NBA athletes have helped footwear brands move units since the early days. Bob Cousy partnered with PF Flyers in the 1950s, Clyde Frasier and Julius Erving signed deals with Puma and Converse respectively in the ’70s and Michael Jordan took the NBA endorser game to the next level. Moral of the story is that NBA players have, and always will sell sneakers. This summer a new wave of signature basketball shoes will hit the market via Giannis Antetokounmpo & Nike and Donovan Mitchell & adidas, so the signature NBA shoe wave doesn’t seen to be subsiding anytime soon.
With so many new and successful signature basketball shoes on the market we thought it would be fun to rank the top-10 best debut signature shoes of the last 10 years (2009-2019). Peep our ranking below!
10. adidas AdiZero Rose 1, 2010
Starting off our list are the shoes of a former league MVP, Derrick Rose. When D-Rose’s first signature shoe dropped he was the most explosive player in the NBA. In an instant Derrick would get from the 3-point line to the hoop with his otherworldly quickness. His AdiZero Rose 1s by adidas released in a time when lighter was infinitely better, and D-Rose’s first sigs were some of the lightest kicks on the market at 12.8 ounces. The shoes featured PUREMOTION technology that provided the AdiZero Rose 1s exceptional range of motion. Earlier this year adidas treated us to a retro of these quick kicks, and they were welcomed with open arms.
9. Jordan Brand Why Not Zer0.1, 2018
Russell Westbrook is just like his first signature shoe… an acquired taste. Jordan Brand doesn’t give their athletes signature basketball shoes very often, but Russ joined the select group after years of killin’ it for the OKC Thunder. We’ll look back at the Zer0.1 in ten years and think it looks contemporary due to its futuristic aesthetic. The Why Not Zer0.1 featured a shroud that covered the entire upper and a beautifully contoured heel counter for an unmistakable look. Westbrook’s first signature shoe will forever be remembered as his weapons of choice during his second consecutive season averaging a triple-double! With the Zer0.1’s on-foot Russ became the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double for two straight years; and footwear is always at its best when history is involved.
8. Nike Greek Freak, 2019
We’re stoked on the new Nike Greek Freak; but there’s no reason for the shoe’s release date to come after the NBA Playoffs. Excitement around Giannis’s first signature would’ve been much higher had we seen him play on the league’s biggest stage with these puppies on-foot. The shoes feature an exaggerated Swoosh and Zoom Air tooling for a forward thinking look that’ll help ballers glide to the rim with ease like everyone’s favorite Buck. We still don’t know a lot about the Greek Freaks, but we do know that they would’ve ranked higher on our list if they released earlier!
7. adidas D.O.N. Issue 1, 2019
We felt good about including these on our list since we finally have an official release date on the books (7/5/19). Much like the Dame 1, the D.O.N. Issue 1 will be one of the cheapest shoes on the market at $100. We’re assuming they’ll be armed with Bounce technology for springy responsiveness, but spec particulars aren’t why they’re on our list… it’s the friggin’ Spiderman colorway… how dope is that? During this year’s NBA Playoffs Don pulled out some formidable color ways of his first signature shoes, so we’re confident that other fire colorways will come down the pipeline this summer too. Mitchell is poised to make another leap in the 2019-20 season wearing these badboys, and we’re looking forward to seeing him break ankles and catch bodies in the D.O.N. Issue 1!
6. Nike PG1, 2017
Palmdale, California’s finest finally got a signature shoe after years of spearheading Nike’s on-court team basketball (Hyperdunks, Hyperchases, etc) presence. The PG1 was a super solid shoe that laid the groundwork for a line that’s only grown since 2017. Paul George’s kicks are another one of those shoes that hoopers of all ages enjoy wearing. Their forefoot Zoom Air units are bouncy, the colorways were dope and the price was approachable for a Nike Basketball shoe ($110). It might seem like price is everything, but it isn’t – we just appreciate it when quality footwear comes in at reasonable prices. The PG1 was a solid debut because they utilized one of the greatest basketball embezzlements of all time – the forefoot strap. Practical and fresh… long live the forefoot strap!
5. New Balance OMNI-1, 2019
If the quiet ones are always the most dangerous then Kawhi Leonard might be the most dangerous man in the NBA. New Balance hadn’t released a basketball shoe in almost a decade and no one thought they’d have the ability to snag headlines from the likes of adidas and Nike. Many thought the Raptors’s star was nuts for leaving Jordan Brand last year for New Balance, but Kawhi and NB has proven us all wrong. Very wrong. The OMNI-1 might not be the prettiest hoops shoe on the market but its making waves for a brand no one saw coming. All of this success for NB is due to their signing of Kawhi, literally all of it. Leonard’s signature shoes and exceptional on-court performance this year has single handedly made New Balance one of the feel good stories of the year.
4. Nike Kyrie 1, 2014
Kyrie Irving became one of the leaders of the NBA’s New School with his flashy handles and ESPN Top-10 ready highlights. Nike capitalized on their budding star’s popularity on many levels by releasing the Kyrie 1 at the perfect time. LeBron had just returned back to Cleveland so the Cavs were contenders again, Kyrie won the NBA All-Star MVP the season prior (2013-14), and scoring point guards like Irving were all the rage. Those three elements combined to create upward momentum around the Kyrie 1, but the Kyrie 1 was more than just hype – they were legit performers too. Great ankle protection, solid lockdown and fantastic traction were the hallmarks of Kyrie’s first signature shoe and the history books will surely remember these fondly down the road.
3. adidas Dame 1, 2015
Damian Lillard is the truth. Portland’s star point guard has been proving doubters wrong since he entered the league. Few projected Dame to be this good this quick on the NBA stage, but adidas showed faith in the Oakland native from the jump. His first signature shoe with adidas came out of left field but quickly became the sneaker of choice of adidas programs on all levels. They were sleek, snug and reasonably priced at $105 USD. Kevin Durant’s early releases with Nike were the last premier hoops shoes to cost as little as the Dame 1. Their accessibility was a nice gesture to families across the world without sacrificing performance or looks – solid job, Dame.
2. adidas Harden Vol. 1, 2016
James Harden’s exit from Nike to adidas was one of the best sneaker related decisions of the last 20 years (with that said, it would’ve been interesting to see how Nike handled a Harden signature shoe after seeing what the PG1 looked like). The Harden Vol. 1 mirrors the style of its titular star with perfectly placed modern and throwback design elements. James’s game is throwback in nature but has all the modern day touches; conversely the Harden Vol. 1 showcases throwback touches (ie. the leather toe box) with modern tooling (BOOST). It’s getting increasingly difficult to find technical hoops shoes that look good off court, but the Vol.1 found a way to successfully remain fresh away from the hardwood. There’s little doubt that James Harden is adidas Basketball’s biggest name on the roster and his first signature shoe properly started something special. Don’t be surprised if we eventually see an adidas Harden Vol. X, and when that happens, we’ll have the Vol. 1 to thank.
1. Nike KD 1, 2009
The Nike KD 1 barely made our list because they released in January 2009, but since they narrowly qualified we had to rank them numero uno! Kevin Durant’s first shoes act as a reminder of what the signature shoe game is all about… longevity. No one wants to have a one-and-done sneaker legacy; any athlete with his or her name on a pair of kicks hopes that the line lives long enough to see multiple releases. Durant has been very fortunate to have a decade’s worth of signature Nike footwear under his belt and it all started with the KD 1. From a design standpoint they’re a little dated; but it’s fun to see how far his shoes have come. Admittedly, the KD 1 kinda looks like a high-top bowling shoe and that gives them distinct character. It’s hard to tell from this angle but the KD 1 featured a split upper that commonly featured contrasting materials and/or color blocking (which was dope AF in some cases). The best features of the KD 1 were the Swoosh, logo and cushioning (they were big, but they were comfy too). We can argue all day about Kevin’s place in the NBA kingdom, but there’s no arguing the fact that the Nike KD 1 started a sneaker legacy. We’re hopeful that other signature lines on our list will enjoy sustained success but as of right now the KD line is winning.
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