The shoes behind 10 iconic NBA moments
From the banned Air Jordan 1s of 1985 to Steph Curry's giraffe-print Under Armours, these are the sneakers NBA stars wore for their greatest moments.
Jordan v Dominique
Michael Jordan battles Dominique Wilkins in the 1985 dunk contest.
The shoe: Jordan 1 Bred (Black, Varsity Red, White)
Michael Jordan’s first duel with Dominique Wilkins is widely remembered as one of the greatest dunk contests ever.
It’s also believed to be the first time the most iconic NBA shoe in history was worn on court.
The Air Jordan 1 was banned when it was first released, as the black and red colour scheme didn’t meet the NBA’s regulations, which mandated that players’ shoes had to be at least 51 per cent white.
Legend states that Nike agreed to pay the $5,000 fine that Jordan would face should he wear the shoes in a game, though there is no evidence he ever did.
Jordan was allowed to wear them in this famous duel with Dominique, though, which he narrowly lost.
Nike used the shoe’s ‘banned’ tag in their marketing of the Jordan 1 for years, and have re-released the iconic black and red colourway on several occasions.
The 2016 retro version of the shoe is currently worth $961, while the 1994 version sells for a huge $2,084. on StockX.
Jordan’s Last Dance
The moment: Michael Jordan wins the 1998 NBA title with his final shot for the Chicago Bulls.
The shoe: Air Jordan XIV (Black, Black, Varsity Red)
Recently revisited in Netflix’s brilliant documentary series The Last Dance, Michael Jordan’s final shot for the Bulls is the most famous moment in NBA history.
With Chicago leading the Utah Jazz 3-2 in the 1998 Finals, Jordan shook off Bryon Russell and drained the pull-up jumper that sealed Chicago’s sixth title in eight years.
The shot made the Ferrari-inspired Air Jordan XIV an iconic shoe.
Featuring a yellow Jumpman badge that mimicked the Prancing Horse and a rubber heel modelled after the supercar’s tyres, the Jordan XIV was designed to epitomise the speed and luxury that Ferrari was known for.
Thanks to a spike in popularity following The Last Dance, the original XIVs from 1999 in the famous ‘Last Shot’ black colourway are currently worth around $533 on StockX, while the re-released version from 2018 currently nets around $353.
Iverson steps over Lue
The moment: Allen Iverson hits a three-pointer and steps over Tyronn Lue in the 2001 Finals.
The shoe: Reebok Answer IV (Black, White)
Allen Iverson did so much for NBA fashion that he had to have a shoe in this list.
He brought hip hop culture to the league, with his flashy style on and off the court influencing other players and eventually leading to the NBA implementing a restrictive dress code in 2005.
Iverson’s most famous moment came against the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 Finals, when he scored 48 points, spoiled LA’s perfect postseason and stepped over Tyronn Lue in one of the most disrespectful (and awesome) plays ever.
Lue had a great view of the Answer IVs that Iverson wore on his feet that night.
The black and white Reeboks, which feature an illustration of AI’s face on the sole, haven’t aged quite as well as other classic NBA shoes.
They still sell for around $250 in StockX, though, proving the lasting impact of Iverson’s style and swagger.
Blocked by James!
The moment: LeBron James blocks Andre Iguodala’s shot in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals.
The shoe: Nike LeBron Zoom Soldier 10 (Black, Metallic Gold)
The greatest moment of LeBron James’ career is not a game-winning shot or a trademark dunk, but a play now known simply as “The Block”.
With the scores tied in Game 7, King James came out of nowhere to chase down Golden State Warriors forward Iguodala and pinned his layup attempt to the backboard, shifting the momentum towards the Cleveland Cavaliers and leading to their first NBA title.
It was also LeBron’s last championship to date, although his Los Angeles Lakers are the favourites in the NBA betting this year.
The Nike LeBron Zoom Solder 10s that James debuted in the 2016 Finals are, like the man himself, all about substance over style.
They feature a simple high-top design with three lockdown straps for stability, and the black and gold colourway from Game 7 matches the sleeved jerseys worn by the Cavaliers.
The shoes currently sell for $257 on StockX.
Kobe drops 81
The moment: Kobe Bryant scores 81 points in a single game against the Toronto Raptors.
The shoe: Nike Kobe 1 (White, Black, Varsity Purple)
Kobe Bryant’s finest scoring night came in his first ever Nike signature shoe.
The Black Mamba erupted for 81 points against the Toronto Raptors on 22 January 2006, which remains the second-highest single-game total in NBA history.
Bryant left Adidas to sign with Nike in 2003, but legal troubles meant the release of his own signature shoe was delayed until 2006.
When the Nike Kobe 1s finally dropped, Bryant produced a performance that would make the shoe iconic forever.
The white, black and purple Kobe 1s from the 81-point game were a player exclusive at the time, but were finally released to commemorate the game’s 13-year anniversary in January 2019.
They are now worth around $270, although a size-14 pair of the original 2007 player exclusives sold for $4,500 on StockX in February 2020.
The moment: Vince Carter wins the 2000 NBA dunk contest with an incredible performance.
The shoe: AND1 Tai Chi (White/Red)
It was clear from Vince Carter’s first dunk of the 2000 dunk contest that something special was happening.
Opening with a reverse 360 windmill, ‘Air Canada’ strung together four of the greatest slams of all time on his way to the trophy.
Shaquille O’Neal, Isiah Thomas and Michael Keaton were among the arena full of spectators thrilled by Carter’s performance, but the directors at Puma were probably less happy.
They had signed Carter to a $50m deal in 1998, but the shooting guard broke the contract as the shoes hurt his feet and instead signed with up-and-coming brand AND1.
Carter wore AND1’s debut shoe, the Tai Chi, for his greatest moment and helped to make the shoe incredibly popular. They still sell for $142 today.
Carter later signed a huge contract with Nike, which helped him clear the $14m debt he owed Puma for breaking his original deal.
Allen’s Miami Miracle
The moment: Ray Allens’s three-pointer forces overtime in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals.
The shoe: Jordan XX8 “Locked and Loaded” (White, Red, Metallic Gold)
LeBron James can thank Ray Allen for the 2013 NBA title.
With the Heat trailing by three with seconds remaining in Game 6 against the San Antonio Spurs, Allen hit a backpedalling three-pointer to force overtime, allowing Miami to come back and win the title.
The sharpshooter was wearing a pair of Air Jordan XX8s that had never been seen before or since that shot.
The white, red and gold high tops, which had ‘Ray’ embroidered on the tongue, were a player exclusive and were never released to the public.
Jordan Brand did, however, release a black and blue pair of XX8s titled ‘Locked and Loaded’ to commemorate Allen’s shot in 2018, which now sell for $303 on StockX.
The moment: Kobe Bryant scores 60 points in the final game of his NBA career.
The shoe: Nike Kobe 11 Fade to Black (Black, Black)
Kobe Bryant always seemed to have a knack for writing his own legacy, and no moment illustrated that better than when he ended his NBA career with a 60-point explosion.
Bryant willed the Lakers to victory in vintage style at the age of 37 before taking the microphone after the game and signing off by saying “Mamba out”.
Kobe’s choice of shoe on that night – the aptly named Nike Kobe 11 Fade to Black – made it clear he was in the mood for a dramatic finale.
It’s fitting that the Lakers legend ended his career in a pair of low tops, a style of shoe that was barely seen in the NBA until he began wearing them in 2008.
Inspired by his love of soccer, Bryant was convinced that low tops wouldn’t put too much strain on his ankles and instructed Nike to make him the lightest, lowest basketball shoes ever.
The black and gold Kobe 11s from the Black Mamba’s final game now sell for $1,146 on StockX, a price that has more than doubled following his death on 26 January.
Curry from Downtown
The moment: Steph Curry beats the Thunder with a 38-foot game-winner.
The shoe: Under Armour Curry 2 (Giraffe Yellow, Black, Royal Blue)
Steph Curry’s career has been full of memorable moments, but none were as implausible as this game-winner.
With the scores tied in overtime, the two-time MVP pulled up from an absurd 38 feet and drained the three-pointer, tying the record for most threes made in a game in the process.
The shot was so ridiculous that it drew two signature “Bang!” calls from commentator Mike Breen.
Curry’s greatest shot came in his signature Under Armour 2s, which were mercilessly ridiculed for looking like ‘grandma shoes’ when first released.
The all-white colourway became an instant meme, but the bright yellow giraffe-printed version that Curry wore against the Thunder were certainly less boring.
They were player exclusives and have never been released to the public, though you can still pick up a pair of the all-white originals for $85 on StockX.
Kawhi’s Buzzer Beater
The moment: Kawhi Leonard eliminates the Philadelphia 76ers from the 2019 playoffs.
The shoe: New Balance OMN1S (Black, Team Royal-Gold rush)
Kawhi Leonard’s series-ending shot against the 76ers happened just over a year ago, but already belongs in the pantheon of dramatic NBA moments.
The buzzer-beater, which bounced off the rim three times before finally dropping, is the signature moment of a playoff run in which Leonard established himself as a genuine NBA megastar.
New Balance took advantage of Kawhi-mania with some inspired t-shirt designs during the 2019 playoffs, and the OMN1S sneakers he wore in that postseason sold out immediately.
The black and royal blue OMN1S that Leonard rocked for that famous Game 7 currently sell for $640 on StockX, over three times more than any other colourway.