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Greatest Basketball Sneakers of All Times

Evolution, Technology, and Good Looks.

Sneakers have become more than just sports utility shoes. They’ve transcended their primary function to become true cultural icons, objects of desire, and heritage symbols.

Sneakers have become a huge part of the fashion industry, with big-name brands like Nike and Adidas leading the charge. Even luxury labels like Gucci and Balenciaga are getting in on the trend by creating high-end versions of classic sneakers, many of which are horrible and extremely expensive.

Shoes worn by Kyrie Irving #2 of the Dallas Mavericks in the 2023 NBA All Star Game between Team Giannis and Team LeBron
Shoes worn by Kyrie Irving #2 of the Dallas Mavericks in the 2023 NBA All Star Game between Team Giannis and Team LeBron | Tim nwachukwu/getty images/afp

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But how the hell did this phenomenon start?

My extensive research led me to the work of sociologist Yuniya Kawamura, who identifies three waves of the sneaker phenomenon:

1. The ’70s and hip-hop

Kawamura says the first wave of the phenomenon began in the 1970s with an underground culture of sneakerheads and the emergence of hip-hop.

It’s funny when I first read this, I imagined a secret society of sneakerheads gathered in dark basements worshiping altars of sneakers… wait, I think that’s how Sneaker Con started (largest sneaker show in the world).

Anyway, back to the story. Adidas would be the brand that best capitalized on this era with its Samba design and sponsorship agreement with Run-DMC, who later released the song My Adidas and accentuated sneakers as part of popular culture.

2. The ’80s and basketball

The second wave would be the most important and began in 1984 with the launch of the Nike Air Jordans. What kid growing up in the eighties didn’t want Air Jordans? In my case, I never had them, therefore I curse everyone who bought them.

3. The new century and digital

The third wave, according to Kawamura, is the one we live in and is strongly influenced by the digital world, marketing, celebrities, and the culture of reselling and collecting.

As a basketball lover, hoop sneakers are the epitome of perfection; therefore, I have compiled a list of my all-time best B-ball sneakers.

Shoe Picks You Can Bet On!

Air Jordan 1

The sneaker that started it all, the living legend; if you come across an original pair today, its price is over $1,500. These sneakers are so iconic that they marked the birth of the culture and were also part of Jordan’s legendary career. He won rookie of the year in 1984-85 wearing a pair of these bad boys.

The history of Air Jordan 1 should be mandatory in all schools around the world! Ditch geography, ditch science… Transmit this transcendental knowledge to the new generations, please.

As the schools of the world listen to my plea to include Air Jordans 101, in the Netflix documentary series Abstract: The Art of Design, you can get a comprehensive look at the history of these sneakers and their creator. This is an amazing episode on Tinker Hatfield, the guy who designed the Nike Jordan shoes. Hatfield kicks ass!

Nike Flightposite

I forgot to mention that this list is somewhat biased. These are the sneakers of my dreams and that’s why I put them in second place.

The Flightposite were ahead of its time, they came out in 1999, and its futuristic design left no one uncaring, either you loved them or hated them. I clearly loved them.

I remember a few guys showing off their Flightposites while playing pickup games on the high school court; they weren’t great players, but wearing these sneakers made them invincible.

Reebok Question

In this case, it’s not so much about the sneaker; it’s about the player who wore them. Allen Iverson is in my top 5 all time favorite players. His red and white Reeboks are the statement of an unconventional player with excellent scoring ability and surprising agility.

The Answer struck a sponsorship deal with Reebok to take on Nike and put the brand back on the map for NBA-loving sneakerheads, and boy they did.

Reebok Question marked a before and after for the brand, propelling its popularity among players and fans. Including the great late Kobe Bryant, as seen below.

Nike Air More Uptempo

Scottie Pippen is one of the biggest names in NBA history, a six-time NBA champion, and a seven-time NBA All-Star, so it’s no surprise that his sneakers are also legendary.

The Nike Air More Uptempo stole everyone’s eyes at the 96 Olympics. Since then, they have appeared in movies and TV series such as George of the Jungle with Brendan Fraiser, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air with Will Smith, and most recently on HBO’s Euphoria. That’s one helluva gig!

Nike Zoom Flight The Glove

What can be said about the sneakers worn by The Glove, the only player who was able to take a toll on MJ… or at least that’s what he thinks. LOL.

Jokes aside, these futuristic-style, glove-inspired sneakers were a real sensation. To promote them, Nike produced a television commercial in which Gary Payton faced Evander Holyfield on the court.

Under Armour Curry 2.5

The sneakers of the god of 3’s, Stephen Curry, are quite different from what we are used to seeing in basketball players.

Several specialized media have classified them as one of the best hoop sneakers of recent years, and the truth is… I dig them!

The silhouette incorporates a molded synthetic upper and UA’s signature Charged Cushioning for responsive comfort. The design takes cues from the support beams of the Bay Bridge and includes a diamond shape that symbolizes the points of teamwork, as well as a warrior’s spearhead. High attention to detail!

Basketball and sneakers are a match made in heaven, and chances are that for years to come, they will continue to deliver great designs and iconic silhouettes; as for me, I’m going on eBay now to buy myself a pair of Flightposite.

Catch you later!

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