The 2020-2021 season was a tricky time for all sports. The unprecedented year wreaked havoc on timetables and forced leagues to think outside the box. In comparison to other leagues, though, the NBA seemed to adjust quite naturally to the upset. In fact, with the players living inside the NBA bubble for much of last season, we had a concentrated Petrie dish for players’ style.
Funnily enough, walk-in fits were more in the spotlight than ever and on-court drip didn’t slow down either. Now, as the NBA season gears up to start again with usual programming — last season’s 72-game slate returns to the normal 82-game schedule — the world of basketball shoes has never looked so strong.
So, in time for the season’s tip-off, we’ve scoured the net, read hundreds of reviews, and rounded up the best basketball shoes that you’re likely to see in the NBA 2021-2022 season. Rather than our usual style-first approach, for this selection, we’ve looked at fit, technology, traction, quality, (and a bit of style) to offer up the definitive best basketball shoes of 2021-2022 list.
Keep scrolling to see a list of the best basketball shoes of 2021
adidas Harden Vol. 5 Futurenatural Shoes
Arguably one of the better-looking performance silhouettes on the market, the adidas Harden Vol. 5 Futurenatural relies on Polkadot detailing to make its visual mark. Under the hood, Harden's fifth signature sneaker features Lightstrike cushioning as well as Boost inserts to the midsole and internal cushioning pods for improved support and springback. In keeping with The Beard's game, this combines with a secure, lockdown feel for quick changes of direction on hardwood.
adidas Dame 7 EXTPLY
Nowadays, almost all of the best basketball shoes fall under the name of an NBA superstar. From Harden, we move to Portland's talisman Damian Lillard whose adidas Dame 7 has been widely applauded as a great lightweight option. With a knit upper, the Dame 7 offers a sock-like fit that combines with a zig-zag rubber outsole for quickness and traction to match.
adidas N3xt L3v3l Supernatural Shoes
With so many good basketball shoes to pick from, each adorned with another superstar's name, it takes a lot for a general release silhouette to stand out. That's no problem for the N3xt L3v3l Supernatural, though. This bold pink & yellow pair forgoes laces for a slip-on sock which is bonded to the midsole to allow you perfect movement in any direction.
adidas Trae Young 1 Shoes
An exciting development in the world of basketball shoes of 2021-2022 is the arrival of Trae Young's debut signature shoe. The adidas Trae Young 1 comes with a couple of unique style points. Firstly, the low-top silhouette features a laceless construction (though you can tighten up with laces if needed) but the real attraction here is the sole unit. The multi-directional ridged outsole sticks you to the hardwood while the ergonomic midsole offers support and comfort where you need it.
Nike Kyrie 7
Kyrie Irving's Nike partnership is now in its seventh chapter and if we've learned anything from the first six, it's that the duo knows what's up. Look at any team in the NBA and you'll spot a handful of players repping Nike Kyries — that's a strong co-sign. The Nike Kyrie 7 boasts a typically bold set of colorways with subtle personal detailing throughout. A slim, cushioned midsole is the center of technical attention here, offering super-fast reaction time and explosiveness on that first step.
Nike PG 5
One of the useful aspects of a shoe game dominated by signature designs is that you can match your style of play to the star you're closest to and be fairly sure you'll get what you need. If you're a steady anchor who looks for the right moment to strike, the PG 5 is ideal. Notice the big Nike Air Strobel midsole cushion from front to back — this pair is for the hooper who works in top gear all game long.
Nike Air Jordan XXXVI "First Light"
Behold, a non-signature sneaker (Jordan doesn't count anymore, right?) in our best basketball shoes roundup! That means that this one has really earned its spot. Jordan Brand always brings something new to the table. Here, it's the Jacquard Leno-Weave upper which offers a lightweight yet durable ride. Another aspect we saw for the first time last season was the introduction of the hollow mid-section which reduces the weight of the shoe and allows the stabilizing shank more space.
Nike Zoom Freak 3
Named after The Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Nike Zoom Freak 3 is an equally mind-boggling entity. For those looking for an all-round performer, the Freak 3 is as good an option as any other. Seeing as Giannis can effectively play anywhere on the court, it makes sense that his signature shoe can too. Ever wondered why Giannis' euro-step is so damn good? It might have something to do with the springy, hollowed-out forefoot...
From one all-rounder to another. Durant's KD range is a perennial top-performer when it comes to the best basketball shoes. The KD14 is no different. Full-length Zoom Air cushioning combines with a multi-layer mesh upper and midfoot strap to keep you locked into your shoe. Odd, seeing as KD loses a shoe approximately twice a game.
A signature basketball shoe designed by a rapper? On paper, it shouldn't work. That's not taking into account the fact that J. Cole is about as good at hooping as he is at rapping, though. The PUMA RS-Dreamer has become PUMA's go-to basketball silhouette and for good reason. The RS-Dreamer is designed to be as effective on the court as in the street thanks to a bulkier upper and heavy cushioning to the midsole.
PUMA Clyde All-Pro Kuzma
Clyde All-Pro Kuzma
The diversity in the best basketball shoes of the moment is great. With the relatively new arrival of names like PUMA and New Balance, the stalwarts are being forced to up their game. It's silhouettes like the Clyde All-Pro Kuzma that are forcing that. Performance comes in a heavy dose from a Matryx material upper and ProFoam+ sole unit while style is taken care of by RHUDE's Rhuigi and Kuzma himself.
New Balance Two WXY
Inspired by the changing structure of today's game, the New Balance Two WXY is optimized for the player who plays everywhere. Made for the moment you spring from defense to offense and vice versa, the Two WXY features FuelCell foam to deliver a propulsive feel to help drive you forward on the turn. On the flipside, a strong midsole shank affords great torsional rigidity in the shoe for a strong base when you're sticking to your opposite number.
New Balance KAWHI
Made in partnership with the man who's as likely to win a game with a block as a heavily defended 3-point shot, the New Balance KAWHI is a safe bet. It features a New-Balance first in the form of a full-length outsole shank. While most shoes opt for a shorter midsole shank for rigidity, this pair goes all the way for durability and support when cutting and jumping.
Under Armour Curry Flow 8
Curry broke a boundary when he opted for Under Armour for his signature shoe. Since then, UA has become a big player in the basketball world and it's thanks in no small part to the effectiveness of Curry's basketball shoes. The Curry Flow 8 promises the best ride yet with a fully rubberless build that goes big on cushioning for a zippy, fast-reaction game.
Converse NBA Jam All-Star BB EVO
No brand has as much experience on the court as Converse. It's no mistake that the imprint is still considered one of the top names on the hardwood. It's retained its reputation with an evolving catalog that culminates in the Converse All-Star BB Evo. Notably worn by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the BB Evo has a super-sleek mid-top silhouette. A woven QuadFit upper keeps you securely locked in, but be sure to size up half a size to avoid being literally locked in this shoe.
Want to keep browsing? Head to the Highsnobiety Shop for more products that we love. Highsnobiety has affiliate marketing partnerships, which means we may receive a commission from your purchase.