5 of the Most Underrated NBA Signature Sneakers Ever
The NBA’s signature models have always played an intrinsic role in extending basketball’s influence from the court to the street — and in some cases, from street to chic.
While Michael Jordan and the Jumpman laid the foundation back in the 80s, and continue the pave the way, the support cast throughout the the years has always been All-Star. The likes of the Shaq Attaq, Air Penny, and Sir Charles’ CB series headlined the 90s, before Kobe and LeBron’s Swooshed signatures proceeded to dominate the court post-2000. Considering the sheer volume, it’s no surprise some of the best signatures have been largely forgotten — thankfully, not by us.
So, let’s take a walk back through hardcourt history to rediscover some of the most underrated NBA signature sneakers ever.
Having already garnered an avid following on the streetball courts, Philly-based brand AND1 rolled the dice back in 1996, signing 19-year-old Stephen Marbury prior to his rookie NBA season. The talented point guard waved off other high-profile suitors to ink the contract, kick-starting AND1’s transition from asphalt to hardwood.
The Marbury 1 was a strong debut model for ‘Starbury’, and remains one of AND1’s best-selling sneakers ever, so much so they brought it back in 2007. Renamed the Coney Island Classic, the retro shared much of the OG’s classic charm, dressed in leather and stamped with AND1’s ‘Trash-talk Guy’ logo.
FILA 96 (Grant Hill II)
FILA was a serious contender in the basketball market during the 90s thanks to the introduction of Grant Hill’s signature line. The Detroit Pistons star had some serious talent, and the charisma to back it up, making him one of the most marketable players in the NBA among a plethora of big names.
Of Hill’s five signature models, the FILA 96 remains the magnum opus. With its clean white base and navy blue outlined detailing, the 96 attracted plenty of fans on and off court, most notably Tupac Shakur.
FILA acknowledged Hill’s contribution to the brand late last year, bestowing him with a lifetime endorsement.
Reebok Omni Pump Hexride (Yao Ming)
A left-field addition to our list, Yao Ming’s Omni Pump Hexride perhaps came a decade too early. It’s not shy when it comes to the Far East inspiration, and would sit perfectly among the maximal Chinese New Year releases of today.
Released to commemorate Yao’s participation at his home Olympic Games in Beijing, the sneaker went criminally under the radar. Combining the ‘Bok’s state-of-the-art technologies — Pump and Hexride — Yao’s baller wore a stunning dragon graphic intermeshed with gold detailing.
Only 2008 individually numbered pairs were released in all of China. Talk about a hard cop!
This was the one that started it all for the Black Mamba. After a breakout rookie season gaming adidas Basketball’s Feet You Wear models (Top Ten 2000, Top Ten 2010 and EQT Elevation, just to name a few), Kobe Bryant was bestowed with a signature sneaker at the beginning of his sophomore season. With its distinctive bulbous aesthetic, the KB8 — like Kobe — proceeded to turn plenty of heads.
While most remember him donning the Swoosh, it was Kobe's adidas era that provided the springboard to superstardom. And many of those designs have gone on to be reinterpreted, most notably by Yeezy.
Later renamed the Crazy 8, the KB8 was re-released in 2007 and remains a staple among the Three Stripes’ retro catalog.
Reebok Kamikaze I
Shawn Kemp may have been denied an NBA title (mainly due to the presence of another #23 from Chicago), but his legacy as one of the league’s most exciting players of all time is undeniable. His first signature sneaker — the Kamikaze — made an equally profound impact on the sneaker game at the time.,
Originally released in 1994, the Kamikaze had an unmistakably bold counterblocked make-up worthy of the ‘Reign Man’. In many ways, it epitomises the 90s basketball aesthetic — distinctive panelling, contrasting colours, and ankle-hugging high-cut construction, just to name a few traits. While most probably remember Shaq Attaq when they reminisce on the Reebok lineup of the era, the Kamikaze remains a fan-favourite, and was arguably Reebok’s most sought-after baller at the time.
Main image via: kixzone.