The Best Performance Basketball Sneakers: 2000-2010
The new millennium ushered in a scintillating era of technical innovation and experimentation for the footwear industry. As always, the NBA hardwood was fundamental in fostering these new flight paths.
Elevated by their signature lines, it was an era where athletes like Kobe Bryant (Nike Kobe 4) and Allen Iverson (Reebok Answer 4) soared to their high-altitude peaks, while others like the rookie LeBron James were only just getting started (Nike Air Zoom Generation).
And it wasn’t just signature silhouettes that were dropping jaws on the courts. Underdogs like the AND 1 Tai Chi and space-suit inspired Nike Shox BB4 contributed to an eclectic decade of on-foot heat that’s still regarded as one of our halcyon eras of performance sneakers.
But the real question is: What’s your number one sneaker of the new millennium?
Nike Air Zoom Generation (2003)
LeBron James’ first signature shoe, the Nike Air Zoom Generation is still one of the jewel’s in the King’s crown. Nike quickly went to work after LeBron signed his $90 million contract, taking cues from LeBron’s much-loved H2 Hummer to build the blueprint. Laced by LeBron as he commenced his storied career on the NBA hardwood, the Zoom Air would serve as the primary elevation for much of LeBron’s lauded sneaker catalogue.
Reebok Answer 4 (2000)
Immortalised by the moment Allen Iverson stepped over Tyronn Lue during the 2001 NBA Finals, the Reebok Answer 4 helped AI tie together a career-defining season that ended with a league MVP trophy. Featuring a zip-up closure and full length DMX cushioning, the Answer 4 continues to be Iverson’s most popular Reebok signature, the 2017 retro even gathering a fresh batch of salt for Lue’s wounds with a pull out photograph in the sneaker box.
Air Jordan 17 (2002)
Taking inspiration from the improvisational nature of jazz, the Air Jordan 17 celebrated Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA during the 2001-02 season. Famously packaged with an accompanying metal briefcase and CD-ROM, the AJ17 was also the most expensive Air Jordan to date. Down below, the Jordan Brand also debuted the Tuned Air cushioning system.
adidas T-Mac 2 (2003)
Originally released in 2003, the adidas T-Mac 2 presented a clean, two-tone design taking cues from Tracy McGrady’s time at the Orlando Magic. A cult-classic from the 2000s-era NBA, the T-Mac 2 continues to besot sneakerheads across the globe, the recent 2021 iteration a testament to the silhouette’s timeless quality. Among other technical updates, the T-Mac 2 retro included all-new Bounce midsoles.
AND 1 Tai Chi (2000)
The year 2000 was the most storied of Vince Carter’s career. Just months before launching over a 7-foot giant at the Sydney Summer Games in a pair of Nike Shox BB4 (which may also be part of this list...) Carter etched his name into NBA folklore with an iconic Dunk Contest victory. The All-Star Weekend aerial assault announced Carter as arguably the game’s most electrifying talent, but many were left wondering what those mysterious mid-tops were on his feet.
Seemingly overnight, the little known AND 1 Tai Chi was swept up in Carter’s undeniable clout. The performance basketball market finally had a new contender.
Nike Shox BB4 (2000)
It’s hard to think about the futuristic BB4 without reminiscing over that dunk. However, for fans of Nike’s Shox line for the hardwood, there’s more to this sneaker than the ‘Sydney incident’. Undoubtedly the most popular sneaker from the ‘Boing’ era, the BB4 matched its wild looks with killer performance. Designed by Eric Avar, the sneaker is highlighted by the distinctive technology in the heel, which gives off a rocket-booster vibe. Those Shox pillars definitely launched ‘Vinsanity’ and many others into orbit during the 2000s.
To pay homage to the beloved design, a 41-year-old Carter gamed the Shox BB4 retro for much of the 2018-19 season.
Nike Hyperdunk (2008)
After Team USA was forced to settle for basketball bronze in 2004, it was bad news for the competition once Beijing 2008 came around. Out for blood, many of the team’s stars wore Nike’s latest basketball model, the Hyperdunk, on their way to gold. The first basketball sneaker to feature Flywire tech, the high-cut silhouette went on to become one of the most ubiquitous models in the NBA for years to come, with updated versions continuing the hyper-popularity.
And, of course, it was the Hyperdunk which the late Kobe Bryant wore in his famed Aston Martin jump commercial. RIP, Mamba!
Nike Kobe 4 (2008)
It’s a big call, but Kobe’s greatest gift to the sneaker world was the Nike Kobe 4. This silhouette represented ‘The Black Mamba’ at the peak of his creative and playing powers. Back in 2008, Kobe had just won a gold medal at the aforementioned Beijing games, and was once again contending for an NBA championship with the Lakers, so he challenged Nike to reintroduce a signature low-cut basketball shoe to market. Sure, it was low in profile, but the Kobe 4 remains a gargantuan force on (and off) the court to this day, still balling hard thanks to the Protro upgrade.
Embodying the ‘Mamba Mentality’, the Kobe 4 drove progression, defying convention to blaze a trail for a new generation of performance basketball sneakers.,
Be sure to check out more of the All-Time Greatest Sneakers here.