Here at Sports Illustrated we have been celebrating the last decade of basketball this week. We have ranked all 10 finals, listed the best feuds, stories and, of course, honored the All-Decade teams. One aspect of the game that has evolved over the course of the last 10 years has been the rise of sneaker culture in the NBA.
Sneakers have been a part of the game since Chuck Taylor was a salesman. Michael Jordan’s rise as a global marketing star helped commercialize sneaker culture. In the 2010s, sneaker culture rose to new heights thanks to technology and social media. This past decade we have seen everything from unique collaborations, customizations, self-lacing sneakers, brands returning from the dead, and the explosion of sneaker superstars like PJ Tucker.
To celebrate the past 10 years, The Crossover reflected on nine basketball sneakers that defined the decade.
Nike LeBron VIII (2010)
The Nike LeBron VIII came right at the beginning of LeBron’s villain tour as the newest member of the Miami Heat. The sneaker featured a Max Air 360 unit combined with Flywire technology. The VIII also came with memorable colorways such as ‘Christmas’ and ‘Hardwood Classics’. But the one colorway that will go down as iconic in the LeBron line is the 'South Beach' edition that sneakerheads craved at the time of its release. It is one of the most sought after sneakers in history. The LeBron VIII also served as inspiration for a John Elliot and LeBron collaboration, the Icon, which combined the VIII’s full-length air tooling with a unique translucent upper.
Nike Kobe V (2010)
The Kobe V followed in the footsteps of its processor the Kobe IV—a lowcut model that resembled a soccer cleat more than a basketball sneaker. What made the Kobe V standout was the fun colorways the brand introduced, like 'Bruce Lee', 'Dark Knight', 'Rice High School', and 'Aston Martin', which drew inspiration from the Aston Martin commercial in which Bryant "jumped" over the car.
Nike KD IV (2011)
Kevin Durant doesn’t get enough credit for his sneaker line, especially when compared to peers like LeBron and Kyrie Irving. Durant has always had fun themes throughout his sneaker history but the KD IV took things to another level. The KD ‘Nerf’ colorway for example is currently $1,750 on the resale market via Flight Club. Other standouts include ‘Weatherman’, ‘Galaxy/All-Star’ and ‘Year of the Dragon.’
Nike Kyrie 1 (2014)
Kyrie Irving is one of the best signature stars in the NBA. The All-Star is everything you would want in a sneaker pitchman, and when Nike granted the young guard his own signature sneaker, his marketability skyrocketed. The Kyrie 1 did not disappoint with ‘Dream’ releasing as the launch colorway and the ‘Double-Nickel’ to commemorate his 55-point game against the Blazers in 2015. The Kyrie 1 was also the start of the Uncle Drew X Pepsi collaboration.
Under Armour Curry 1 (2015)
Aesthetically… is the Curry One a pleasing sneaker to look at compared to the others on this list? It’s not the best but it did signify the rise of brands outside the Nike and Adidas sneaker race. Under Armour reaped the benefits of signing Stephen Curry at the perfect time prior to his ascension as a superstar, NBA MVP and champion. Under Armour secured record sales at the height of Curry’s second MVP run.
Air Jordan XXXI (2016)
The 31st sneaker in Michael Jordan’s iconic signature line set up the future for the brand. The XXXI paid homage to the Air Jordan 1 for its 30th year anniversary. The shoe featured a flyweave and leather upper that included a number of iconic Jordan elements such as the original Air Jordan “Wings” and a faded swoosh. The launch colorway paid homage to the famous “banned” story.
Nike LeBron 15 (2017)
The LeBron 15 was a breath of fresh air for the LeBron line after a few misses. The 15 is without a doubt one of the best performance LeBron models and it did not disappoint aesthetically. The LeBron Watch activation kept consumers on the edge of every game because Nike released limited colorways that honored his favorite sport heroes: Deion Sanders, Ken Griffey Jr., Vince Carter and more. LeBron also introduced the sneaker at the KITH fashion show, which led to a great collaboration with the brand called “Long Live the King”. James also donated a pair of his 'Equality' LeBron 15s to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Nike PG 1 (2017)
No one knew what to expect when Nike granted Paul George his own signature sneaker. The star was coming off a horrific injury and many wondered if he could return at the same caliber. The investment paid off as the PG line has become a favorite within the NBA community and with consumers. George opened up to The Crossover in 2018 about his first signature shoe, “It was dope honestly because at the time I was hurt. I was injured and rehabbing from my injury, and for them to have that belief to back me up and be behind me, when coming off an injury and not even playing—they were unsure how I would come back to the game but that meant a lot and honestly in that moment. I was pretty emotional.”
Nike Adapt BB (2019)
Nike first introduced power lacing in 2016 with the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0. The sneaker was inspired by the Nike Mag featured in Back to the Future. But it wasn’t until this past NBA season when hoopers got the chance to experience the future of footwear in games. The brand introduced the Nike Adapt BB with the help of Jayson Tatum and Luka Doncic. "Being one of the first athletes to wear the shoe and being picked as a representative of the future of Nike basketball means a lot. That the app allows the ability to put the shoe on and touch the button, change the colors, see the percentage on the battery...it's just cool," Tatum said at the time of the launch.