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, with this year’s NBA season now continuing following the forced coronavirus break, we've looked back at some of the best basketball models available during the 2020-21 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.
Scroll down to see our list of the best basketball shoes of 2021
Nike Cosmic Unity "Green Glow"
There is so much to love about this sneaker. The Cosmic Unity “Green Glow” features 25 percent recycled material, making the shoe a first over at Nike Basketball. The shoe's features, such as its sweeping lunar midsole, give the shoe a decidedly space-age look and resemble rockets for your feet. The upper of the shoe is made using additive manufacturing further pushing the basketball sneaker into the future. If you are planning to ball on the moon, this may be it.
PUMA returned to the basketball fold in 2018 but made its biggest pop culture bang in 2020, when J. Cole got his own signature basketball shoe. The J. Cole x PUMA RS-Dreamer is probably the brand’s most stylish basketball shoe, which has the on-court performance to match. The low-top sneaker features a breathable mesh upper and comfortable foam sole unit.
adidas N3XT L3V3L
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.
Jordan Why Not Zer0.3
"Why Not?" Zer0.3 Basketball Shoe
Russell Westbrook's signature model isn't merely a series of flashy colorways. Rather, Jordan Brand's Why Not Zer0.3 proves you can mix wild design with inventive engineering. This is Westbrook’s lightest-ever signature shoe and features the biggest-ever Zoom Air pod, meaning thee Why Not Zer0.3 is for fast players that love playing on the break.
Air Jordan 35
Air Jordan 35 "DNA"
Whereas the idea behind the Nike Air Jordan 34 was to get rid of everything that is not absolutely necessary, the Air Jordan 35 looks to pair high-performance technology with high-quality materials such as suede and nubuck. The AJ35 features the Jordan Eclipse Plate, which is formed by two Pebax pieces and a forefoot Zoom Air unit, and is said to perform better than the AJ34. The Air Jordan 35 is designed for players of all positions and play styles.
Converse All Star Pro BB
All Star Pro BB
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.
New Balance OMN1S
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."
Kevin Durant’s 12th signature sneaker was already lauded as his best yet, thanks to the full-length Zoom Air unit. The KD13 brings that back and upgrades it by stitching it directly to the upper and adding an additional Zoom Air unit in the forefoot. An all-new traction that looks like it was inspired by LEGO pieces ensures you won’t be caught slipping on the court.
Nike Kobe AD NXT FF
If you like flying up and down the court, running the fast break, and playing transition offense, the Nike Kobe AD NXT was designed for you. The sneaker utilizes Nike’s innovating lacing technology to lock you in with one pull. Straps at the forefoot and ankle lock you in place and make sure your sneakers are ready to match whatever break-neck pace you decide to push.
Under Armour Curry 7
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 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.
Uproar Palace Guard
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.
Nike Kyrie 7 "Rayguns"
If you want to channel your inner Kyrie Irving in a pick-up game this summer, you should cop a pair of Kyrie 7s. And, if you are looking to earn a few style points on the way, the "Rayguns" colorway is one of the best options. The sneaker is a callback to the Roswell Rayguns — a fictional team of all-stars that were part of a Nike ad campaign during the 2002 NBA Playoffs.
The basketball sneaker comes equipped with all the features players have come to love about the shoe, such as the responsive and bouncy zoom unit and a very court-friendly outsole. The sci-fi-inspired detailing and rich Nike basketball lore make this one of our favorite sneakers from the guard's signature line.
Nike Adapt BB 2.0
Adapt BB 2.0
The Nike Adapt BB 2.0 is — as its name suggests — an upgrade on its predecessor. First and foremost, Nike made the Adapt BB 2.0 easier to put on by removing the Flyknit shroud, opening up the collar, and integrating a stretchable ballistic mesh throughout the upper. The midsole stack height has been reconfigured to offer a better ride, while Air Zoom Turbo in the forefoot provides a bouncier court feel.
adidas D.O.N. Issue 2
Donavan Mitchell’s second signature sneaker retails for $100 and is packed with more tech than its modest price might suggest. A spider web-like pattern on the outsole provides traction, while a Bounce midsole offers comfort and stability. The sneaker is cut a little higher than its predecessor, lending more support for players who ply their trade in the post or explosively cut to the basket.
ANTA Rajon Rondo RR5
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.
Nike Lebron 18 "Dynasty"
The latest addition to Lebron James' signature line has consistently blessed us with some of the best basketball sneaker colorways since its release. Remember the multicolored "James Gang"? Continuing with that tradition, the "Dynasty" is a basketball sneaker that works well on the feet of athletes or in a casual fans' sneaker rotation. The shoe comes equipped with a KnitPosite 2.0 upper for lightweight breathability and a secure fit. Not to mention the Zoom Air Unit and TPU heel provide extra comfort and stabilization. It is a shoe fit for a king.
adidas Harden Vol. 4
James Harden’s latest signature sneaker is a low-top, as were the three versions before it, though this time the ankle collar extends higher around the achilles, offering more protection and stability. A mid foot band provides additional support for players that like to make hard cuts to the basket. The midsole is made with Lightstrike cushioning, a super-light alternative to Boost and Bounce.
Nike Zoom Freak 2
Reigning two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo got his second signature sneaker this summer, the Nike Zoom Freak 2. Much like its predecessor, the Freak 2 is designed to withstand huge amounts of power and Antetokounmpo’s insanely athletic playstyle. The shoe is able to bend and flex in critical areas across the upper and Zoom Air is featured in the forefoot. A soft, lightweight foam in the heel provides added support. This shoe, thanks to its relatively low price point, is a great entry-level shoe for athletic players that value stability without sacrificing explosiveness.
adidas Dame 7
The adidas Dame 7 features the brand’s Lightstrike cushioning, which offers comfort without sacrificing weight and, ultimately, on-court speed. A zig-zag rubber outsole provides superior traction, while a sock-like fit and webbed lacing system ensure your foot is locked in and not sliding around when it counts the most.
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