15 Hottest NBA Signature Kicks Since the 90s, Part I
It’s Gotta Be The Shoes.
The concept of a signature shoe endorsed by an athlete has a rich history. As far back as 1917, Converse was the first company to manufacture a sneaker named after a player. Converse’s “All-Stars’ were named after Charles Hollis “Chuck” Taylor. ‘Chuck,’ who jumped to professional basketball straight from high school, was born in Indiana in 1901. The ‘Chuck Taylor All-Stars’ were made of canvas shoe and rubber soles and dominated the shoe game until the 1960s. Hell, even Julius “Dr. J” Erving dunked for the first time in a professional ABA game in “Chucks.” Therefore, we present the “15 Hottest Basketball Sneakers Since the 90s.”
In 1972, the “Bruin” trainer debuted from a small startup founded by a former member of the Oregon Men’s Track team. That company was Nike and its CEO was Phil Knight. The sneaker was a game changer. The Bruin was made from leather and suede and became the must-have shoe for athletes. The next step forward in sneakers had to be in 1996. That year an iconic marketing campaign featuring a young baller from the Chicago Bulls and a filmmaker from Brooklyn debuted. Nike’s “It’s Gotta to be the Shoes” commercial starring Michael Jordan and Spike Lee as Mars Blackmon, premiered. Jordan and the commercial’s success started a sneaker revolution. Today, U.S. footwear sales have climbed to $25 billion.
FTS head writer is an amateur sneakerhead and has worn hundreds of sneakers over his lifetime. Granted he has never created his own shoe like designer Tommy Oleson, but he is knowledgeable enough to develop this list. FTS is using a few factors to come up with its list. First, is style, the sneakers need to look great. Second is the levels of success and notoriety of the player in the shoe. The last factor is the cultural impact of the sneaker on the basketball community. Our list is not based on sales, it’s not specific to one maker, and it’s unscientific, so just enjoy it. If you feel we left a shoe out of the list, hit us up and sound off.
15. Carmelo Anthony – The Jordan “M10” (2013)
By 2013-14, New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony was celebrating his 10th Anniversary with the Jordan Brand. The NCAA Champion for Syracuse had earned seven All-Star appearances, an NBA scoring title, Olympic gold, and cemented his legacy as one of the league’s elite players. To commemorate his Nike milestone, shoe designer Tinker Hatfield collaborated with Melo to create an innovative shoe.
The M10 debuted in ‘Gamma Blue’ and was constructed of full-grain nubuck leather. It featured Flight plate technology bearing Melo’s name, and orange accents along the laces. What better to celebrate the milestone than scoring 62 points (Knicks franchise and MSG scoring records) wearing his M10s.
14. Shaquille O’Neal – The Reebok “Shaqnosis” (1995)
Reebok’s fifth edition of the Shaquille O’Neal signature shoe debuted in 1995 when Shaq was a member of the Orlando Magic. The ‘Shaqnosis’ was designed by Jonathan Morris, who also designed the Kamikaze II and Court Victory II. Those shoes were worn by the Seattle SuperSonics’ Shawn Kemp, and Michael Chang respectively. The Shaqnosis was a totally new design by Reebok and was only available in the black and white colorway. Shaq’s size 22 foot in the sneakers distracted his opponents, allegedly. We believe the allegations. In 2013, Reebok re-released the Shaqnosis in new colorways.
13. Vince Carter – AND1 Tai Chi (2000)
The Tai Chi from AND1 is the first sneaker on our list not manufactured by the big three of the NBA shoe game during the 90s-2000s. Those being Nike, Adidas, and Reebok. Why do the Tai Chis make the cut? Well first, look at them. Props to the designer who came up with the innovative two-tone color scheme for a basketball sneaker. The two-tone also carried over to the custom laces, a great touch. The other reason the Tai Chi made our list is who wore them and when. We aren’t talking about Stephon Marbury or the thousands of streetballers who loved AND1 apparel and footwear. Mr. Half-Man, Half-Amazing Vince Carter wore the Tai Chis as a member of the Toronto Raptors.
The event was NBA All-Star Weekend 2000. SLAM online wrote when the sneaker was voted No. 9 on its “Top 20 Basketball Sneakers of the Past 20 Years,” Vince Carter pulled up in Oakland and promptly pronounced “It’s over!” with perhaps the single greatest Slam Dunk Contest performance ever. All with the Yin and Yang-inspired Tai Chis on his feet. FTS being transparent, our head writer rocked a pair of navy and white Tai Chis.
12. Grant Hill – FILA 96 “Hill 2” (1996)
Some fans may look at Grant Hill’s signature shoe and say Hill is not in the same class of Carmelo Anthony, Shaq, or Vince Carter. His shoe shouldn’t be on the list. Well, those doubters are wrong. Go watch a Grant Hill highlight package before his injuries on YouTube. He was a 6’8″ forward who could handle the rock like a guard, score over big men, defend four positions on the court, and set up his teammates. The former NCAA national champion at Duke was the 1995 NBA co-Rookie of the Year, a seven-time All-Star, and a five-time All-NBA team member. Italian footwear manufacturer FILA signed Grant Hill to an $80 million deal in 1997 and this minimalist sneaker with all the right details.
Kickologist described Grant Hill’s second signature shoe this way in the list of “50 Best Signature Shoes of All-Time,” The upper featured tumbled leather and navy blue patent leather trim along the silhouette. The heel was unique as the velcro strap allowed users to adjust to their comfort. On the lateral side of the shoe, the classic FILA logo is found on the ankle.
11. The Fab Five – Nike Air “Flight Huarache” (1992)
The Nike Air Flight Huaraches are unique. Scottie Pippen and Reggie Miller were two of the NBA greats who rocked Huaraches in game, but Nike didn’t design them for a specific player. Nike.com wrote for the 20th Anniversary shoe re-release, “The Nike Air Flight Huarache’s aesthetic swagger was in what it stripped away. A swoosh? No need for one. It’s not like this shoe could have been made by any other brand. That Dynamic Fit, exoskeleton, leather, and neoprene combined to make this one of the purest expressions of performance to date.”
Nike designer “Tinker Hatfield, assisted by Eric Avar — worked behind the scenes to translate the Huarache running technology to the courts. The design worked but took a crew of collegiate game-changers to give [the Nike Air Flight Huarache extra notoriety.”] The Michigan Wolverines 1991 recruiting class (known collectively as The Fab Five) that included future NBA’ers Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, and Jalen Rose wore the Huaraches in ’92 while they became the most famous collegiate basketball team on the planet. Jimmy King, Ray Jackson, with Rose, Howard, and Webber changed the college game forever and brought swagger to the NCAA. Rose, who is now a radio host for ESPN, believed that Nike designed the shoe for The Fab Five, but it ain’t the case.
10. Allen Iverson – The Reebok “Question” (1996)
Hall of Fame guard Allen Iverson revolutionized the NBA while playing for the 76ers, Nuggets, Pistons, and Grizzlies. He successfully brought the look and attitude of ‘street ball’ directly into NBA arenas and our living rooms. Over his 14-year playing career, ‘A.I.’ was a league MVP, an 11-time All-Star, and All-Star game MVP twice. However, his impact can’t be measured solely by his accomplishments. Specifically, Iverson changed the NBA culture with his fashion, corn rolls, tattoos, and a crossover so sick, it froze Michael Jordan.
SoleCollector.com wrote that The Question was Iverson’s most popular and recognizable signature shoe. Reebok introduced them for his 96-97 Rookie of the Year campaign. After Iverson famously wore Air Jordan 11s at Georgetown, designer Scott Hewett created a Reebok model that featured a similar red or blue toe-cap overlay, ghillie lacing system and translucent outsole. Players who wore them seemed to get two steps quicker on the floor.
9. Jason Kidd – Nike “Zoom Flight 95” (1995)
Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Kidd’s first signature sneakers were the Nike Air Zoom Flight 95. One-year prior, Kidd shared the league’s Rookie of the Year award with the Pistons’ Grant Hill. The current head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks will be an NBA Hall of Famer. He was a ten-time All-Star, a five-time All-NBA First Team member, and a nine-time All-Defensive team member. Kidd won an NBA Championship in 2011 and was a two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner during his pro career.
Hypebeast spoke with Nike footwear designer Eric Avar for the Air Zoom Flight’s re-release in 2015. Aver said, “Jason Kidd was essentially almost a running back’s physique in a lot of ways, but incredibly fast and very powerful,” Avar recalls. “We did want to design a shoe that could in a sense somewhat control a player like Jason Kidd with all his speed and power. He’s very explosive in that way.”
When the sneakers were re-released in 2015, Nike added additional colorways including Mushroom, Wheat, and Black and Red.
8. Steve Nash and Rajon Rondo – Nike “Zoom BB 1.5 Hyperfuse” (2010)
Nike’s Hyperfuse technology was engineered with outdoor ballers in mind, specifically inspired by China’s outdoor game. But that didn’t mean that NBA pros didn’t love this sneaker, especially guards. The BB 1.5’s weren’t designed for a specific NBA player, but Steve Nash, Rajon Rondo, and Andre Iguadola rocked this shoe in 2010. The Zoom’s ranked 23rd in Complex’s “25 Best Basketball Sneakers from the Past 5 Years,” and included on NiceKicks.com’s list of “Best Basketball Shoes of the Last Fifteen Years.” FTS even owned a pair of Zoom’s from 2014.