it to the League, he took over that role instantly and would only continue to set trend after trend after trend. Yeah sure, maybe Jordan made players wear long shorts, but Iverson was responsible for the cornrows, the arm sleeve, and the balls-out, “take no prisoners” attitude. When it came to integrating hip-hop culture with the basketball court, Allen Iverson was single-handedly responsible. The Answer V was the peak of the Allen Iverson Reebok collection as well as the peak year of his career. He averaged a career high 31.4 points wearing these shoes, and boy did he make it look easy.
8. Nike Air Flight Huarache
The Air Flight Huarache epitomizes the evolution of technology for Nike Basketball footwear. With a 1992 release date, the technology of this shoe was years ahead of its time and would stick around for years to come. The shoe was feathery light in relative comparison to every other shoe on the market at the time and was extremely popular amongst ballers everywhere. Most importantly, the Fab Five. During their days at Michigan, the Fab Five turned the Air Flight Huarache into one of Nike Basketball’s biggest successes. Their popularity was off the charts, so of course the popularity of the shoes they were wearing would be through the roof as well. To this day, there are still people giving an arm and a leg to find a pair of these bad boys.
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7. Reebok “Shaqnosis”
The Reebok Shaqnosis was perfect for Shaq‘s image back in 1993. The shoes had an eye-popping design to coincide with Shaq’s eye-popping game. In terms of rarity, these shoes are right up there with the best of them. Big men usually don’t sell shoes that well so the Shaqnosis wasn’t on shelves for too long. If you were able to score a pair back in 1993 and still have them in good condition, the sneaker culture envies you.
6. Air Jordan 3 “Cement”
The Jordan 3 is the shoe that took Michael to the top. Before he stepped foot in these, Jordan was just your average young NBA player with potential. He wasn’t just given that iconic reputation overnight, he had to earn it, and that journey began in the Air Jordan 3. After averaging a shocking 28, six and six in his rookie year, Jordan got hurt in his second season so many weren’t sure if he’d be able to deliver at such a high level consistently once he got healthy. MJ would came back in his third season to average a jaw dropping 37, five and five and in the next season won a classic dunk title, as well as numerous personal awards, in these shoes. Everything about this shoe is classic, and that’s exactly why you still see people wearing them today.
5. Nike Air Foamposite 1 “Royal”
Before the recent re-releasing of several different colors of the Nike Air Foamposite One, including the “Royal” colorway, appreciation was much higher for these shoes. As far as technology goes, Foamposite was definitely one of the best Nike has developed. In terms of popularity, this shoe was amongst the most popular Nikes to date. The Royal Foamposite One was without a doubt one of the most popular shoes of the ’90s.