With the NBA season starting in one year and ending in the next, it can be hard and sometimes confusing to say what the best basketball shoes of the year were.
But as we prepare for the NBA Finals, we’ve selected the models that reigned supreme during the 2018-19 season. While peripheral issues such as hype or exclusivity usually influence our opinions when it comes to footwear, this time we’ve gone for the picks that will actually serve you on-court. As such, attributes such as fit, traction, and reliability, as well as the overall look, go into the mix.
Release Date: September 20, 2018
LeBron James’ 16th signature shoe utilizes a grip pattern resembling the Nike LeBron Soldier 12’s wave-herringbone pattern to ensure maximum contact with whatever surface you’re playing on, indoor or outdoor. From an aesthetic point of view, the shoe has an aggressive vibe thanks to its combination of nubuck and Battleknit 2.0 on the upper, which fuses nicely with a reworked midsole.
Release Date: February 1, 2019
Damian Lillard’s latest signature shoe also employs a herringbone pattern on the outsole for maximum grip. Built on a Bounce midsole rather than Boost, the shoe is as comfortable as any. It was initially offered in both mesh and leather options, making for two different on-foot experiences without ever feeling like they were completely different shoes.
Release Date: January 10, 2019
Russell Westbrook’s signature model isn’t merely a series of flashy colorways. Rather, Jordan Brand’s Why Not Zer0.2 proves you can mix wild design with inventive engineering. Hidden gems include a “0” traction pattern to match Westbrook’s jersey number. Phylon in the heel also provides excellent lockdown and support.
Release Date: March 20, 2018
Long gone are the days when low-top basketball shoes were deemed a no-no, thanks to several models that dispelled the myth that less ankle support would result in more injuries. Chris Paul’s 11th signature shoe combines a Phylon midsole with a herringbone tread pattern, large hex Zoom bag, and a rubberized strap across the forefoot flex point for maximum stability and excellent traction.
Release Date: December 1, 2018
If low-tops were once verboten, imagine how people reacted to the idea of playing basketball in a shoe with no laces. adidas changed that narrative by presenting a sock-like sneaker that has next to no slippage despite offering no way to tighten it. Extremely comfortable thanks to a new foam midsole that adidas calls Lightstrike and featuring a Primeknit upper, the N3XT L3V3L should be considered by those who typically play on indoor courts.
Release Date: November 22, 2018
Kyrie Irving’s fifth signature shoe is a well-rounded model with very little to dislike. This workhorse, suitable for both indoor and outdoor play, boasts Air Zoom Turbo cushioning, a flytrap-style enclosure, and excellent ankle collar padding for explosive changes of direction. The Kyrie 5 is a basketball shoe for people who just want to play and don’t need the distraction of super-hyped tech. Add to that its relatively low price and the Kyrie 5 is a no-brainer for many players.
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In five years, basketball player Abdulsalam Abdurexiti has ascended from the amateur ranks to become one of China's most compelling young talents. His contribution to the China National Team's 2018 championship in Asia and his club team’s-winning season led to an invite from the Golden State Warriors to participate in the 2018 NBA Summer League. . The small forward has become a crowd favorite due his aggressive play and heart-on-sleeve attitude. This, combined with Abdurexiti's heralded off-court style, makes him an ideal partner for Converse. He will help support the recently unveiled Converse All Star Pro BB and other initiatives in the sport. . @converse #converseallstarprobb #allstarprobb #converseastarpro #laceup #laceuphk #kotd #igsneakers #kickstoday #sneakeraddict #instakicks #snaponcourt #styleoffcourt
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Release Date: May 18, 2019
These aren’t your grandfather’s Chuck Taylors. The All Star Pro BB is Converse’s re-entry into the pro basketball marketplace after laying dormant since 2012. Designed by Eric Avar, instrumental in creating Kobe Bryant’s Nike line, the All Star Pro BB includes a Nike React sole and Quadfit mesh upper encased in a low-slung cup sole for premium lockdown. Perhaps best of all is that, while the sneaker is built for basketball today, it honors the past through elements referencing the Converse Weapon and, yes, your grandpa’s Chucks.
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Buy: New Balance
When Kawhi Leonard left Jordan Brand for New Balance, no one anticipated that his first signature model would be so understated. But for those who know Leonard as a player and person, the humble design of the OMN1S would have been no surprise when it debuted in February. Built atop FuelCell foam and featuring a knit build with synthetic panels, the sneaker came with evocative colorway names like “Detroit Camo,” “Trust Leonard,” “Black Ice,” “Best Kept Secret,” “DNA,” and “Project 515.”
Release Date: January 4, 2019
Buy: Under Armour
Under Armour’s HOVR cushioning doesn’t play second or even third fiddle to offerings from Nike or adidas. In fact, some might even make the case that the Baltimore brand’s ability to maximize comfort underneath the entire foot, not just the places taking the most impact, makes HOVR a true engineering marvel. The translucent rubber outsole not only adds a nice flourish of color, it also enhances grip, while the shoe itself is well ventilated, leaving your foot dry even after a long session.
Release Date: February 15, 2019
The Kobe 4 ushered in basketball’s low-top revolution, and the Protro (“Performance Retro”) version of the pioneering shoe mixes old elements with new. Specifically, Nike brought back Zoom in the heel, a herringbone traction pattern, Flywire midfoot panels, and synthetic leather, with new additions including adjusted vamp shaping, a leaner heel, and wider outsole traction.
Release Date: March 8, 2019
Buy: Foot Locker
PUMA re-entered the basketball market in October 2018 with the launch of the Clyde Court Disrupt, and the PUMA Uproar solidified that return through a combination of HYBRID cushioning tech, Ignite foam, NRGY beads at the midsole, and a wraparound TPU heel piece that adds support during different movements. The Uproar complemented this modern tech with a design grounded in PUMA history.
Some might dismiss the Adapt BB’s self-lacing tech as a gimmick, but the shoe is actually a strong contender for one of our favorite basketball models of 2019. On-court, lockdown is a must, but during a timeout, a looser fit aids blood flow. Thanks to the Adapt BB’s presets, the wearer can change the fit to match the scenario. The traction pattern also pays homage to classics such as the Air Force 1 and Air Jordan 1, and does well to add stability to a heavier shoe. Additionally, the Cushlon midsole alleviates any concerns that the motor inside will make cutting more challenging.
Release Date: December 1, 2018
Three shoes immediately spring to mind when you look at the Marquee Boost: the adidas Streetball, Pro Bounce 2018, and Harden Vol. 3. That isn’t to say the Marquee Boost is a mere hodgepodge of old ideas; rather, it channels elements that were universally appreciated by the sneaker community. Utilizing Boost cushioning, a herringbone traction pattern, and TPU caging on the outsole, the Marquee Boost is well-rounded and lacks any real flaws.
Release Date: Fall 2017
Chinese brand ANTA has made huge inroads thanks to endorsement deals with NBA players such as Klay Thompson, Gordon Hayward, and Rajon Rondo. The latter has the most playable signature model. The A-Shock cushioning, heavy knit A-Web upper, and nylon cables at the base of the lacing system all make for a basketball shoe that is both comfortable and durable.
Release Date: May 15, 2019
Whereas the Kobe 4 Protro lacked full-length Air Zoom, the Nike KD12 went the whole hog, leading many wear-testers to laud it as one of the best usages of the cushioning tech in modern memory. From a traction standpoint, the multi-directional lines appear almost fingerprint-esque, meaning there’s no need to worry about slipping on-court.
Release Date: December 18, 2018
If you hadn’t already noticed, this season has been all about relaunching forgotten icons. Although it’s been quite a while since Tracy McGrady’s first signature shoe came out, 2019’s updated version is one of this season’s winners. This modern take swaps out adiPRENE+ in the forefoot and heel for Boost cushioning. Forefoot caging on the lateral side and a multi-directional traction pattern along the outsole provide the wearer with stability and a quick first step.
Release Date: October 12, 2018
At first glance, the adidas Harden Vol. 3 looks like something you might see on the feet of Lionel Messi or Dele Alli, thanks to its low-cut profile and placement of the Three Stripes. But as we’ve already covered, any negative bias against low-tops should be eliminated. Boost cushioning, a herringbone traction pattern, and a textile upper are some of the model’s defining features. But the design’s simplicity, above all else, makes it a winner.