Ranking Signature Sneaker Debuts From Current NBA Stars

Jarrel Harris
Sports Illustrated

Becoming a signature sneaker athlete is one of the highest honors an NBA player could receive. A personal shoe brand not only grants NBA players a chance to earn extra money but it also gives them an opportunity to become immortal. Michael Jordan, Penny Hardaway and Allen Iverson have all built iconic shoe lines that still resonate with consumers today.

As sneaker culture continues to build popularity, we have seen more and more players receive their own signature shoe. So which NBA stars had the best signature sneaker debut? The Crossover ranked the best shoe introductions of current players, from LeBron James down to Lonzo Ball.

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17. Lonzo Ball – Zo2

Brand - Big Baller Brand

Release year – 2017

Lonzo Ball became the rare rookie to have his own independently made signature sneaker but several things went wrong. The shoe retailed for $495 with cheap materials and tech. There was also months of delays in shipments. The brand even scrapped the original sneaker and decided to create the Zo2 Prime Remix. While LaVar Ball and family entered the NBA very loud, the brand has taken a step back after Lonzo sued co-founder Alan Foster for allegedly utilizing a "fradulent scheme" to take money from the company.

16. John Wall – Reebok Zig Slash

Brand - Reebok

Release year - 2010

John Wall has had the worst luck when it comes to signature sneakers. Wall entered the NBA with much hype after his lone season in Kentucky with John Calipari. Reebok, which was in the stages of rebuilding, sought out the No.1 pick to take the throne from Allen Iverson. The brand gifted Wall with the Zig Slash, which was supposed to be a groundbreaking shoe that would help Reebok remain competitive with Nike and Adidas. It was pitched to consumers as an “energy drink for your feet”. Safe to say that didn't happen. The shoe was very bulky and had some of the worst traction on a basketball sneaker.

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15. Klay Thompson – Anta KT Fire

Brand - Anta

Release year - 2015

Klay Thompson signed with Anta in 2015 during the beginning stages of Golden State’s dominance. ESPN’s Nick DePaula reported back in 2016 that Thompson agreed to a 10-year, $80M deal with the Chinese athletic apparel brand that will run through 2026. While the KT Fire kind of came and went, Thompson has built a huge fan base in China. Thank you Anta for giving us China Klay. 

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14. Spencer Dinwiddie – K8IROS 8.1

Brand - K8IROS

Release year - 2018

You have to give Spencer Dinwiddie credit for launching his own shoe line. He bet on himself and delivered a blueprint that Lonzo Ball should have followed. The sneakers are fairly priced at $110 at the moment and the Brooklyn Nets guard created a lot of awareness for his shoe by wearing 82 different custom sneakers last season. Dinwiddie told SI.com in December, “Just calling a spade a spade, if my name was James Harden or something like that, this would be the biggest story in the NBA."

13. Damian Lillard - Adidas Dame 1

Brand - Adidas

Release year - 2015

Damian Lillard joined Adidas in 2014 and has been one of the brand's biggest endorsers. The Dame 1 offered a sleek look that was unseen with modern Adidas hoop shoes and the affordable price tag ($105) was a plus.

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

12. Kawhi Leonard - New Balance OMN1S

Brand - New Balance

Release year - 2019

After a messy divorce with Jordan Brand last fall, Kawhi Leonard became the face of New Balance’s basketball relaunch. The brand has had fun marketing around Leonard’s unique and ‘fun guy’ personality. The OMN1S only released in limited quantity but consumers can expect a wider release before the start of the 2019-2020 NBA season when he laces them up for the Clippers.

11. Chris Paul - Jordan CP1

Brand: Jordan Brand

Release year - 2008

Chris Paul is easily one of the NBA’s biggest sneakerheads but his shoes never really hit on with consumers. It is kind of weird because performance wise his sneakers rank up there with the best. The Jordan CP1 showcased personal moments in CP3’s life. The “61” symbolizes his late grandfather (Paul scored 61 points in a high school game, one point for each year his grandfather lived). The letters ‘SP” were stitched on the backside of the tongue to honor his late college coach Skip Prosser.

10. James Harden - Adidas Harden Vol. 1 

Brand - Adidas

Release year - 2016

James Harden signed a 13-year, $200 million deal with Adidas back in 2015. Harden instantly became the face of the three-stripes basketball line and debuted the Harden Vol.1 in 2016. The company was in a transition period after dealing with Derrick Rose’s injuries and needed to make a huge splash. Nike decided not to match the massive contract offer and the rest is history. The Harden Vol.1 featured a primeknit, tumbled leather, and a full-length Boost cushioning. 

9. Donovan Mitchell - Adidas D.O.N. Issue Vol. 1

Brand - Adidas

Release year - 2019

Donovan Mitchell alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the newest signature sneaker athletes in the NBA. The Utah Jazz star released his first signature shoe the D.O.N Issue Vol. 1 this July. The sneaker is budget friendly ($100) and plays on the Mitchell’s Spider-Man nickname. The spider-web stitching and the Marvel partnership makes this sneaker truly standout.

8. Kevin Durant – Nike KD 1

Brand - Nike

Release year – 2009

Kevin Durant easily has one of the best signature lines in the NBA but his first silhouette is not regarded as high as LeBron’s or even Kyrie Irving’s Nike signature models. The KD 1 features a postage stamp to pay homage to his mother, Wanda who worked at the post office; a security badge is included on the right tongue for his father who worked as a security officer.

Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

7. Russell Westbrook - Why Not Zer0.1

Brand - Jordan Brand

Release year – 2018

Playing in the shadow of someone as iconic Michael Jordan is a tough thing to do. But what makes Russell Westbrook so unique is that he brings his own flair to the court and off of it. His line centers around his personal mantra, “Why Not?” The shoe defines how he plays and how he has become a fashion icon. The Why Not Zer0.1 is definitely one of the most underrated sneaker debuts.

 

6. Giannis Antetokounmpo – Nike Freak 1

Brand – Nike

Release year - 2019

Giannis Antetokounmpo recently became the latest NBA Star to receive his own signature sneaker. The reigning MVP joins an exclusive signature club at Nike that includes LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Paul George. Maybe there is some recency bias with this high ranking, but this sneaker has the potential to be one of the most talked about basketball shoes this upcoming season. We can expect some fun themes on the court this season such as “Coming to America” edition Freak 1 and more colorways.

5. Stephen Curry – Under Armour Curry 1

Brand – Under Armour

Release year – 2015

Under Armour received lightning in the bottle when they landed Stephen Curry after his Nike partnership broke down. The Curry 1 was released right on time of Curry’s ascension into an NBA great and his first MVP/championship season. Curry has had his share of up and downs on the brand but his star power alone has kept the UA basketball brand afloat. 

4. Derrick Rose – Adidas adiZero Rose

Brand – Adidas

Release year – 2010

Who knows what would have happened to Adidas’ basketball line if they didn't have Derrick Rose. The brand was having a tough time marketing around good players who were not very marketable guys in the sneaker world, such as Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Chauncy Billups. Rose was a savior of sorts and gave the brand much-needed light, as he become one of the most dynamic players in the NBA. His game was tailored for a signature sneaker. While the Rose line took a hit after he sufferered injuries, the three-stripes brand has remained loyal to the former All-Star who will release his 10th signature sneaker this upcoming season.

3. Paul George – Nike PG 1

Brand – Nike

Release year – 2017

No one knew what to expect when Nike announced that they would give Paul George a signature shoe line. The All-Star was just a year removed from a horrific leg injury. George told The Crossover last year, “It was dope honestly because at the time I was hurt. I was injured and rehabbing from my injury, and for them to have that belief to back me up and be behind me, when coming off an injury and not even playing—they were unsure how I would come back to the game but that meant a lot and honestly in that moment, I was pretty emotional.” The PG 1 quickly became a favorite for NBA players and fans due to its fun design. The Playstation collab took the sneaker to another level. The $110 price point was the ultimate bang for your buck.

2. Kyrie Irving – Nike Kyrie 1

Brand – Nike

Release year – 2015

Kyrie Irving is everything you want in a signature sneaker athlete. He’s incredibly marketable and his game is perfect for the Instagram age. The Kyrie 1 was Irving’s introduction into superstardom. Irving has a connection with the younger generation that is unseen with other NBA superstars. The Kyrie 1 featured many fun colorways such as “Dream”, “Deceptive Red”, “Uncle Drew” and “All-Star”.

1. LeBron James - Nike Air Zoom Generation

Brand – Nike

Release year – 2003

If there is any basketball sneaker that is modern day classic, it would be the Nike Air Zoom Generation. The sneaker was the introduction to LeBron’s empire. The LeBron brand has evolved to be the closest line to rival Jordan’s in terms of number of silhouettes, iconic themes and colorways. The sneaker recently received a retro release for the first time in 2017.

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