15 Hottest NBA Kicks Since the 90s, Part II
Who’s Number One?
Part II of our countdown is finally here. Last week, we revealed 15-8 of our hottest basketball sneakers since the 90s list. But we held back our top choices for this week. Some of the biggest names in the NBA make their first appearance on the countdown. Hopefully, we’ll piss off some sneakerheads by excluding their favorite shoe on our list. Let’s get back into the list, starting with number seven.
7. Kobe Bryant – Nike Air Zoom Huarache 2K4 (2004)
The Nike Air Zoom Huarache 2K4 were released in 2004, hence the name. Early on recently retired Lakers guard Kobe Bryant wore the sneaker and subsequently the 2K4’s have become one of Nike’s most popular designs. KicksonFire.com wrote about the shoe for its 2016 re-release, “the patriotic-inspired palette…covers the majority of its upper, while white converges along the tongue, laces, Swoosh branding, heel, rubber sole unit and toe cap. The Nike Air Zoom Huarache 2K4 features a soft inner sleeve in its design, the signature element of the Huarache technology. We prefer the midnight navy colorway, but Kobe being Kobe had Lakers’ specific variations of the shoe.
6. U.S. Men’s Olympic Basketball Team – Hyperdunks (2008)
The NBA had reached a tipping point in 2008. Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant as teammates had split up. Kobe was still a dominant player, but a new generation of stars was ready to take the league forward. For the next decade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, Texas University rookie Kevin Durant, and others would become the new faces of the NBA. 2008 was also an Olympic year and with Bryant, James, Melo, and Wade on the team, Nike wanted to make a splash. Nike uber-designer Eric Avar created the Hyperdunks, one the most innovative pairs of sneakers in recent history.
Per Bleacher Report’s Giancarlo Ferrari-King, “The Hyperdunk was the first Nike basketball shoe to feature Flywire and Lunar Foam. Flywire is a series of cables woven together that reduce weight while increasing stability. Lunar Foam is a lightweight cushioning platform meant to reduce the force of impact. Both became staples of Nike’s portfolio. The marketing campaign became a viral sensation. It featured Bryant jumping over a speeding Aston Martin. USA! USA!
5. Michael Jordan – Nike Air Jordan VI “Carmine” (1991)
Michael Jordan, the G.O.A.T’s impact on the NBA, basketball, and sneaker culture can’t be quantified. It’s too big. FTS has a conflicted relationship with his Airness. Growing up in his era of dominance, the walls of his bedroom had MJ posters. As we got older and became a hardcore Knicks fan, the posters came down and we hated everything MJ stood for. It’s one of the reasons our head writer has never owned a pair of Jordans. But we are being objective with our list and the Air Jordan VI are straight fire.
The Air Jordan 6 Carmine featured an internal bootie, a Porsche-inspired pull tab, and visible air unit. The sneakers were the first Air Jordans to have colored panels on the upper. Jordan wore the Carmines when he captured both the league and Finals MVP. The AJ 6 was “retroed” in 2014 and 2017.
4. Kevin Durant – Nike Zoom KD 9 “USA” (2016)
The Nike Zoom KD 9 debuted in 2016 as Kevin Durant’s ninth signature sneaker with Nike. The sneaker incorporated several new Nike technologies including a honeycomb-structured Flyknit upper. The shoes also had a visible Zoom Air Unit that runs from the heel to toe and sits on top of an articulated flex groove outsole.
Durant wore this “USA” flag-inspired colorway as a member of the 2016 U.S. Men’s Olympic Basketball Team that won a gold medal. The KD9 also are representative of two of the newer trends in basketball shoe design. They are lows (more on that later) and were released in a butt-load of exotically-named colorways, 21 to be exact. Somes of their names were “Fire and Ice,” “Aunt Pearl,” and “The Sauce.”
3. Penny Hardaway – Nike Air Foamposite (1997)
The Nike Foamposites are one of the more divisive shoes amongst sneakerheads. They are either beloved or hated. The Foamposite Ones were originally released in 1997 at a retail cost of $180. Why the high price tag? The sneaker was a whole new direction for the company and performance footwear creative director Eric Avar.
Unlike all of the Nike portfolio at the time, the Foamposite’s integrate plastic in the shoe and the molds had to be custom designed. Each mold cost $75,000. The sneaker’s look was inspired by beetles and although Orlando Magic point guard Penny Hardaway made them famous, they weren’t designed for him. Chicago Bulls forward and World Champion Scottie Pippen was going to wear Foamposite Ones as his signature shoe.
Once Hardaway got his hands on the shoe and it was featured in the popular Lil’ Penny campaign ads, it was a wrap. The Foamposite’s were the Penny shoe. The Foamposite was re-released this year in several new colorways.
2. Kobe Bryant – Nike Kobe Elite 11 “Red Horse” (2015)
Kobe Bryant has been accused of plenty. He’s been a cheater, diva, assassin, ball hog, champion, MVP, and the closest ‘next MJ’ of the modern era. In 2008, Bryant earned another nickname, trendsetter. When he sat down for a brainstorming meeting with Nike’s Creative Director Eric Avar, Kobe had one request, create the lightest and lowest basketball shoe ever. The Kobe IVs were the lowest basketball shoe on the market and looked more like soccer cleats than high-tops. With the exception of the Kobe 9 Elite, Bryant’s Nike signatures shoes have been lows. The Elite 11 feature a Flyknit-woven upper done in university red and summit white. They also have a white leather Swoosh and white sole.
The 11s were the last signature shoe Bryant wore before he retired.
1. Michael Jordan – Brand Jordan XIII “Flint” (1998)
In 1985, Michael Jordan, the air-defying guard from The University of North Carolina who hit the game-winning jumper against Georgetown for his first NCAA Championship signed his deal with Nike. Adidas offered Jordan $500,000 double Nike’s offer. Why did Jordan take less money from the Swoosh brand? Nike included something no one had ever done, a percentage of revenues from shoe sales. Nike also had an out clause. Air Jordan’s had to earn the company $3 million in the first three years. The Air Jordan I made $130 million in revenue.
In late 1997, Nike decided that the Jordan brand was so strong that it should become a sub-brand of Nike. This new sub-brand of Nike became The Jordan Brand. To celebrate this event, the first Air Jordan from the Jordan Brand was released: The Air Jordan XIII. Jordan Brand shoes do not feature any Nike logos and use the iconic Jumpman symbol as their logo.
The Air Jordan 13 design was inspired by a panther. Nike Designer Tinker Hatfield crafted a sneaker with a paw-like sole and a hologram on the upper of a panther. Inside the hologram, a basketball, the Jumpman, and number 23 are visible. The AJ 13 also incorporates Nike Zoom technology and is one of the most sought-after shoes of the Brand Jordan portfolio.
There is our final list. Did your favorite sneaker make the cut? Let us know in the comment section.