Every kid who grows up playing basketball dreams about a lot of accomplishments and career achievements. You want to make the varsity, and then start on the varsity. You want to earn a scholarship to a Division I school, and then you want to become an All-American at that college. You want to be good enough to get drafted, and you want to make an NBA roster. But perhaps one of the biggest dreams of any kid growing up shooting hoops in the driveway is that maybe, someday, you'll be legendary enough to have your own, signature shoe.
Going back to the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star, putting a name on a basketball shoe has turned players into superstars, and lined the pockets of sneaker companies with billions of dollars in revenue. Larger than life personalities are born out of shoe commercials, like the old Michael Jordan ads featuring Spike Lee as Mars Blackmon, which kept asking the question, "Is it the shoes?" Well in a lot of cases, the answer is that yes, it is the shoes - at least, in terms of taking an enormous basketball talent and making him a transcendent figure in the sport. Some shoe companies have been better than others when it comes to rolling out signature basketball shoes, and in some cases you're left scratching your head, wondering why anyone thought it'd be a great idea to sell a $15 Stephon Marbury shoe in the first place. With all of that in mind, let's take a look at some of the coolest, most iconic signature shoes in NBA history.
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15 Fila Grant Hill (1995)
It's not often that you associate the company Fila with basketball, as the Italian company has always been known as one of the leading tennis clothing companies in the world. But in the mid-1990s, Fila dove into the world of professional basketball in a big way, signing Grant Hill to a deal and introducing the Fila Grant Hill signature shoe. The company also signed Jerry Stackhouse and Chris Webber, but it was the Grant Hill signature shoe that really put them on the map, at least for a little while.
14 Reebok Question (1996)
Allen Iverson had a funny sort of career. He should have been one of the most bankable stars in the NBA throughout his career, but his tattoos and sketchy history kept his team and the NBA from promoting him the way they probably should have. That didn't stop Reebok, however, as the shoe company introduced the world to the Question (a play on the fact that Iverson's nickname was the Answer) in 1996, when he exploded onto the scene in the NBA. The Question became the first in one of the most successful signature shoe lines in hoops history.
13 Nike Air Penny I (1995)
Before Iverson burst onto the scene in 1996, Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway was skyrocketing toward superstardom. The 6-foot-7 point guard from Memphis could do it all, and had a big time teammate in Shaquille O'Neal to form what could have been a dynasty. Unfortunately, Penny's career was marred by injuries and he never became the player many expected. Still, he was part of the Lil Penny campaign for his signature shoes - with both the shoes and the commercials becoming some of the best and coolest in NBA sneaker history.
12 Reebok Shaq Attaq (1993)
Speaking of Penny Hardaway's old teammate, Shaquille O'Neal, the Diesel had numerous signature shoes with multiple companies over the course of his career, and while some people might lean toward the Shaqnosis as the best of the bunch, we're partial to the Shaq Attaq - which he wore for the Magic as he was repeatedly tearing down backboards early in his career. The greatness of the Shaq Attaq was in their simplicity, coupled with the Pump technology that was ruling the roost in that era thanks in large part to Shaq.
11 Converse Aero Jam (1992)
What really makes for a great signature shoe, anyway? Well, it has to be attached to a marketable personality. It has to look cool. And if possible, it has to be featured in a memorable advertising campaign. In the case of the Converse Aero Jam, all three of those boxes were ticked off with Larry Johnson and the Grandmama campaign. Converse had always been hovering around the edge of coolness in the basketball sneaker world, but it was the Aero Jam that pushed the company, however briefly, into the stratosphere.
10 Air Jordan VI (1991)
Honestly, there are enough cool versions of the Air Jordans to populate their own list, but we've tried to cut it down to just one or two. A lot of people have their favorites, from the Air Jordan III, to the XIII, but for our money some of the most iconic kicks Jordan ever wore were the Air Jordan VIs. This is the shoe that Michael Jordan had on his feet when he was lifting the NBA championship trophy for the first time, and versions of the shoe were also worn by Jerry Seinfeld on his show, and by Batman himself - Michael Keaton - in that movie. Now that's a legacy.
9 Nike Zoom Flight The Glove (1998)
If ever there was a signature shoe design that fit its endorser, it was the Nike Zoom Flight Glove. Named for Gary Payton, the design focused on making sure the sneaker fit the owner's foot like, well, a glove. It came complete with an outer "bootie" that could be either zipped up around the shoe to really secure your foot, or abandoned for a more traditional look. Obviously, Payton opted for the bootie that made the sneakers so distinctly his.
8 Nike Air Pippen I (1997)
Most people probably don't even remember that Scottie Pippen had his own signature shoe, let alone multiple, but when the Nike Air Pippen I came out in 1997, the basketball shoe loving world took notice. The sneaker, like Pippen, was often overlooked and overshadowed by a guy on his own team, who just happened to have the most famous kicks on the planet. But the Air Pippen line, as briefly as it lasted, produced some of the coolest, sleekest signature shoes around.
7 Reebok Kamikaze II (1996)
Just like with Scottie Pippen, people tend to forget that Shawn Kemp had his own signature shoe line with Reebok back in the 1990s, and just like with Penny Hardaway, people tend to forget just how darned good he was at playing basketball in that era. One of the most vicious dunkers in NBA history, the Reebok Kamikaze II reflected Kemp's style and ferocity on the court. Kemp had one of his best seasons while wearing the Kamikaze II, and he and Payton led the Sonics to the NBA Finals during the year he was rocking these iconic kicks.
6 Nike Air Max 2 CB34 (1994)
It's kind of funny, but it feels like no one really recalls the context for the famous Charles Barkley line, "I am not a role model." It was actually part of a Nike ad campaign, and Sir Charles was one of the company's biggest stars in the 1990s. In one of those seasons, Nike introduced the most memorable Barkley signature shoe - the Air Max 2 CB34, which bears the distinction of not just being a really cool shoe, but also boasting one extremely long name. Something about the tough and edgy design spoke to Barkley's personality, and completely fit the way he played with reckless abandon on the court.
5 Adidas Attitude (1986)
Michael Jordan wasn't the only young star to get a signature shoe in the mid-1980s, as Knicks legend Patrick Ewing took the court in 1986 rocking the Adidas Attitude. The Attitude had a very simple look - in fact, you could argue that all of the signature shoes being released by Adidas, Nike, and Converse all looked extremely similar - but that didn't stop the Attitude from being a massive success for Adidas and Ewing. The shoe has since become a highly sought after retro kick, though the signature line didn't last very long since Ewing left Adidas after just a couple years to create his own signature shoe company.
4 Nike Air Max CW (1995)
Of any shoe on this list, this one might cause the most head scratches from people who may not remember just how cool these shoes were, and just how big Chris Webber was when he came into the NBA. But just hear us out, because the Air Max CW was truly one of the coolest looking shoes in the 1990s, and Webber was the perfect star to bring them into the league. Every kid in the '90s wanted to be like the Fab Five, and Webber was that breakout star of that show. When he got to the league, Nike gave him a shoe that was similar, but far more hip and stylish, than Charles Barkley's Air Max counterpart.
3 Nike Air Foamposite One (1997)
Few basketball shoes have changed the game quite like the Nike Air Foamposite. No one was entirely sure what to make of them, but everyone wanted them. The problem there, of course, was that they came along as the most expensive basketball shoes on the market by a very wide margin. These signature shoes were worn by Penny Hardaway, and cost $180, a price point that is still extremely high, 18 years later. The Foamposite One was sleek, it was stylish, and it looked like something from a completely different world. This is the moment when basketball shoe designers realized they could be really experimental with their designs.
2 Converse Weapon (1986)
We're on tricky footing (excuse the pun) with the Converse Weapon, since it wasn't technically a signature shoe of either Larry Bird or Magic Johnson. However, the duo made the sneaker world famous through ads and posters and, oh yeah, by torching the NBA while wearing them. The Converse Weapon is one of the most iconic sneakers in league history, holding its own against a certain sneaker juggernaut we'll get to in just a moment. Special editions of the Weapon have been worn by the likes of Kobe Bryant and Andre Miller, and even Axl Rose rocked them in a Guns N' Roses video.
1 Air Jordan I (1985)
Seriously, how could you expect anything else? When it comes to signature basketball shoes, it begins and ends with Air Jordan, and you really have to go back to where it all started with the Air Jordan I. It's not as fancy or flashy as the later editions, but the sneaker that Michael Jordan wore while torching the Celtics for 63 points in a game in the 1986 playoffs remains one of the most beloved signature shoes in history. There's really no question, it remains the greatest signature basketball sneaker of all-time.
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