I'm fairly categorized as a basketball shoe fanatic. I became infatuated with basketball shoes in elementary school and the love hasn't since died. This love led me to wait in line for the re-issuance of the Jordan IV's and to stockpile weekly allowances to purchase shoes outside of my parents' budget. This love now leads me to devote half of my closet space to shoes I haven't worn in over three years.
Making a list of the "best" basketball shoes of all-time is nearly impossible. If I had unlimited free time and a non-existent social life I could probably draft a top-100 list. However, for sake of time & energy I have narrowed the list to my top five.
5. Air Penny II
This pick is probably pretty controversial. Given Penny's titanic fall-off, I'm not sure anything associated with him deserves a top-5 ranking. To be honest, I probably put them on the list out of fear that this would turn into "the top five pairs of Jordans of all-time" more than anything else. Nevertheless, I think these shoes were sick. When they were released, shoe fanatics like myself were exposed to new levels of consumerism. We began to re-think what we would pay for the best new shoe -- in this case ~$140/pair!
4. Nike Air Force I
I realize that the version in the picture is not the "true" Air Force I, it is the variation created by Nike for Sheed to wear in the 2007 All Star Game. When I was looking for a picture of Air Force I's, this came up and I couldn't pass it up. Sheed has been the twentieth century in-game model of the Air Force I, and the pictured version was only worn by him for one game. That being said, the Air Force I has probably had more influence on Nike's basketball shoe evolution than any shoe outside of the Jordan Series. Air Force I's came back with a bang a few years ago, and any time a shoe can have that kind of impact 20 years after its release, it deserves a spot amongst the basketball shoe immortals.
3. Air Max Force I (Barkley I's)
Interestingly enough, this shoe wasn't even first made famous by Barkley. It was actually brought to the forefront of the basketball apparel world by the University of Michigan's "Fab Five" in 1993. The starting five sported these beauties when they were the most en vogue team since the showtime Lakers. The design was simple but had enough detail to catch the eye. The shoe's design pretty much personified Charles Barkley's game, and that was probably the determining factor in making this list -- my number one qualification is that the shoe must fit the player. This shoe certainly did.
2. Air Jordan XI
I could have easily put Jordan III, Jordan V, Jordan XIII, or Jordan VI in this spot. This shoe narrowly edged out those other versions because it was just a tad bit flashier -- and who was flashier than Michael Jordan? I copped a pair of the black & red version of the XI's, and they certainly didn't disappoint. They fit like a glove, and they're one of those pairs of shoes that when you wear them for the first time you feel like you're quicker and can jump higher. I know they didn't actually expand my physical capacities, but it sure felt like it... most basketball players (who are also shoe fanatics) can associate with this feeling.
1. Air Jordan IV
Maybe I'm partial -- I've owned this shoe twice -- but it wasn't even much of a competition for the top spot on this list. These shoes are everything. They came out before styles got too chaotic, but after Nike had perfected the air pocket and had improved the durability of its products. Oh yeah, they were also worn by the greatest player of all time, just as he was beginning to earn that reputation. Enough said.
Honorable Mention: Air Jordan V, Air Jordan III, Air Jordan VI, Air Jordan XIII, Air Huarache 2K4, Air Zoom Lebron II, Nike Air Up (original Pippens), Air Flight 89, Nike Air Zoom Flight 5 (original Kidd's).
Yes, only Nikes made my list (including honorable mention). I don't think this needs to be justified.