Last weekend, NBA titans collided during all-star festivities in Chicago. Being recognized as an all-star is one of the sport’s highest honors. However, if we hooked a few players up to lie detector tests, they’d probably trade in their selection for another symbol of praise. Who could turn down the clout of a signature sneaker? Getting your very own signature sneakers means being immortalized by the culture and in the hearts and closets of footwear enthusiasts. Debates about all-time great sneakers are just as intense as ones about rankings the players who wore them. A truly great signature sneaker transcends the court and becomes a nostalgic part of that fashion era. But legendary kicks aren’t all applauded for the same reasons. While some are lauded for historical importance, others are remembered for their technical advancement or wearability.
Sigs take a player’s brand and cache to a new level – taking individuals once virtually unknown to towering, giant advertisements on New York City building scapes. And it’s not always just stars who get sigs. In 2016 Adidas gave Nick Young, a journeyman role player, his own Crazy Explosive PE. Many felt it was better than league stars Steph Curry and James Harden. Nike continues to dominate when it comes to signature basketball shoes but other brands like Adidas and Under Armor occasionally make waves as well. A few of my personal favorites are Charles Barkley’s 1994 Nike Air Max2 CB34, Kobe’s 1997 Adidas KB8, Allen Iverson’s 1996 Reebok Questions, and the 1996 Jordan XII.
A great signature shoe should embody the presence of the player it is meant to epitomize. Possessing design characteristics that are consistent with the individual’s style of play and their charisma (or lack thereof). Speaking directly to their flair. For an example of this, look no further than the Nike Zoom Flight 98, crafted for Gary Payton and nicknamed “The Glove.” Or the 2013 Kobe 9 Elites (arguably one of his best kicks with Nike). The disfigured product blueprints that never escaped artroom floors are a testament to how hard it is to effectively capture this magic. So, when brands catch lightning in a bottle with the perfect marriage of design, player, and product – it’s a beautiful thing to behold. Sitting on the shrine of shoe store shelves all over the globe.
There’s no real formula for choosing a favorite – while some may be more swayed by the way a shoe feels and performs, other may be solely focused on the look or what made them popular. Less science and more personal preference. Risking slander from the most unforgiving of crowds, the sneaker community, I’m going to stick my neck out and compile a list of the best signature shoes for current NBA players.
10. Adidas – Harden Vol. 4 – James Harden
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Not a fan of the lace clips and the design is a bit boring. It seems like a step back from previous versions. Plus is the shoe is lighter, but they no longer feature BOOST cushioning. Not sure what Adidas is thinking here.
9. Nike – PG4 – Paul George
PG came out the gate strong with explosive colorways but the same complacency we’ve seen with Durant’s line has set in with George’s designers as well. The PG3 was one of last year’s top models. A lot of sneakerheads are disappointed in the 4.
8. Under Armor – Curry 7 – Steph Curry
Image Under Armour
After some rather disappointing releases, the Curry 7 is Steph’s best shoe yet. It’s honestly the best design we’ve seen from UA and they’re still built to protect Steph’s fragile ankles.
7. Nike – Freak 1 – Giannis Antetokumpo
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
He may be the best player in the game, but his kicks need work. Giannis’ shoes can be found worn by almost every high school basketball team in the country. It’s the perfect team basketball shoe that looks good in any colorway. This is a great place for Giannis to start. Hopefully, they keep improving.
6. Adidas – D.O.N. Issue #1 – Donovan Mitchell
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
I’m very impressed with “The Spider’s” first signature. Adidas also did well playing off his nickname with four Superhero colorways. The shoe’s propulsion clip and BOUNCE cushioning round out some pretty sophisticated technology to boot. Solid debut for Mitchell.
5. Nike – KD 12 – Kevin Durant
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Durant’s shoes are some of the most comfortable on the market and the colorways always go crazy. Yet, it seems like Nike has gotten lazy with the design over the years. Take a look at the KD 13 and you’ll see what I mean.
4. Jordan – Why Not Zer0.3 – Russell Westbrook
Harry How/Getty Images
Brodie’s signatures are almost as aggressive as his style of play. Bold colorways offset even bolder stylistic features.
3. Adidas – Dame 6 – Damian Lillard
Abbie Parr/Getty Images
The rapper-athlete’s shoe might be as underrated as his game. Traction and control set Lillard’s signature sneaker apart. The shoes are very light due to the mostly mesh and knit construction of the upper. Arguably the best thus far in the series.
2. Nike – LeBron 17 – LeBron James
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Critics will say that the LeBron 17s are a bit heavy and clunky, which is debatable – but it makes up for that in performance and comfortability. There are also a ton of colorways to choose from as is the case with LeBron releases. Overall the LBJ shoe line rarely disappoints. Like its predecessor, the shoe’s upper is composed of battle-knit providing superior comfort.
1. Nike – Kyrie 6 – Kyrie Irving
Al Bello/Getty Images
With his mesmerizing handles and acrobatic finishes at the rim, Kyrie Irving has perhaps the most aesthetically-pleasing style of play in the association. So, it is fitting his signature shoe is the most stylish. Great traction and support while evolving of the Kyrie 5. Sneakerheads will also notice Nike lowkey ripped elements of the Yeezy 2 in this Kyrie model.
An exciting time for sneakerheads appears on the horizon as young stars like Zion Williamson, Trae Young, and Luka Doncic are sure to have signatures coming soon. Young is with Adidas while Doncic and Williamson are team Jordan Brand. All three are under the age of 20 and have had ridiculously spectacular starts to their career – the likes we’ve barely seen out of players this young. With Luka bringing a strong international appeal, Trae’s connection with Atlanta’s hip-hop scene and the Migos, and Zion’s Sportscenter leading nightly highlight reel – the next crop of players to get signature sneakers are probably ascending before our eyes.
What are some of your favorite signature sneakers? Let us know in the comments, below.