Even 30 years on, we’re still in Michael Jordan’s world in today’s NBA. Any budding superstar will be compared to him, fairly or not. He still holds a wealth of the NBA’s record stat lines, and it’s questionable if some of those will ever be beaten. Also, his signature shoe paved the way for stars of his own era – and the next – to be immortalized in leather and rubber. Many of those are still in production; the Air Penny still sells by the bucketload and Reebok frequently retro their Shaq Attaq Pumps. The current generation of superstars have signature shoes that will also surely outlive their playing careers. Let’s have a look at some of the best.
Nike x Spongebob Kyrie Irving 5
The Kyrie line has long been a favorite of amateur players due to its lightweight and great court feel – this is a shoe for interior work and ankle-snapping your opponents rather than a massively cushioned unit for dunk landings. It was reported that on its 2018 release, Nike had more units made and ready to go than any other shoe previous. And if Kyrie is famous for crossovers, then Nike made an even more spectacular one with their Spongebob collab.
Released in 6 distinct finishes (tongue, heel and sole work, not just colorways), they sold out instantly and are now only to be found on the secondary market for at least double their MSRPs of $110 (low top) and $130 (high top).
If money were no object, the smart choice may be the versions celebrating Spongebob’s house; there are few taunts better than telling an opponent they just lost to someone with pineapples on their feet.
Jordan Why Not .5
If we look around the modern NBA, Russell Westbrook’s game is instantly identifiable. Similarly, halfway between the court and the catwalk, his shoes don’t look like anyone else’s. And, like his game, they’re going to elicit strong opinions. His Why Not .
5 features strong forefoot traction for explosivity off the dribble and signature Brodie touches like the ‘Honor The Gift’ heelstrap noting Russ’ other fashion brand. The ‘Inner City’ sand colorway has big ‘Luke Skywalker on Tatooine’ vibes; fitting for a player who frequently wants to take on the entire galaxy by himself.
Adidas D Rose 773 III
If Goose Island chose to celebrate Chicago’s downtown 312 area code with their beer of the same name, then Englewood-bred Derrick Rose set on 773; the code of the neighborhoods, of the working Chicagoans. This shoe is noted for its sturdy leather construction and excellent traction on concrete courts.
It’s – perhaps poignantly – very accommodating to ankle braces. Originally released in 2014, the 773 III has stayed in production since and can often be found under $100, making it a great choice for a shoe you’re not too worried about getting rough and ready.
Nike LeBron 19
While basketball fans will be arguing about different eras and legacies between MJ and LBJ for decades to come, Jordan is definitively winning the battle of the sneakers right now with 26. LeBron’s hot on his heels tho, and with a similar legacy deal, will have shoes under his banner long after he hangs up his jersey.
The recent release of the LeBron 19 “Chosen 1” was designed to celebrate the King’s homecoming during the Cleveland-based All-Star Game where he reminded us all he’s far from a spent force yet, no matter the Lakers’ current travails.
This colorway has a subtly understated streetwear slant, with gold flashes on a dark green upper and cut a more classic silhouette than the pseudo boxing boot styles of some of the earlier models. These wouldn’t look out of place in the boardroom. Is Bron dropping hints?
Jordan Zion 1
Debuting in April 2021, Zion Williamson’s signature shoe still only has one model, albeit in various colorways. Thus far, the ‘Noah’ and ‘Marion’ schemes have featured deep contrast between the rear and forefoot sections, to indicate the duality of the New Orleans star’s game.
Two new colorways are scheduled – ‘Duke’ – featuring the blue and black of his alma mater – and ‘Pelicans’ in soft pink. Jordan are aiming to tie their releases on his return to court from an extended layoff with a broken foot. Pelicans fans will be dearly hoping it’s the imperious Duke Zion who lines up, no matter which of the two he’s sporting.
Currently, 19 NBA stars have their own signature shoe, and it’s soon to be 20. Jimmy Butler will finally have his own signature released by Li Ning this Spring; he signed with the Chinese maker in 2020 but has been limited to wearing their other lines in exclusive colorways thus far.
Jayson Tatum confirmed in December his Jordan model will be on Boston shelves imminently. And when highlights reels sell shoes to casual fans, Ja Morant’s disrespect for gravity should surely make him number 22. Who will be player 23? Famously, that’s Jordan’s number. That’s some big shoes to try to fill.