It started with two words. “adding basketball” [sic] was the ground-breaking statement Kanye West fired off to his legion of Twitter followers in July 2018. Although far from his most philosophical of tweets, it was the one to get sneakerheads rabid with excitement. He was of course referring to the latest Yeezy line of trainers, confirming the two-year-old rumours that he’d been working on a basketball shoe, to be released in 2019. Is this the first time a luxury brand without a sporting pedigree has turned its hand to the basketball silhouette? Of course not. Off-White, Fear of God, Hender Scheme, Valentino, Berluti and Buscemi are just some of the names that have made them in recent years, none of which come below £500. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. There’s nothing fashion hasn’t appropriated. Can we even call them basketball shoes when they don’t have the tech to actually make them wearable on court? Who knows.
Michael Jordan, 1998
What we do know is, there’s no other sport that has such a grip on fashion, and particularly the sneaker industry. Air Jordans have been dominating the sneaker game since the first pair came out in 1984, and are arguably responsible for the market as we know it today, as well as the popularity of endorsement deals. In 2017, the Jordan brand’s wholesale revenue was at $3.1 billion, so it’s little wonder fashion brands want to cash in. And then of course there’s the matter of style. Just as many people purchase basketball shoes to be worn off court as they do on, and with good reason. Forget the chunky trainers of today, basketball shoes were the first statement sneaks, and some of the most iconic sneaker designs ever hailed from the hardwood – we’re talking Converse All Stars, Nike Air Force Ones, Air Jordan 1s.
Naturally they pair well with streetwear-inspired looks, loud colourways working with bold logo tees and wide-leg chinos or jeans; whereas muted all black or white versions can complement more minimal outfits. And their popularity is set to rise too. Enter Kanye and his plans with Yeezy’s big release. Could 2019 be the year of the basketball shoe? The Chicago native has been on the ball so far in his life as a designer – he was a major catalyst for the longline tops, oversized jackets and chunky trainers trends, after all. Until then, here are some of the top basketball shoes you can buy right now, in terms of style, performance and affordability.
The Best Fashion Basketball Shoes
Nike Air Force 1 Mid
The OG basketball sneaker. Yes, the Converse All Star was the actual first and remains a style classic, but the Air Force 1 really revolutionised the athletic shoe market. And yet, because of its popularity today people too often forget the AF1’s hardtop roots. While it wouldn’t hold up quite as well today in performance terms as it would when it was launched in 1982, the Air Force 1’s classic design ensures its style game is unparalleled.
Air Jordan 3 Retro
Air Jordans are often reissued but regularly sell out, meaning you have to act fast if you want a pair in a wearable colour. These 3s boast an iconic design, imitated by many, bettered by none, and come in white with a subtle baby blue sole – mimicking Jordan’s North Carolina college colours.
Converse All Star Classic High-Top
Like the Air Force 1, the All Star’s widespread popularity has meant the shoe’s original purpose is often forgotten. It was a basketball shoe first and foremost, but is a wardrobe staple today. Wear it with anything – from your tracksuit to your business suit – and it’ll look the part.
Fear of God Basketball High-Tops
Despite a wholly unoriginal design which borrows heavily from the AF1 and the Converse Weapon of the ‘80s, these Fear of God sneakers still demand a price tag of £800. Why? Because fashion. They are, naturally, made from high-quality calf leather and are assembled by hand in Italy, but more importantly they signal the next potential direction the luxury sneaker is heading.
Hender Scheme MIP-01 High-Tops
Rather than try to swerve its design inspirations, Japanese brand Hender Scheme offers all-out replications of the most famous sneaker styles of all – three guesses for where this one turned to. Constructed from a beautiful vegetable-tanned leather and with all branding stripped away, this is more like a work of art than a basketball shoe, which is reflected in the price tag.
Best Performance Basketball Shoes
Kobe A.D. NXT 360
Being hailed by some as the best performing basketball shoe of all time, this 2018 addition to Kobe Bryant’s signature line has been a triumph. It looks unconventional – more like a running shoe than a basketball sneaker – but features all of Nike’s latest tech including a next-gen ‘360’ Flyknit upper, React and Lunarlon foam built into a drop-in midsole and a unique wrap-around translucent sole. This basically translates into a shoe that feels like a second skin, yet has the cushioning and support of one twice as chunky.
Adidas Harden Vol. 2 MVP
Adidas falls some way behind Nike in basketball shoe sales, but it’s models like the Harden Vol. 2 that are boosting the German brand’s hoops stock. Made to celebrate its namesake James Harden’s MVP season, this black, gold and blue edition of the Vol. 2 features a sock-like inner that’ll mould to the wearer’s foot, a custom lacing system and Adidas’ patented Boost sole, meaning they’ll be as comfortable on court as off.
Nike Zoom KD11
Flyknit might be the most significant new shoe material in recent memory, given that it features on seemingly every new Nike trainer these days. It’s utilised to full effect on the KD11, the latest shoe in Kevin Durant’s signature line. It’s lightweight, comfortable and supple, and while these aren’t the most wearable off court in this colour way, it makes for a pleasing wool-like texture that complements more casual dress.
Under Armour Curry 5
Stephen Curry has single-handedly put Under Armour on the map. The NBA All Star and all round good guy made the switch from Nike to UA in 2013, and has effectively doubled the brand’s sales revenue since then. The Curry 5 is the latest and best performance shoe the company’s made – it’s lightweight, features a full-knit upper to hug the foot as well as Anafoam cushioning for soft landings.
Best Outdoor Basketball Shoes
Nike LeBron Soldier XII
An outdoor basketball shoe requires supreme cushioning and chunky rubber soles for the harsh concrete of local courts. These LeBrons offer just that, with their bouncy full Zoom Air unit in the sole, durable tread and crisscross strap offering secure lockdown over the top of the shoe.
Jordan Fly Lockdown
Jordans haven’t always been the cheapest of shoes, but these aren’t going to break the bank, coming in under £100. Not only will they work on the hardtop – their in-built Zoom Air unit ensures that – they’ll also work off court. The classic red and black Jordan colour way and futuristic design will pair well with a T-shirt and jeans.
Adidas Dame 4
An easy-to-wear style as suitable off court as on, Damian Lillard’s signature is a best seller for Adidas and it’s easy to see why. They tick the current basketball shoe obsession – a sock-like upper construction – but, importantly for outdoor hooping, they boast thick rubber soles, which almost pass for chunky trainer styling.
Best Cheap Basketball Shoes
Nike Kyrie Flytrap
A no-fuss, top quality pair that’ll serve you well indoors or out. Designed for quick, nimble players, the textured knit upper and Zoom air cushioning are a comfy combination, and the all black colour scheme ensures they’re inoffensive for a post game trip to the pub.
Under Armour Curry 3ZERO
While not the prettiest, these UAs are a steal coming in under £35. For that you get a Steph Curry signature spin-off shoe, complete with subtle ‘SC’ branding on the tongue. It’s a solid all-round performer that won’t fail to impress.
Nike Zoom Live II
This pair benefits from Zoom Air cushioning and Flywire cables for good lockdown on the forefoot – two things usually reserved for shoes way out of this price range. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a gum sole?
Nike Air Force 1 Low
Coming in at a full ten pounds cheaper than the mid-top (think of the beers), the Air Force 1 low is a design classic in its own right. It’s paved the way for numerous chunky low-tops and continues to be a staple over thirty years since it first came out – wear it with jeans, joggers, T-shirts, sweatshirts, the choice is yours.