The 10 Weirdest Non-Basketball Shoes Worn in an NBA Game
Apart from superstars, legends and icons, what makes the NBA so great are its oddballs, characters and mavericks (both of the Dallas and non-Dallas variety). The NBA is a personality-driven league, and how some of its members show their personality is through their footwear choices. Over the last two decades, we've seen a handful of the league's most notable characters take the court in some truly strange kicks that range from high-fashion high tops to high-heat colabs and running shoes with little to no lateral support! With the 2022 playoffs set to start in full this upcoming weekend after the play-in tournament concludes, we thought it would be a fine time to take a look back and pick ten of the strangest sneakers to ever hit the NBA hardwood.
Nike Air Max Plus 'Hyper Blue'
Player: Gilbert Arenas
Gilbert Arenas is one of the greatest oddballs in NBA history, and that quirkiness extended to his footwear choices – which you'll see on this list more than once. Though most hoops fans know Agent Zero for his signature adidas line, which actually introduced low-top sneakers into the hoop lexicon three years before Kobe Bryant made 'em truly famous, Arenas has brought all kinds of wacky kicks to the hardwood. Rumour has it that he loved playing in Air Max 95s when he was in high school. Later in life, he performed most of the physical tests at the 2001 NBA Draft Combine in a pair of Chuck Taylor All Stars.
His strange footwear choices continued after he established himself in the league, as he wore Reebok running shoes during one game and, on more than one occasion, took to the court in Nike's classic Air Max Plus 'Hyper Blue.' We love a good TN, of course, but Tuned Air technology is for pounding the pavement in ... not driving up the NBA court! Arenas always marched to the beat of his own drum though and managed to play at a, well, plus level in his Air Max Plus.
Dolce & Gabbana Bull
Date: December 7, 2010
Player: Gilbert Arenas
If you thought wearing an Air Max Plus on the court was off the rails, you probably think hooping in a Dolce & Gabbana sneaker is totally mental! Well, besides Agent Zero, Gilbert Arenas has another nickname. It's 'No Chill Gil,' and it was on full display when he took to the court in a pair of Dolce & Gabbana Bull high-tops in December 2010.
This was after his adidas deal was up, so Arenas was a sneaker free agent who could wear whatever he wanted. Leading up to the game, he'd also rocked everything from Jordan's CMFT Maxes to the Nike Air Diamond Turf, but something compelled him to hit the court in a $395 pair of Dolce & Gabbana kicks that weren't even his – they belonged to then-teammate Nick Young. 'Nick Young came to the locker room with the Dolce & Gabbana sneakers on,' Arenas told The Jump. 'They matched the jersey. So, I just put them on!' Young didn't even know what Arenas was doing, and was reportedly shocked to see his teammate wearing his shoes during warm-ups shootaround, but he didn't object – and No Chill Gil put up 23 points in a losing effort.
A side note that's worth mentioning is that the Bull's designer Young Bae Seok actually envisioned the sneaker as a shoe that could be worn for hoops. 'Basketball players usually prefer laces,' he said. 'But even though I used velcro, I made sure the shoe was sturdy.'
Nike Air Yeezy 2 'Solar'
Date: March 6, 2013
Player: Nate Robinson
Nate Robinson may be diminutive in stature but he certainly wasn't in his on-court style. From the late 2000s to the mid 2010s, Nate the Great sported all kinds of crazy LeBrons and Air Jordans. Though it wasn't during an actual game, you can't forget him donning the Air Foamposite Lite 'Kryptonate' before jumping over Superman (Dwight Howard) in the 2009 Dunk Contest either!
However, Robinson's finest on-court footwear moment came in 2013, when he sported the Nike Air Yeezy 2 'Solar' as a member of the Chicago Bulls. One of the earliest on-court Air Yeezy 2 sightings, the 'Solar' worked surprisingly well with the Bulls' red uniforms – but Nate switched into the Air Jordan 12 after only a quarter, and the Bulls lost to the Spurs 101-83. At least Nate got a W on the sneaker front!
Nike Air Yeezy 1 'Zen Grey'
Date: November 16, 2015
Player: PJ Tucker
It's hard for anyone to compete with PJ Tucker's insane lineup of on-court sneakers – he even befuddles his teammates and peers with his vast array of samples, PEs and five-figure silhouettes. Tucker was going exceptionally bananas with his footwork in 2015 though, and one of his finest moments was hitting the court in the Air Yeezy 1 'Zen Grey' on November 16, while his Suns won an early-season contest against the Lakers 120-101.
Days after taking the court in the Air Yeezy 2 'Pure Platinum,' Tucker went even further back into his Yeezy stash and somehow managed to put up 11 points and 7 rebounds in a bulky, chunky high-top that, when worn for basketball, probably feels like playing in a pair of boots. He even fired a shot at his haters in a pre-game Instagram post, chiding them for caring so much about his on-court kicks (though he himself clearly does). 'This is about having fun for me,' Tucker said. 'Nothing more, nothing less.' We've got a feeling he wanted to show off a little too though!
Nike Air Fear of God 1
Date: November 2, 2018
Player: PJ Tucker
PJ Tucker could have one of these lists to himself, and it could easily house more than 10 sneakers. However, sporting the Air Fear of God 1 was one of the most memorable moments in his laundry list of uncommon on-court choices. It was the general public's first real, thorough look at the first collaboration between Jerry Lorenzo's brand and Nike, and it was a serious test of the shoe's purported performance chops. Though the Air Fear of God 1 was a lifestyle sneaker, Lorenzo often spoke of its basketball influence – and it was designed by Leo Chang, the man responsible for most of Kevin Durant's signature models.
Tucker switched into a pair of UNDEFEATED x Nike Kobe 1s at halftime, but according to him it wasn't because the FOG 1 wasn't performing well – it was because he wasn't performing well. 'Dog, I buy and wear different sneakers almost every single game,' Tucker quipped to HYPEBEAST in an interview that took place shortly after the game. 'Every time before that, it was like "Oh, PJ's doing this, doing that. But with this colab it was "Oh, they must have hurt because he took them off." I took them off because I wasn't playing well. They were great, and I'll probably bring them back again even though I never really bring shoes back twice.'
True to his word, Tucker was spotted warming up in the Air Fear of God 1 'Orange Pulse' on May 6, 2019, though he didn't actually play in them.
adidas Yeezy BOOST 750
Player: Nick Young
Date: December 12, 2015
Some players make basketball history by changing the way the game is played, setting statistical records or winning multiple championships. Others make basketball history with their sartorial choices. Nick Young falls in the latter camp, and one of his most memorable moments was wearing the original Yeezy BOOST 750 during a December 12 game between his Lakers and the Houston Rockets.
The Lakers were on the wrong end of a 126-97 thumping, but let's be honest: all anyone remembers from that game is Young's kicks. He'd recently signed to adidas, and clearly wanted to show his fellow Three Stripes family member Kanye West some love. Young also had his first-ever assist to Kobe Bryant that evening, but gave the credit to his footwear. 'It was the Yeezys tonight that got the assist for him,' Swaggy P quipped when asked how it felt to be dishing the rock to Kobe. Young would go on to wear the Yeezy BOOST 750 'Core Black' in an early 2016 contest as well, but here the intro topped the follow-up.
adidas Yeezy 500 'Blush'
Player: Nick Young
Date: February 26, 2018
A few years after bringing the Yeezy BOOST 750 to the NBA hardwood, Nick Young had a new team (the Golden State Warriors) and another memorable on-court sneaker choice (the Yeezy 500 'Blush'). 'Nick Young played actual basketball in Yeezy 500s!' frothed GQ in a breathless headline the night after the game. However, Young's performance was pretty blush-worthy as he went a forgettable 1-4 from three on his way to 3 points and an overall +/- rating of -8 while his Warriors vanquished the Knicks 125-111.
The Yeezy 500 actually does have a touch of hoops DNA in it, as the sole is heavily inspired by Kobe Bryant's adidas KB8 III from 1999. However, it's a bulky, heavy low-top, and, at the time was selling for around $1,000 – so seeing a pair worn casually on the court was nothing short of stunning! Interestingly enough, Kanye West's present-day DONDA Doves – a high school basketball team made up of elite players from around the USA – are often spotted playing in the Yeezy 500. Swaggy P did it first though!
Nike Air Max 90
Player: Thabo Sefolosha
Thabo Sefolosha is the Air Max 90 king of the NBA. It's a weird thing to be the king of, but the 14-year veteran who spent most of his career in the Tinker Hatfield-designed classic couldn't care less. 'People ask me all the time, ‘How do I play in them?’ Sefolosha once said. 'I just lace them up and run.'
Sefolosha started wearing the Air Max 90 while rehabbing from injury during the 2014-15 NBA season, growing fond of the model for its 'quickness' and the grip it provided him. As many players do, he put custom inserts in his shoes for a more specific fit, so at least he wasn't hooping in out-of-the-box pairs! At first, he'd actually make his size 15s through Nike ID (it wasn't called Nike By You yet!), but eventually, Nike got hip to his unusual sneaker preferences and started sending him custom Air Max 90 PEs.
What sets Sefolosha apart from the other players on this list is his loyalty to the model. The Air Max 90 isn't anywhere close to being a basketball shoe, but it's what works for him. He didn't wear it for show – like PJ Tucker did when he sported the Off-White x Nike Air Max 90 during a November 2019 game – but for performance! Different strokes for different folks, we suppose!
Nike Air Max 1 Mid ID
Player: Thabo Sefolosha
Before Thabo Sefolosha became the undisputed (and unchallenged) Air Max 90 king of the NBA, he had a brief flirtation with the little-known Air Max 1 Mid. During the NBA preseason and first few regular-season games back from his rehab session mentioned in the blurb above, he wore the mid-cut Air Max 1 on the court, causing more than a few double-takes from Atlanta Hawks fans and sneaker lovers alike.
Much like his Air Max 90s, Sefolosha made the majority of his Air Max 1 Mids on Nike ID. That means they're so random, there aren't even any product shots of them! There is something down-to-earth about Sefolosha's whole footwear process: he was a millionaire athlete and any brand would have been happy to send him shoes, but he preferred to customise the pairs he liked himself. One thing's for sure: Sefolosha was a brave man for wearing a mid-cut lifestyle shoe turned runner in his first set of games back from a broken leg. At least it offered some sort of ankle support!
UNDEFEATED x Reebok Instapump Fury
Date: October 22, 2019
Player: Montrezl Harrell
Reebok boasts a strong hoops heritage that includes luminaries like Allen Iverson, Shaquille O'Neal and Shawn Kemp, but after a period of stagnation, they've recently been inching back into the NBA by slowly rebuilding their hoops roster. High-energy forward/centre Montrezl Harrell is a key piece of that effort, and in 2019 he took the court in the UNDEFEATED x Reebok Instapump Fury for the Clippers' season-opening 112-102 victory over the crosstown Lakers.
Trezz, as he's known, is a bruising player, so a minimalist design like the Instapump Fury is about as far away from what he needs as you can imagine. Thankfully for the health of his feet and ankles, he realized this rather quickly, switching into the Question Mid 'Double Cross' midway through the game on his way to a 17-point, 7-rebound performance.