The sneaker scene is as popular and faddish today as it ever was. In fact, sneakers have now become collectible items that people display and collect, as if they were old baseball cards or fossils that are priceless. It is almost alarming just how much money some sneaker junkies would pay for a pair of rare sneakers, even though they would actually never wear it themselves.
For example, Rapper Fat Joe displayed his closet full of sneakers on MTV Cribs in 2004. What was so remarkable about this display of sneakers is that most of them were never even worn. In fact, to demonstrate how new they were, Fat Joe entertainingly licked the bottom of his own sneakers, which interestingly enough were selling on eBay for $5,000. The reason why he was able to do that is because Fat Joe only wears his sneakers one time before discarding them. So, every shoe that you saw in his closet was brand new.
Sneakers are an expensive commodity, but people are willing to pay for them no matter what the costs are. I remember when I bought the first pair of Nike pumps that David Robinson was the posterboy of, and I (really my dad) paid a whopping $140 for them. And that was in 1990. Today, this is normal.
Talk to any sneaker junkie and they are willing to pay north of $200 for a pair of sneakers if it is rare enough, customized enough, and one-of-a-kind enough. With the explosion of basketball sneakers over the past 30 years, the types of sneakers that are out there are today are second to none. But these highly technological sneakers did not come out of nowhere. Their roots lie in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s in particular.
These are the Top-25 sneakers that have ever been made. Some are crazy looking, some are classic looking, and some are just plain old weird, but they are the ones that we will always remember because of the faces and commercials attached to them, in addition to their crazy design.
25 2014 Nike Kobe 9 EM & Elite – Kobe Bryant
These sneakers are also known as the Kobe 9 Low’s. These have the lunar insoles which are some of the most comfortable types of insoles that you can wear. If you look at the bottom of the shoe, you also know that they may have the best traction that you can get on a shoe. These are not high tops, but they are mid-tops, however, you do not have to worry about hurting your ankles because of its engineering and design, it can support even the weakest ankles.
24 1995 Nike Air Max – Penny Hardaway
In the mid-1990’s Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway was one of the hottest players in the NBA and so were his Nike commercials featuring Lil’ Penny and even Tyra Banks. Penny specifically endorsed the Air Max’s, which famously have the gigantic bubble on the bottom of the soul. These are not the best looking pair of shoes in the world, but they are classic because of Penny.
23 1998 Nike Air Zoom GP – Gary Payton
These are still one of the funkiest shoes that have ever been made. They have a strap and buckle that go right over the laces and completely covers them. They also had small circles running along the side of the shoe, which gave it almost a unique look. It almost looks like something a Ninja Turtle would where. It is definitely funky looking and there has never been a replica quite like it.
22 1997 Nike Air Flight Lite I – Scottie Pippen
These were an absolute hit when they first came out. These were one of the first pairs of sneakers that featured the air bubble going from the bottom of the heel all the way to the toes. Naturally, these sneakers were very innovative at that time and very popular with sneaker-heads.
21 2002 Adidas T-Mac 2 – Tracy McGrady
These were a solid pair of sneakers with a fairly clean look. This was T-Mac’s first line of sneakers when he came into the league. They were not your traditional high-tops, but more like mid-tops, which was not really that acceptable at that time. People were always afraid that mid-tops were not supportive enough for your ankles, so this shoe was sort of a trailblazer for busting stereotypes.
20 1992 Adidas Mutombo – Dikembe Mutombo
Mt. Mutombo was one of the most marketable players in the league with his Cookie Monster voice and his finger wagging after every block. These shoes are not the slickest looking, but they are one of the most special. They have a very thick soul on it and a bit more of a friendly look, which is just like Mutombo himself.
19 1997 Nike Zoom Flight V – Jason Kidd
I still vividly remember when these shoes first came out because the side of the shoe always reminded me of fly’s eye. The bug’s eye really serves no functionality, but it was more for stylistic purposes. These were Jason Kidd’s first signature pair of sneakers and one that no sneaker fanatic can ever forget.
18 1986 Adidas Attitude – Patrick Ewing
Ewing eventually had his own line of shoes, but before that, he was associated with Adidas and had a classic design on it. The Attitude was actually designed in France and not in America. And of course, they offered the white, orange, and blue, which are the same colors as the New York Knicks.
17 2014 Adidas D Rose 4.5 – Derrick Rose
Adidas signed Derrick Rose to a mega-contract right before he got injured, so they could not capitalize upon him as much as they wanted to in their marketing strategy. However, this is a very solid shoe overall. Much like the Kobe’s, these shoes have some of the best traction that you can have on any shoe, so, whether you are playing indoor or outdoor, they will help you from slipping. They are also extremely flexible, which allows for a lot of movement.
16 1994 Nike Air Max2 CB 94 – Charles Barkley
These first pair of sneakers were Barkley’s first line of sneakers. They sort of look like combat shoes because it looks like it has straps on the side and they go high above the ankles. They look tough and strong just like Barkley played when he was on the court. Even to this day, sneaker fans continue to love this shoe.
15 1999 Nike Air Garnett III – Kevin Garnett
Garnett is no longer affiliated with Nike, but when he was in the Nike family early on in his career, the Air Garnett’s were quite popular. The white, black, and blue colors gave it a unique look. And the bubble on the back of the sole made this shoe quite comfortable to play on. They had an Air Maz feel to them, but with a much funkier design.
14 1985 Air Jordan I – Michael Jordan
This is the very first pair of sneakers that came out in Jordan’s extensive line. In 1985, Jordan won Rookie of the Year and took the league by storm, and would eventually change the course of history for Nike. Unfortunately, former commissioner David Stern was not a fan of the colors and fined Jordan $5,000 every time he wore them in games. Of course, this did not bother Jordan at all because Nike gladly covered the bill for him to wear it.
13 1996 Reebok Kamikaze II – Shawn Kemp
The Reign Man, Shawn Kemp, brought these crazy looking shoes to life with his vicious dunks and histrionics. Kemp was at the top of his game during the mid-90’s, so he was super marketable to the younger crowd. This shoe does not crack the top 10, but is a pretty underrated shoe.
12 1992 Converse Aero Jam – Larry Johnson
Remember Grandmama? Those were some of the best sneaker commercials in an era where every sneaker commercial was pretty good. This edition was Larry Johnson’s second pair of sneakers. Converse usually does not get the best players in the NBA to endorse their stuff, but this line was a huge hit.
11 1996 Nike Air Penny II – Anfernee Hardaway
This was Penny’s second model with Nike. This sneaker was unique in that it had the Air Max bubble on the heel and at the same time, it had the Zoom Air at the front of the shoe. They were not the best looking pair of shoes ever made, but they were extremely comfortable.
10 1995 Reebok Shaqnosis – Shaquille O’Neal
This pair of sneakers look more like the stripes of a zebra than sneakers themselves. If you stare at them long enough, they have a way of hypnotizing you, which is why a lot of people bought them. It was the perfect design to fit Shaq’s crazy personality. If you wave them in front of someone's face, then count backwards from 10 to 1, you can get them to do your bidding.
9 2013 Nike LeBron XI – LeBron James
These were one of the most talked about shoes from last year. The LeBron XI’s look more like armor that a soldier of war or a Terracotta Warrior would wear, but these are actually shoes for basketball players. If you wear them, it is crazy-looking enough, that they will definitely get you a look or two if you wear them. Isn't that all we really want when spending a few hundred of sneakers?
8 1995 FILA Grant Hill I – Grant Hill
What makes these pair of sneakers so great is how timeless they are. FILA is not exactly a competitor with the other giant shoe companies out there, but this model did quite well. The classic red, white, and blue sneakers were fitting for the player who was the face of the shoe – Grant Hill. They did so well that FILA re-released them last year.
7 1998 Nike Air Foamposite One – Penny Hardaway
These were Penny’s first line of sneakers with Nike. He was the only player in the league that year that wore this shoe. Additionally, the foamposite on this shoe made it one of the most comfortable shoes ever made. This is one of the funkier shoe designs out there, with a metallic, shiny side to go along with its transparent, bubble sole. A cool shoe for an awesome player.
6 2009 Nike Air Max LeBron VIII – LeBron James
This was LeBron’s 7th shoe, but it was unique because it featured Nike’s Flywire technology on it. The bubble was not only on the bottom of the heel of the shoe, but it extended all the way to the toes. It is one of the coolest looking shoes out there. It also had LeBron’s number at the tip of the shoe. On one shoe it said “twenty” and on the other shoe it said “three.”
5 1991 Air Jordan VI – Michael Jordan
This pair of sneakers stand out in particular because Jordan wore these en route to his very first NBA Championship. It also had a rubber sole, which is pretty unique. Most sneakers use a different material on the tongue, but the rubber tongue is what made this pair of kicks stand out.
4 1996 Reebok Question – Allen Iverson
These were Iverson’s most famous shoes, which he wore when he famously crossed over Michael Jordan. It was almost like a symbolic moment where the torch was being passed from one player to another. Iverson is still one of the most beloved players to ever play the game, which is why these pair of sneakers will always be considered a classic.
3 Air Jordan XI – Michael Jordan
Jordan famously wore these pair of sneakers in his movie Space Jam. Now, there are a ton of different Jordan models out there, but this pair appropriately ranks in the top three. The black and white colors have a classic look to it, despite its darker color. If your purchase some of "Michael's Secret Stuff," you can also jump over aliens and make friends with Bill Murray.
2 2010 Nike Zoom Kobe V – Kobe Bryant
I am a little biased towards these sneakers because I still wear them. They are super light in weight, very stylish, and despite being mid-tops, they protect your ankles very well. This is not the first edition of the Zoom’s, but they may be the best edition of the Zooms. And performance-wise they are absolutely exceptional.
1 1987 Air Jordan III – Michael Jordan
These were the third edition to the original Jordan’s and many consider it the best shoe of all time. The shoe has the little bubble on the bottom, but it is not as flamboyant as your Air Max. It also has a very classic look to it. The midsole has polyurethane in it for a very comfortable feel and look. These sneakers had the ability to make you feel like you were walking on air and could play like Michael Jordan himself.