The 2015-16 NBA season kicks off Tuesday, with the defending champion Golden State Warriors taking on the New Orleans Pelicans and LeBron James’s Cleveland Cavaliers playing the Chicago Bulls. (The Atlanta Hawks-Detroit Pistons round out the opening night lineup.) While most of the attention will be focused on how Steph Curry, LeBron James, and Derrick Rose play, sneakerheads will also be looking at what they play in.
The NBA is the most stylish sports league, so it’s only right that its players step out in the freshest sneakers. Curry, James, and Rose are among the elite group of NBA players with their own signature sneakers and each recently unveiled new versions of his shoes for this season, with Under Armour, Nike, and Adidas respectively. Other NBA superstars like Kyrie Irving and Kobe Bryant will wait until the new year to drop their latest kicks, and look for recently signed Adidas athlete James Harden to come out with his first signature sneaker in the future as well.
It’s an interesting time for basketball sneakers, with guys like LeBron and Kobe reaching double-digits in terms of signature models while up-and-comers Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard dropped their debut shoes last season. So before the season gets underway, we ranked all of the signature basketball sneakers that will be taking the court.
1. KEVIN DURANT: NIKE KD 8
The low-top basketball sneaker has been gaining more and more traction on the court over the past five, and Durant has embraced the trend with his past three signature sneakers. This KD 8 might be the best yet, with its Flyweave upper that looks as good off the court as on.
2. STEPH CURRY: UNDER ARMOUR CURRY TWO
Curry deserves a signature sneaker befitting his status as an NBA champion and MVP. Even though his first shoe only dropped last All-Star Game, Under Armour is back with a second iteration in time for the new season to start. The new Curry Two features an upper that molds to a player’s foot and cushioning that adjusts when he’s cutting, driving, or shooting.
3. KOBE BRYANT: NIKE KOBE X ELITE
Kobe helped pioneer the low-top sneaker trend and is still one of the guys who pulls it off best. Even though the high-top version of the Kobe X was really high, drawing inspiration from a boxer’s boot, Bryant has been putting in a lot of minutes in the low. The Flyknit upper provides breathability and support, while the clear outsole adds style points.
4. KYRIE IRVING: NIKE KYRIE 1
At the risk of mixing sports metaphors, Irving hit a home run with his debut signature sneaker. The studded diamond pattern around the heel and jagged design near the toe give the Kyrie 1 an appealing geometric feel. The Kyrie 2 will likely drop sometime in January of next year and if leaked images are any indication, they will cement Irving’s signature sneaker status.
5. DERRICK ROSE: ADIDAS D ROSE 6 BOOST
Derrick Rose may be often injured, but the shoes that bear his name remain strong. The latest D Rose feature Adidas’s incredibly comfortable Boost cushioning and a unique collar system around the heel that locks your feet down.
6. JAMAL CRAWFORD: BRANDBLACK J.CROSSOVER2
The Los Angeles Clippers sixth man isn’t exactly who you would expect to have a signature shoe. But Crawford has partnered with upstart sneaker company BrandBlack and the results are impressive. The J.Crossover2 doesn’t look like other hoops shoes, in a good way, and feels new and fresh.
7. CHRIS PAUL: JORDAN CP3.IX
As Chris Paul has gotten older, he has had to evolve his game to rely less on blow-by-you speed and more on control and intelligence. His latest shoe reflects that. The CP3.IX has a nine-chamber Zoom Air cushioning unit in the forefoot that you can really feel working when you drive through the lane.
8. LEBRON JAMES: NIKE LEBRON XIII
Thirteen doesn’t appear to be a lucky number for King James. The latest edition of his Nike sneaker looks more like a hockey skate than a basketball shoe, owing to the Hyperposite material around the ankle. The Hyperposite serves an important purpose, protecting LeBron against impact when he drives to the hole, but it makes the shoe feel chunky.
9. JOHN WALL: ADIDAS J WALL 2.0
It’s easy to forget that John Wall has his own shoe, but don’t sleep on the Wizards point guard’s kicks. They have a durable, streetball-inspired design that doesn’t announce itself with a bunch of bells and whistles. The shoes simply look, and play, great.
10. CARMELO ANTHONY: JORDAN MELO 11
Despite his long history with Jordan, Carmelo has never really had a sneaker that captured people’s attention in a meaningful way. The Melos always seem a little too technical without needing to be. The Melo 11 is actually better than most, and the right colorway can really help the shoe, but you might be better off waiting for the Melo 12.
11. DWYANE WADE: WAY OF WADE 4.0
D-Wade has bounced around sneaker companies during his NBA career, starting with Converse and then moving to Jordan Brand before settling at his current home, the Chinese company Li-Ning. Despite the shuffling, Wade’s fourth Way Of Wade sneaker with Li-Ning boasts a unique design. The knock on it, however, is that it feels derivative. You can easily see the elements of the shoe that were borrowed from LeBron and Kyrie Irving’s models.
12. DAMIAN LILLARD: ADIDAS D LILLARD
The Portland Trail Blazers guard became the latest Adidas signature athlete last season. His first shoe was fairly meh, with the exception of a hiking boot-inspired colorway. Hopefully, the second incarnation will be more of a head turner.
13. EVERY PEAK AND ANTA SNEAKER
Prices vary, peaksportsusa.com and anta.com
Believe it or not, there are NBA players who aren’t sponsored by Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, and Jordan who also have signature shoes. Peak sponsors George Hill and Tony Parker (above), while the Chinese brand Anta creates kicks for Klay Thompson, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, and Chandler Parsons. But to be honest, without the NBA affiliation all the shoes would be the subject of “What are thooose??” jokes. The fact that they are hard to find in stores doesn’t help matters. To be kind, we grouped them all together.