Basketball shoes have enjoyed a keen followership and clientele over the years, right from the Chuck Taylors era, down through Puma Clyde, the Magic-Bird rivalry, and the game-changer, Air Jordans by Michael Jordan himself.
That followership has skyrocketed over the years due to the elevated, mouth-watering deals of basketball shoes with signature designs by basketball players.
It is no secret that becoming a basketball player in the NBA with a pair of signature shoes is a huge honor and a quiet attestation to the greatness and/or popularity of the athlete.
Those signature basketball shoes come with a recent popularity that has been unmatched in the history of the basketball shoes market. Popularity is defined here by preferred footwear by NBA players and the shoes’ widespread positive review and acceptance, and the qualities of their features.
Leading Basketball Shoe Brands Worn by NBA Players
NBA players are often on the roll in their choice of footwear and that generally impacts people’s choices, too. Once the NBA relaxed its rules on what kind of shoes are allowed in the court or not, it has brought a lot of trendy, flashy attraction to basketball shoes.
The restriction on the color of basketball shoes that players are allowed to wear during games was changed in the 2018-19 season and players marshal that freedom with creative twists to their on-court sneakers.
Nike, for example, has been the dominant brand in the market for being very meticulous and quick with its collaborations over the years. They have been able to attract and create collections for Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and many more like them whose names are synonymous with the summation of the greatest names in the game.
They have also topped each production with novel designs like the UNDEFEATED x Kobe 4 Protro collection, Kyrie 5 x SpongeBob, 5x Friends pack, amongst others.
About 72% of the current players in the NBA have chosen basketball shoes by Nike as their main playing shoes. The last 2-3 years have seen a spike in preferences for the Jordan brand, Nike Hyperdunk X, Nike Kobe AD Exodus and Swoosh.
Adidas has perhaps been the closest and fiercest competitor to Nike, with the likes of PUMA, Converse, New Balance, and Chinese brands like Anta, Li-Ning, amongst others, also fighting for popularity among basketball players.
You can check our rankings, in no specific order, of some of the best, popular basketball shoes rocking the basketball world right now.
1. Nike Kobe 4 Protro
The Nike Kobe 4 Protro is part of the continued UNDEFEATED brand for the Kobe Bryant collection. The shoe was first released as an exclusive, with limited quantity.
This basketball shoe, released on the late player’s birthday in 2019, is a homage to aggressive style of play on court. Kobe was a high flying player, a power-dunking veteran, and the shoe is equipped with a synthetic upper and a molded external heel.
Also with an iridescent forefoot, the basketball shoes allow players to run on a fast break and make the transition offense play somewhat stress free.
Amplified by the sad news of his passing, the shoe had gone out of stock and Nike drew back on an immediate restock of his product.
It is important to also point out that the surge in the buying, especially by NBA players, was also their way of mourning his ill-fated helicopter crash through his signature sneakers.
The Kobe 4 is to be deposed by the new launch of Kobe 5 and that is already earmarked as both a design and popularity success even before the launch.
This is a crown of a long list of Nike Kobe Bryant shoes from the Nike Air Zoom Huarache 2k4 through Nike Zoom Kobe I to Nike Kobe X, 11 and the A.D and AD NXT (360).
The signature feature of the Kobe franchise has been the prized affirmation of being a design for everyone. Protects the ankle with valued straps at forefoot, boasts of innovative lacing technology, and has a performance push just by the foot for players.
2. Nike Kyrie 5
Kyrie Irving’s Rookie of the Year label might be well years past him now, but super-hyped Nike Kyrie 5 is just as a favorite as the 2011 NBA draft’s first overall pick. Add that to the shoe’s low price, Nike Kyrie 5 is a model you would struggle to hate.
Although the Kyrie collection is from 1 -6, Kyrie 5 remains one of the most popular shoes in the basketball game. It must be added that the Kyrie 6 is on the way up to being that also, with the increasing popularity among NBA players, it won’t be long before it slips into mainstream acceptance.
This shoe is built with Nike’s Air Zoom Turbo, whose cushioning is designed for what Nike itself calls “an explosive return of energy”.
With also an excellent collar padding for the ankle and an enclosure that is flytrap-style, the shoe indeed gives players the explosiveness to their games that is equally anchored on making several directional moves.
The Kyrie 5 collaboration was also with the Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants, and that includes the Kyrie 5 and Kyrie Low 2 with the collection’s inspiration being characters from the animated series.
That pop culture centrality has also contributed greatly to the Kyrie’s popularity and success with the game and series’ fans alike.
3. Air Jordan 34
The success of the Air Jordan series has led it to become a franchise that is as popular as the most dominant name in the history of the game itself.
The Air Jordans basketball shoes are named after Michael Jordan, and it was so commonplace, that many indeed felt they could fly with the shoes.
About 34 different models of the Air Jordans have been released since Air Jordan 1 debuted. But the Air Jordan 1 remains the iconic and very popular model that ushered in other models down to Air Jordan 34 that was released on 25th September 2019.
The commercial success and popularity of the Air Jordan has made it so impossible to be ignored, even touted that its enormous annual potentiality can lead it to being a steady $3billion brand.
Nike’s Jordan brand currently earns a bill worth four times LeBron James’ in terms of earnings from their sales and endorsements.
Comes in within that popularity aura is the Air Jordan 34. The shoe was called a substitutionary revolution when compared to other previous models with the desire to basically design a shoe that is more lightweight and more effective.
The shoe’s playbook is from the quilted leather-type materials that are used in the 20-23 shoe brands, with the 34’s laces concealed. This has a zipper enclosure from the forefront down to the ankle collars to provide support.
It is a glossier design and the shoe is designed for all types of playing styles, either for players who are high-flyers or those who are scoring and shooting machines. Generally, it is quite lightweight and fashionable.
4. Nike Russell Westbrook Why Not Zer0.2
It is only fitting to mention straight away that the Russell Westbrook Why Not Zer0.2 is the signature brand of Russell Westbrook under the Jordan signature shoe.
In terms of its colorfulness, it is a comrade to the Jordan 34.
Called the “Future History” upon release, Nike says the shoe’s design is a representation of Westbrook’s style of play, which is calculated chaos.
This basketball shoe has a heel support with a phylon built-in which also gives an excellent lockdown.
5. Nike Zoom Freak 1
The Nike Zoom Freak 1 is the debut signature shoe for Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek international made history by becoming the first basketball player from Europe to have a signature sneaker in the Nike signature shoe market.
The Nike Zoom freek 1 is designed to have an extra cushioning because of its double-stacked heel units. It features a forefoot lockdown, especially for high-impact players; a multidirectional traction that gives adequate grip, control, and stability to their play.
The shoe also made a market success because of its relatively cost-effective price.
The Nike Zoom Freak 1 remains a great addition for players who value stability without compromising speed and agility.
6. PUMA Clyde Hardwood
Quite unpredictably (perhaps not), PUMA returned into the market in 2018 and upped its Clyde series with a new improvement.
There was the launch of the Clyde Court Disrupt in October. This was the follow up to the PUMA Uproar prioritizing features like the ignite foam, the HYBRID cushioning tech, providing heel support that allows for different moments, among other things.
The history of the PUMA Clyde franchise is that of Walt Clyde Frazier. He made the PUMA Clyde which was where the shoe culture for the PUMA brand started in the 1970s.
The 2018 return signaled a new shoe as part of the unfolding performance-focused brand – the PUMA Clyde Hardwood.
The shoe is packed for increased stability due it is more structured upper material. The shoe also fuses PUMA’s best performance technologies in the past with.
Furthermore, it gives a feel of the original, quintessential Clyde sneakers, designed as such so that players can have their game and high-tech feel when they step to play on the court.
7. Nike LeBron 17
LeBron James has established himself as perhaps the biggest player in the NBA. As expected, his brand will command as much popularity as his name in the game.
Nike has created a brand of several models for one of the best in the game’s history. These include the Nike Air Zoom Generation, Zoom LeBron 2-6, the Air Max LeBron 7, LeBron 8, down to the 17.
The Nike LeBron 17 features combine all the players speed, agility and strength into a perfect, all-cushioning, all-support shoe for the game’s domination.
The increased cushioning is due to its feature of two independent Air Zoom pods. They are on the forefoot, with the largest heel Max Air unit, maintaining the design of its previous model, but still providing the aggressive feel, stability, and comfort that the shoe requires both for the look and feel of durability.
8. Adidas N3XT L3V3L
The Adidas N3XT L3V3L’s greatest compliments have been about it being a laceless shoe.
Apparently, having no laces is a big thing, really, but the beauty of the shoe and design far outweighs that.
First, having no laces doesn’t make it slippery. That there is no way to tighten the shoe to the foot is not a disadvantage. The shoe is designed to be worn with fitted straps around the feet.
The shoe has a new foam at the midsole, called Lightstrike, which makes it a totally comfortable wear and a Primeknit upper that makes is stick just like a gum.
Trae Young, the Atlanta Hawks prodigy, is fast becoming the torchbearer for a shoe design poised to be the design for the future.
9. Nike KD12
The Nike KD 12 is in the current top 3 basketball shoes in the league. Nike’s feature summary of the signature sneaker is somewhat funny as it is witty and true.
No doubt, Kevin Durant’s game is built on an explosive attacking style even when it is difficult to judge his cool personality.
His game, which makes him a difficult player to guard and an all-round player to stop, is what the KD 12 is predicated on – dominance and endless energy.
This shoe is predicated upon a cushioning tech unrivaled in the Nike Zoom Air technology innovation. The shoe gives great grip in all direction moves without any fear of slippage while playing.
10. Adidas Harden Vol. 4
The Adidas Harden Vol. 4 is James Harden’s hottest signature shoe in the harem of his brand. Just like the previous versions before it, it is also a low-top shoe, but with a slightly elevated ankle collar somewhat above the Achilles. Clearly, the motivation is to offer ankle protection and more stability.
There is Lightstrike cushioning at the midsole which provides support for players, with a midfoot band for those who make hard cuts towards the basket.
Reviewers on major basketball shoes database or buyer’s guide rank it one of the best in the league and popularity among fans alike.
11. Under Armour Curry 7
The appropriate thing is to give an honorable mention first to the Curry 6. Before Under Armour Curry 7 showed up, it had stayed up. As an elite model in the Steph Curry’s collection, the shoe towers in comparative excellence with the engineering innovation and marvel that went into it.
The shoe, for example, possesses a translucent rubber outsole which enhances its traction. It is also a well-ventilated shoe and after long sessions, you won’t panic over sweaty feet. That’s part of the attraction the Curry 6 brings.
The UA Curry 7 comes in different shades, too, like the Pi Day, Bamazing, et al. The upper material is layered with a translucent synthetic leather and mesh.
More so, there are TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) skins that support mobility, stability, and comfort due to reinforcements in the zonal areas.
There is also form padding at the heel for extra comfort. In all, the shoe has different grip layers which is adaptive to the applied force from users or players.
12. Converse All Star Pro BB
It might be a perfect closure by ending where it all started – Converse! But the Converse All Star Pro BB is not an improved brand to the Chuck Taylors.
The history behind the Converse brand is rich. You’d recall that it was the company then — long before its acquisition by Nike — that debuted the Non-Skid. That was the initial attempt to design a shoe specifically for the sport.
This was followed by the interventions of Chuck Taylor who was then a Converse salesman, having had a semi-professional basketball career himself, to canvass for a shoe that caters for the athlete’s foot and the sport.
Somewhat, dominant brands like Nike, Adidas, et al, took over the scene, but the history of the firsts have been revived with Nike’s introduction of the Converse All Star Pro BB.
The shoe is a synthesis of that history with Nike’s innovative technology. The core intent of the shoe is its lightweight minimal feel and responsive cushioning to give maximum performance.
It is constructed with Quadfit mesh upper that is encased quite naturally for a top lockdown, and this is with a drop-in lightweight, responsive, and durable Nike React foam. This easily allows players to make quick runs, cuts, lift-offs, and still sustain their on-court play.
This is, by no means, an exhaustive list, as it will imply that the likes of New Balance OMN1S, or Adidas T-Mac Millennium, or the Nike Adapt BB, are undeserving of mentions beyond honorable reference here.
It is also currently and generally a whirlwind of other potential popular designs like the Nike Adapt BB 2.0, Jordan Jumpman 2020, Adidas Pro Model 2G, Nike Kobe 5 Protro (quite anticipated), amongst other models, fitted perfectly to take over where this list might flounder in the coming months.
What remains ever consistent, judging over innovations and ability to evolve, is that there will always be brands whose signature sneakers might be here to stay for a longer while.