The Best Performance Basketball Sneakers of the 2010s
There was so much heat on the NBA hardwood over the past from 2010 to 2020. From Kobe Bryant’s all-conquering Nike Zoom Kobe 5 to modern classics like the Air Jordan 31, basketball sneakers continued to transcend the court and become cultural linchpins – setting the stage for today's wealth of performance advancements.
As we prepare for the NBA Playoffs, we’ve rounded up eight of the most epic sneakers to ever get laced in the 2010s.
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Nike Kyrie 2 (2015)
Known for having some of the most creative sneakers in the NBA, perennial ankle-breaker and NBA Champion Kyrie Irving certainly has an enviable CV when it comes to signature silhouettes.
The Kyrie 2 is still our undisputed favourite from last decade, the 2018 silhouette featuring a fluid-like, aerodynamic design that reflects Kyrie’s jaw-dropping on-court artistry.
Built with a rounded outsole, the unique strap was implemented to ensure Kyrie could stop on a dime. As designer Leo Chang explained: ‘Kyrie can decelerate so quickly – 13 miles per hour to virtually zero in 0.2 seconds – he needs to be locked down tight.’
Our personal MVP colourway? The Kyrie 2 ‘Ky-rispy Kreme’.
Nike KD 4 (2011)
A hallmark of Kevin Durant’s dominant days playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Nike KD 4 originally hit the hardwood in 2011.
Designed by Leo Chang, the silhouette was built with an Adaptive Fit System and Hyperfuse construction, KD’s fourth signature quickly establishing a cult-following thanks to retina-busting colourways like the ‘Aunt Pearl’, ‘Weatherman’, and ‘Nerf’ releases.
Still fetching healthy prices on the resale market (the KD 4 ‘Nerf’ still sells for over $2,000), the KD 4 is a fan-favourite for many.,
In terms of contemporary silhouettes, Durant's signature line still cranks out some of the most popular styles on the market.
Nike LeBron 10 (2012)
Beginning with the colossal Nike Air Zoom generation, LeBron James’ sneaker catalogue is one of the most coveted in the industry.
Yes, the King’s reign extends to his sneakers, and the Nike LeBron 10 is most certainly a jewel in his crown. Making its on-court debut during the 2012 Summer Olympics, the silhouette released to the public later the same year. Designed by Jason Petrie, the LeBron 10 featured diamond-inspired detailing, quickly becoming one of the most sought-after releases in the LeBron canon.
Rest assured, we’ll be getting plenty more Nike LeBron signature silhouettes – King James has a lifetime deal with the Swoosh, and he's currently on his 19th signature model!
Nike Zoom Kobe 5 (2010)
An undisputed classic.
The Zoom Kobe 5 managed to shed even more weight than its predecessor – the Nike Zoom Kobe 4 – as well as ramping up the eclectic range of colourways. The ZK5 proved to be Kobe’s last championship-winning shoe, the Lakers narrowly claiming victory over the Celtics 4–3. In the last game of the Finals, Kobe donned a gold-trimmed pair of pure white ZK5s for that extra bit of winner’s luck.
Nike Adapt BB (2019)
In many ways, Nike’s Adapt technology had been seen as a bit of a gimmick, that was until Beaverton’s basketball division decided to ‘adapt’ it for the court. Designed to create a truly custom fit by combining an advanced power-lacing system, an app, and continually updated firmware, the Nike Adapt BB wasn’t just for show – some of the game’s best ‘laced’ ‘em up, including Jayson Tatum.
‘We picked basketball as the first sport for Nike Adapt intentionally because of the demands that athletes put on their shoes,’ said Eric Avar, Nike VP Creative Director of Innovation. ‘During a normal basketball game the athlete’s foot changes and the ability to quickly change your fit by loosening your shoe to increase blood flow and then tighten again for performance is a key element that we believe will improve the athlete’s experience.’ It was followed up by the Adapt BB 2 and also provided inspiration for casual silhouettes like the Adapt Auto Max Adapt and the Air Jordan 11 Adapt
adidas Dame 4 (2017)
While the Three Stripes aren’t quite the presence on the court as they were back in the ‘Feet You Wear’ days, they did come through with a few memorable court creps in the 2010s, most notably the Dame 4.
Widely regarded as the standout silhouette from Damian Lillard’s signature line, many ballers low-key proclaimed the sneaker as the best signature in the league at the time. Equipped with a comfy ankle collar, premium feel, and Bounce technology, it adopted a less is more approach – that was until BAPE decided to collaborate on it.
Dressing the silhouette in their trademark iconography, BAPE ensured the release was one of their most memorable collaborations to date, with the line for the drop stretching across multiple Tokyo streets.
Air Jordan 31 (2016)
Borrowing elements from the Air Jordan that started it all, the upper features both leather and Flyweave, decorated with a Jumpman, Wings logo, and Swooshes. Additionally, the tooling features FlightSpeed technology, while the sole makes use of the responsive full-length Zoom Air cushioning system.
Unsurprisingly, it became one of the most gamed sneakers in the NBA in its debut year, and is still widely regarded as one of the best Air Jordans from 30-36.
Under Armour Curry 1 (2015)
It’s one of Under Armour’s most important sneakers of all time, and the sneaker that solidified Stephen Curry as the brand’s marquee man! Steph’s debut signature sneaker has paved the way for an ongoing lineage of Curry models, coming through with responsive Charged Cushioning, a foam upper for comfort, and multidirectional herringbone outsole.
Its performance perks were certainly put to the test, with Steph rocking them en route to his first NBA championship in 2015 with the Golden State Warriors.