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Updating and Ranking the Top 25 Sneakers in NBA history

Sneakers play a big role when it comes to playing basketball. They not only help players look good on the court, but they also play a role when it comes to increasing the popularity of a player and improving player performance on the court. It’s why today we’re going to rank the best basketball sneakers and NBA player shoes of all time.

Throughout the NBA history, iconic players have worn sneakers with varying designs, brands, and material. There’s no question that these shoes would also help fans bring closer to the game they love, giving fans a channel to patronize the players they love.

There are quite a number of unforgettable sneakers that have won the hearts of NBA fans. However for this piece, let us update and rank the top 25 best basketball sneakers in NBA history.

25. Under Armour Curry 1

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Year released: 2015

Worn by: Stephen Curry

To start off this list, let’s start with the sneaker that gave the Under Armour its breakthrough in the basketball sneaker industry, the Under Armour Curry 1. Stephen Curry is arguably the most influential player of this generation, after claiming two league MVPs and three NBA championships, marked by his accuracy from long distance.

The Under Armour Curry 1 was worn by the Warriors star when Curry won his first MVP and first NBA title with the Golden State Warriors in 2015 when they outlasted Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

With Stephen Curry’s rise to basketball success, Under Armour made the right choice in signing the Warriors guard. After releasing the Curry 1, Under Armour sales improved by a mind-boggling 754% during the second quarter in June 15, 2015. Because of this iconic sneaker, Under Armour emerged to become of one of the top competitors in the basketball sneaker industry that already has sports giants in Nike and Adidas.

24. Nike Kobe 6

Kobe Bryant, Lakers

Year released: 2011

Worn by: Kobe Bryant

The Nike Kobe 6 is just one of the most iconic sneakers of late Lakers great, Kobe Bryant. The Lakers superstar was also dubbed as The Black Mamba, which this sneaker gave a nod to. The Nike Kobe 6 had a snake skin finish as its outer layer, made of polyurethane.

In the line of Kobe shoes, this was one of the ones that stood out. In fact, even the Black Mamba loved this shoe as he said

“The Kobe VI is a very character driven shoe with the alter ego of the Black Mamba prominently featured. We continue to evolve the technology to make it a performance based shoe, but aesthetically you haven’t seen a shoe pop like this before. It brings to life what drives me.”

Kobe Bryant would wear the Nike Kobe 6 in the 2011 NBA All-Star game which saw him win his final All-Star Game MVP of his career.

23. Nike Penny 1

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CP

Year released: 1995

Worn by: Penny Hardaway

Penny Hardaway was on the rise during the 1994-1995 season, averaging 20.9 points, 7.2 assists, and 4.4 rebounds which was good enough to declare him a NBA All-Star, the first in his career. Furthermore, Hardaway would shine alongside superstar center Shaquille O’Neal as they both brought the Orlando Magic franchise to relevancy. With Hardaway shining bright, the Magic won a franchise record of 57 games and reached the NBA Finals during that season.

Nike would produce one of the greatest signature sneaker lines in history with the Air Penny. The legendary signature line started off with the Nike Penny 1. The Nike Penny 1’s details and design preached a unique concept which was versatility. Its features include Air Max2 Cushioning, lightweight support, and the first ever release of Hardaway’s 1 Cent logo. It was not only a unique sneaker design that suited well with Hardaway’s basketball playing style but it also had a fantastic design that looked great on the court.

22. Fila Grant Hill 2

Joel Embiid, Grant Hill

Year released: 1996

Worn by: Grant Hill

Fila isn’t as popular as big time sports apparel brands such as the likes of Nike, Adidas, or Reebok. However, they did make a lot of noise in the sneaker realm when they released arguably their best sneaker, the Fila Grant Hill 2 in 1996. Grant Hill was a rising star at that time for the Detroit Pistons, averaging 20.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 6.9 assists per outing. He even wore this sneaker during the 1996 NBA All-Star Game. His all-around play and all-star caliber skills on the court also helped in making Fila hit the jackpot in this one.

Fila signed the former Pistons forward, making Hill just the fourth NBA player at that time to have a signature sneaker during his rookie year. The second signature sneaker was definitely a hit, as it stood out with its design and leather material. It gained even more popularity and love from the fans when Tupac Shakur flaunted in the sneaker in his album All Eyez on Me.

21. Nike Lebron 7

LeBron James, Cavs, Heat

ClutchPoints

Year released: 2009

Worn by: Lebron James

Arguably the best designed shoe in Lebron James’ shoe signature line, the Nike Lebron 7 had a sleek design that possessed multiple Nike technologies including the Air Max and Flywire technology. The patent leather material also added a great extra touch to the sneaker’s overall looks. Because of its design and technology, this is one of the successful Lebron sneakers that won the hearts of the basketball community.

Aside from its sleek design that stood out, it also performed well on the court. Lebron James was coming off an MVP season in 2008-2009 and he claimed the award once again in the succeeding season. It is worth noting Lebron James also wore the sneaker during the 2010 NBA All-Star Game, when he became an All-Star for the sixth straight year. A groundbreaking designed combined with functionality on the court, it was indeed an unforgettable Lebron James sneaker that has become part of one of the best Nike sneakers that was released to the market.

20. Adidas Crazy Light

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Year released: 2011

Worn by: Derrick Rose

Adidas was a popular brand in the sneaker industry. However, they rocked the sneaker world to its core when they released the Adizero Crazy Light. It was considered to be the lightest basketball sneaker ever to be released in the market at that time, as the popular sneaker only weighed an astounding 9.8 ounces. According to Sole Collector, the sneaker showcased the brand’s new SPRINTWEB exoskeleton technology, alongside its SPRINTFRAME and TORSION tech as well which were responsible for the lightweight achievement.

The sneaker complimented well with Derrick Rose’s playing style, as the 2011 League MVP always utilized his deadly crossover and lightning quick moves that often placed opposing players on skates. It was a groundbreaking sneaker that benefitted players who played fast and wanted to stay ahead of their opponents.

Because of its innovation and lightweight attribute, it should be considered as one of the top sneakers to ever make an appearance on the NBA hardwood.

19. AND1 Tai Chi

Vince Carter

Year released: 2000

Worn by: Vince Carter

Vince Carter is one of the most electrifying athletes that ever stepped on the NBA hard court. The former Raptors dunker definitely wowed everyone in the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Despite being under contract with Puma at that time, Vinsanity just was not pleased with their sneakers. Because of this, to people’s surprise, Carter wore the AND1 Tai Chi sneaker to the 2000 Dunk Contest.

After an excellent performance in the Dunk Contest, the Tai Chi sneaker rose to popularity as it emerged to be the most successful sneaker of the AND1 brand. The AND1 Brand was able to sell over a million units of the Tai Chi sneaker. It is worth noting that no one working for the AND1 brand expected Carter to to rock their sneakers during that iconic event. Luckily for them, that unexpected and momentous event was able to give the brand a much needed breakthrough.

18. Air Jordan 6

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Year released: 1991

Worn by: Michael Jordan

Great players create legendary moments, and the apparel and gear involved in those moments only give the fans all the more reasons to keep those moments alive in their hearts. Michael Jordan makes a case to be the best player of all time. Because of this, there is no question he is what made the Nike brand a successful sports apparel giant.

Jordan won his first of many championships while wearing the Air Jordan 6. As a result, it became one of the most iconic sneakers until today. The Air Jordan 6 gave fans a token of the first championship of Bulls’ first version of the three-peat when Chicago outlasted the Magic Johnson-led Los Angeles Lakers four games to one. At the same time, Jordan would also claim his first NBA Finals MVP during that year.

The Air Jordan 6 was designed by Tinker Hatfield. It was a shoe that had a lot of modifications catered to His Airness’ liking, in terms of reinforcement around the toe, the amount of rubber on the sole, and the positioning of the heel tab.

17. Nike Penny 2

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CP

Year released: 1996

Worn by: Penny Hardaway

Just a season after rocking the Nike Penny 1, Penny Hardaway rocked the Nike Penny 2 in the 1996-1997 season. During that season, however, Shaquille O’Neal already left the Orlando Magic franchise, as he took his talents to the Los Angeles Lakers. This allowed Penny Hardaway to become the new face of the Orlando Magic.

With Hardaway becoming the new superstar of the Magic, it is just as well he debuted the Nike Penny 2s. The sneaker was considered to be one of the best to come out in the 90’s. A special aspect about the sneaker is it’s remarkable cushioning. During the time the Nike Penny 2 was released, Nike’s technology reached its apex. The beloved Hardaway sneaker was equipped with an Air Max 2 alongside a Zoom Air technology.

Aside from the sneaker taking part in Hardaway’s rise to superstardom, the Nike Penny 2 would be endorsed by Lil’ Penny who was a character voiced by well-known comedian Chris Rock. As a result, it only made more fans want to cop a pair of the Nike Penny 2.

16. Nike Air More Uptempo

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Year released: 1996

Worn by: Scottie Pippen

Another sneaker that shined in the 90’s was the Nike Air More Uptempo. It is one of the classic sneakers that was worn no other than the partner in crime of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen. With high flyers emerging during that time, it was a sneaker that would resonate well with players who loved to throw it down.

What makes the sneaker standout is that the word “Air” can be seen in the sides of the shoe. Wilson Smith was the man responsible for designing this classic basketball sneaker and drew his inspiration from life bigger than basketball.

According to Hypebeast, Smith said “The sneaker reflected the decade saw its ‘AIR’ branding on the upper draw inspiration from pop art and graffiti and the Air bubble run from heel to toe to reflect the oversized and larger-than-life cars and jeans of the era. The Nike Air More Uptempo was an extension of the environment. Ideal for the vertical player who needed the lockdown and abundance of cushioning.”

It was indeed a masterpiece that people would love to wear on the court and the streets.

15. Nike Kobe 5

Year released: 2010

Worn by: Kobe Bryant

The Nike Kobe 5 is one of the special sneakers in Kobe’s line of signature shoes. The late Kobe Bryant won his fifth and final championship while wearing this sneaker, which also contributed to its popularity. It was the championship that would put the icing on the cake for Kobe’s basketball legacy, as Bryant and the Lakers dispatched the Boston Celtics in a hard fought seven game series. At the same time, Kobe would also win his second NBA Finals MVP.

The Lakers great even showed his mark of approval when he said this about the sneaker.

“It means we were doing it right. Because professional athletes aren’t going to throw shoes on their feet just to throw shoes on their feet.”

The Nike Kobe 5 was simply one of the greatest sneakers that manifested Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Mentality, while also complimenting well with the wide array of moves he made on the court.

14. Adidas KB8

Year released: 1998

Worn by: Kobe Bryant

Another iconic shoe that was released in the 90’s was the Adidas KB8, now known as the Adidas Crazy 8. It was Kobe Bryant’s first ever signature shoe. When Kobe was still endorsing Adidas, the KB8 was the sneaker that Bryant wore when he had a breakout season in 1997-1998 after a subpar rookie year. He averaged 15.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game which was enough to declare him an All-Star, his first, during that season. Furthermore, he would go up against basketball great Michael Jordan during the 1998 All Star Game which also increased the popularity of the Adidas KB8.

The Crazy 8 definitely stands out in terms of looks, as it is made of full grain leather. In terms of cushioning, it is equipped with Adidas TORSION system in order to protect your feet from impact.

Because of the sneaker being associated with the late Kobe Bryant in his breakout year, it will be difficult for fans to forget this sneaker even if Kobe eventually signed with Nike.

13. Nike Dunks

Year released: 1985

Worn by: Multiple

The Nike Dunks became one of the popular sneakers of today. It was initially geared towards college basketball athletes when the iconic sneaker was released to the market. In fact, it was the face of the Nike campaign, “Be True To Your School”. However, its popularity didn’t stem from its presence in the NBA basketball court. Instead, the sneaker received more love in streetwear and skateboarding.

In the 2000s, the Nike Dunks were re-released to the market as a skateboarding sneaker, as the Nike Dunks evolved into Nike SB Dunks. Of course the latter had some modifications, equipped with more modern technology. Furthermore, streetwear personalities such as Travis Scott and Virgil Abloh would also make adaptations of the famous sneaker. Because of this, it is a sneaker that lit the fire onto the sneaker culture that we are experiencing today. As of year 2020, there are at least 50 variations of the Nike Dunks.

12. Reebok Question

Allen-Iverson-Kobe-Bryant

Year released: 1996

Worn by: Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson was a talented player ever since he balled out in his rookie year. This is why Reebok took a chance on the Philadelphia superstar guard. At that time, Iverson was only the fifth basketball player to have his own signature sneaker during his rookie year.

According to ESPN, Iverson mentioned about the sneaker deal “A lot of guys had contracts with different shoe companies, but they didn’t have their own signature shoe, so I’d kinda puff my chest out a little bit.”

Reebok’s investment on Iverson would turn out to be a big hit, as they received a multi-fold return. Iverson successfully reached superstardom which helped Reebok to get their brand growing. Despite standing only at 6’0, Iverson’s quickness and killer crossover maneuver simply outclassed a lot of opposing players in the league. With his growing fan base at that time, the Reebok Question gained more popularity as well.

The Reebok Question became the brand’s most successful sneaker. In fact, it is even considered a sneaker classic.

11. Puma Clyde

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Year released: 1973

Worn by: Walt Frazier

The Puma brand has been making some noise lately in the basketball sneaker scene as we see modern players such as Danny Green, DeAndre Ayton, Kevin Knox, and Michael Porter Jr. wearing Puma. However, the German brand made its presence felt when they first signed Walt Frazier to a contract, while also releasing the Puma Clyde to the open market.

Walt Frazier, who is a seven time NBA All-Star and two time NBA champion, became the first NBA player to ever have a signature sneaker. With this, it became it with Frazier’s basketball success. However in terms of its qualities as a basketball sneaker, the Puma Clyde was not an ideal sneaker to wear while playing the sport.

According to Matt Powell, who is a sports industry analyst, mentioned “That shoe in suede, while it really wasn’t a great shoe to play ball in, became what I would call the original streetwear shoe.”

Like the Nike Dunks, the Puma Clyde was a sneaker that shined outside the basketball court. As a result, it became a common sneaker for streetwear fans rather than a basketball sneaker. However, Puma still gives a nod to the iconic sneaker for the basketball market, as the sneakers in their current basketball release shows flashes of the iconic Puma Clyde.

10. Nike Hyperdunk

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Year released: 2008

Worn by: Kobe Bryant

The Nike Hyperdunk was a hit in 2008. It boasted of the Nike’s new Flywire and Lunar Foam Technologies which played a big part in giving the sneaker its light nature, weighing only at a jaw-dropping 13 ounces. This would be enough to consider the Hyperdunk as one of the brands lightest sneaker ever released in the market.

Aside from the great achievement by Nike, the sneaker also rode on the success of the USA Basketball Team in the 2008 Beijing Olympics where they were dubbed as the Redeem Team. The team regained basketball supremacy once again in the international basketball scene after winning the Gold Medal by sweeping the competition with an 8-0 win-loss record.

Kobe Bryant, a vital member of that team, had only good words for the Nike Hyperdunk.

According to ESPN, Kobe said “I like to push those boundaries, it was pretty easy for me to jump into a shoe that fit everything that I had been talking about for years.”

9. Air Jordan 4

Year released: 1989

Worn by: Michael Jordan

The Air Jordan 4 is just one of the special sneakers from Michael Jordan’s long line of signature sneakers. It was a sneaker that would be involved in some of His Airness’ memorable moments on the court. These moments include a game winning shot by Michael Jordan when the Chicago Bulls faced the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the first round of the 1989 NBA Playoffs. This legendary moment would be named as The Shot, as this would show the Cavaliers the door to elimination. This was just one of the many moments that made Michael Jordan arguably the greatest player of all time.

Aside from that, the sneaker would also make some noise outside of basketball, as it also made waves on pop culture. The sneaker would make an appearance in Spike Lee’s movie Do the Right Thing. Because of this, the Air Jordan 4 would also be a great casual sneaker. Thus, it also became one of the brand’s most successful sneakers.

8. Nike Kobe 4

Year released: 2009

Worn by: Kobe Bryant

High cut shoes were common when it comes to basketball, as it earned the reputation of preventing ankle injuries. However, the Kobe 4 stood out as a low-cut sneaker, defying the status quo. Because of this, it would bring back the trend of low-cut basketball shoes to the court. Equipped with the Zoom Air, Lunar Foam, and Flywire Technology, the Nike Kobe 4 was structurally engineered to help the legendary Kobe Bryant showcase his footwork with ease, while maintaining a step ahead of opposing players. It is worth noting that while wearing the sneaker in the 2008-2009 season, the late Kobe Bryant won his third NBA Championship and first NBA Finals MVP Award of his career.

Eric Avar was the man responsible for this Kobe sneaker masterpiece, and this is what he had to say about his work.

“Some products are much more radical than others. Some are much more traditional. The 4 was a little in the sweet spot. It was just enough classic, just enough modern, that it has stood the test of time.”

The sneaker truly stood the test of time. Just during the 2019-2020 season, at least 104 NBA players wore the Nike Kobe 4 shoe. This sneaker makes a case to be the best Kobe sneaker among Kobe’s signature sneakers.

7. Air Jordan 3

Year released: 1988

Worn by: Michael Jordan

The Air Jordan 3 is arguably one of the most versatile sneakers that can be used in basketball and casual wear. It made its first appearance in the public when Jordan wore the sneakers for the 1987-1988 season. It was the first mid-cut sneaker made for basketball. In terms of on the court performance, Jordan also wore the Air Jordan 3 during the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest, and he made an iconic dunk from the free throw line which is still remembered until this day.

Tinker Hatfield was the man behind this work of art, once again. Some notable features include the use of soft leathers, the presence of an elephant print, and the first ever appearance of the Jumpman logo that gave a nod to Jordan’s high flying abilities which would give birth to the Jordan brand. It was worth noting that Hatfield worked with Michael Jordan himself in order to design this iconic shoe, which would later on convince the Bulls legend to stay with the Nike brand.

6. Nike Foamposite One

Year released: 1997

Worn by: Penny Hardaway

The Nike Foamposite One is outright one of the most unique sneakers ever designed. Because of this, it definitely stood out. It was a sneaker design so difficult to produce at that time, so Nike had to partner with Daewoo.

Originally, it was not supposed to be a part of Hardaway’s sneaker line. However when the former Magic star caught a glimpse of the sneaker, he simply couldn’t resist.

According to ESPN, this is what happened according Eric Avar, “He looked down into the duffle bag and was like ‘What’s that!?’ So I take it out and start to explain it and right away, he’s like, ‘That’s what I want my next shoe to be.’”

Penny Hardaway would not regret lacing up the Nike Foamposite One, as he produced multiple excellent performances while wearing this sneaker. In the first round of the 1997 NBA Playoffs, Hardaway produced Herculean performances against the Heat while wearing the Nike Foamposite One. After losing the first two games, the former Magic star exploded for two straight 40 point games, 42 in Game 3 and 41 in Game 4. Although they eventually lost the series to the Heat, with the Nike Foamposite 1s on his feet, Hardaway just proved that time he was one of the rising stars of the game. Until today, the Nike Foamposite One is still one of Nike’s hottest sneakers.

5. Adidas Superstar

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Year released: 1969

Worn by: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

If we are talking about the most notable Adidas sneaker ever produced, the Adidas Superstar makes a case. The well-known low-cut sneaker was worn by basketball greats like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, George Irvine, and Bob Verga. However like some of the sneakers on this list, the Adidas Superstar would shine brighter off the hardwood.

With the emergence of skateboarding and hip-hop culture, the Adidas Superstar was the sneaker of the streetwear community. This allowed the Adidas Superstar to evolve from a basketball footwear into a classic sneaker that has also stood the test of time as multiple variations have been released in order to cater to streetwear fashion.

It was a huge jackpot hit for Adidas. In fact, the Adidas brand was so happy for its success, to the point that they even built two large Adidas Superstar statues in their main office in the US to commemorate the sneaker’s success.

4. Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star

Year released: 1917

Worn by: Multiple

Converse has not really made a big splash in the basketball scene ever since Dwayne Wade left the brand in 2009. However they were the main basketball sneaker brand in 1949. In fact, it was a constant fixture in the NBA in the league’s younger years.

Although you don’t see any basketball player playing in Converse sneakers today, the brand arguably owns one of the best timeless sneakers in the market which is the Chuck Taylor All-Star. For more than 100 years, the converse sneaker deserves the credit as one of the most used sneakers in history. The Converse team announced it has reached the 1 billion mark in terms of unit sales before they reached their 100 year anniversary.

The brand has also emerged to become one of the best casual footwear, as they sell an estimate of 100 million pairs annually. Despite their years on the basketball being over since, their influence on casual footwear is impressive.

3. Nike Air Force 1

Year released: 1982

Worn by: Moses Malone

If you are a serious sneakerhead, there’s no question that the Nike Air Force 1 is up there when it comes to the best sneakers in the market. According to Sneaker History, the Air Force 1 was a game changer, as it was the very first sneaker that possessed Air cushioning technology. One of the moments that allowed it to reach its popularity today is during Nike’s Original 6 campaign which featured NBA players such as Moses Malone, Mychal Thompson, Jamaal Wilkes, Calvin Natt, Bobby Jones, and Michael Cooper. The Original 6 campaign is said to be one of the best advertisements ever released by Nike.

Today, the classic sneaker has been featured in various designs and derivations. According to ESPN, it has even waves in the modern time. Nelly, who is a famous American rapper, performed a song about the Nike Air Force 1 which played a role in making the sneaker still relevant until this day.

2. Air Jordan 1

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Year released: 1985

Worn by: Michael Jordan

The Air Jordan 1 served as the foundation of Michael Jordan’s long line of signature shoes. It is considered one of the classics. It’s most famous color is arguably the Banned, which was the black and red color way. The NBA banned the sneaker as it breached uniform protocols. Although the rule was implemented, Michael Jordan continued to wear the sneaker and was fined $5,000 per game. It is worth noting Nike paid for those fines. In terms of sales performance, the sneaker exceeded expectations. According to ESPN, the Nike team conservatively projected sales to hover at $100,000. However, the actual sales turned out to be $195 million which was a great start that established the Jordan brand that we know today.

The Air Jordan 1, until this day, is still sellable with Nike re-releasing the product in 1994, 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2016. In fact, the Air Jordan 1 even made an appearance in the big screen when Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse hit theaters in 2018. Miles Morales, the main character of the film, wore the Air Jordan 1 (animated version) almost throughout the movie. It was a great opportunity of product placement for the Jordan brand, advertising it as the shoes of Spiderman, who is a beloved Marvel hero across generations.

1.Air Jordan 11

Michael Jordan punch, Chicago Bulls

Year released: 1995

Worn by: Michael Jordan

Equipped with patent leather, carbon fiber, and cordura mesh, the Air Jordan 11 makes a case to be the best sneaker in Michael Jordan’s signature sneaker line. Aside from its great look, the shoe seems to have functionality as well. Jordan wore this sneaker during the 1995-1996 season which saw him lead the Bulls in winning a record breaking that time, 72 games while only suffering 10 losses. The Bulls would go on to win the championship as well in 1996, the first of the second version of the three-peat. Jordan would also take all three MVP awards of that season claiming All-Star MVP, League MVP, and Finals MVP.

Today, the sneaker remains to be a hot product. According to ESPN, the Jordan brand continues to make sales out of this model, as at least a million pairs of Air Jordan 11s continue to be sold every Christmas season. Because of this, the Air Jordan 11s are arguably the best sneakers in NBA history.