NBA All-Star Weekend is many things. It’s a place to showcase great defense and the simple beauty of a humble layup. It’s a place free of gimmicks that pays homage to the integrity of Dr. James Naismith’s game.
Actually, it’s none of that. All-Star is an over-the-top bacchanal that combines millions in marketing dollars with the NBA equivalent of an And 1 Mix Tape. And that’s what makes it awesome. If the entire season was like this, it would be unbearable. But All-Star is a lot like Las Vegas. As much as you hate to admit it, you have fun jumping around to “Turn Down For What” and pounding Red Bull Vodkas. For a few days. Then you want to get the F out of Dodge as quickly as possible. That’s All-Star.
NBA All-Star is also a platform for sneaker companies to show off their craziest creations. From Michael Jordan rocking new Air Jordans to Dee Brown pumping up his Reeboks, these are the greatest sneaker moments in NBA All-Star history.
10. RAJON RONDO
Shoe: Nike Galaxy Foamposite One
The idea of doing a galaxy-themed sneaker for an All-Star Game is a bit of a no-brainer. Still, the Galaxy Foamposite generated a ton of hype when they were released (pairs still go for more than two grand). Rondo actually played in his pair and finished with eight assists in the All-Star Game.
9. LEBRON JAMES
Shoe: Nike Zoom LeBron IV
LeBron wore a couple different versions of his fourth signature sneaker at the 2007 All-Star Weekend, but the gold versions that he sported for the skills competition stand out. (It’s still hard to fathom that LeBron has never participated in the dunk contest but has done the skills comp.)
8. CHRIS WEBBER
Shoe: DaDa Supreme CDubbz
This was the era of 20-inch rims and C-Webb brought that vibe to the court with his chrome—yes, chrome—CDubbz. Spinners were still to come. No, we’re not kidding.
7. SPUD WEBB
Shoe: Pony City Wings
How the 5'7" Webb can touch the rim, let alone win a dunk contest, is tough to wrap your head around. But that’s just what he did in ‘86, defeating his teammate Dominique Wilkins. The fact that he did it in a pair of shoes that today’s players wouldn’t even consider hooping in makes the feat even more remarkable.
6. NATE ROBINSON
Shoe: Nike Foamposite Lite
If Dwight Howard, who had won the Slam Dunk Contest the year before, was Superman then Robinson needed Kryptonite to defeat him. He found it in a pair of bright green Foamposite Lites that transformed him into Krypto-Nate.
5. RASHEED WALLACE
Shoe: Nike Air Force 1
Like the dentist wearing Rec-Specs in your pick-up game, Sheed preferred Air Force 1 high-tops during his career. Modern technology can’t change the fact that “ball don’t lie.” For the 2006 All-Star Game, Wallace was joined by three of his Pistons teammates, and rocked a loud pair of high-top AF1s with ostrich leather and patent leather accents.
4. TRACY MCGRADY
Shoe: Adidas T-Mac 3
The colors of the All-Star jerseys were red and blue so why not have shoes to match? McGrady wore one red and one blue version of his Adidas T-Mac 3 sneaker on the court and dropped 13 points for the East.
3. VINCE CARTER
Shoe: And 1 Tai Chi
These shoes birthed Vinsanity. Carter had just ended his sneaker deal with Puma and And 1 didn’t know if he’d wear the brand’s shoes for the dunk contest. The shoes themselves were pretty tame, but what Carter did in them launched himself and And 1 into the stratosphere.
2. DEE BROWN
Year: 1991 Sneaker: Reebok Pump Omni Lite
Wearing cool shoes on your feet is one thing, calling attention to them is another. That’s what the Boston Celtics’ Dee Brown did during the 1991 Slam Dunk Contest. Brown depressed the basketball-shaped Pump on his Reeboks on national TV before reeling off a string of impressive dunks, including one with his eyes covered, on his way to the title.
1. MICHAEL JORDAN
Shoe: Nike Air Jordan 3
Jordan’s dunk from the free-throw line on his home court at Chicago Stadium in the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest is still the stuff of legend. Almost as legendary are the cement Air Jordan 3s he had on his feet. The shoes are still so coveted that when Jordan Brand announced it was suspending production on the 3s, you could hear the collective sneakerhead face palm.