Words: Chris Benfield
Though it may seem a little strange that two weeks into 2011 we decide to pull out a list that usually sees a publish post-Christmas, we just couldn’t help ourselves. With all that festive feasting slowing us down in the latter half of December and now that all signs of festivities have been eliminated, we’ve finally got a chance to sit down and get this list of the “top five basketball shoes of 2010″ together.
2010 was an excellent year for basketball footwear. Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Under Armour and ANTA were all busy building on their basketball footwear foundations, providing some great modern performance footwear. We might as well say this before we start, Nike once again took things up more than a level with the designers in “The Kitchen” pulling out all the stops, creating what could possibly be the foundation of future basketball shoes.
While modern basketball footwear is always future thinking, there’s always room for the retro’s and Nike was pulling out some serious nineties goodness left, right and centre. Air Penny III’s, Air Foamposite Pro’s, Air Foamposite Eggplant’s & Copper’s, Air Pippen’s, Air 1/2 Cent Cranberry & Eggplant’s, Air Total Max Uptempo and Flightposite II’s were all giving heads enough nostalgia to last a couple more years until the next fix.
Jordan Brand kept relatively quiet in 2010 for retro’s and it was quiet for us Brits as well. Loosing out on the AJ VI ‘Infrared’ double pack was a bit of a blow, but there was just about enough to keep us satisfied with the Bred & White VI’s, Charcoal, Citrus, Powder Blue and White/Black IX’s, Bulls and Flint XIII’s, AJ 1 K.O.’s, Olympic ‘For The Love Of The Game’ VII’s and the OG II’s. Jordan also provided enough modern options with the Air Jordan 2010, CP3.III and Melo 7’s being highlights.
Adidas’ Supernatural Creator, Commander & Superbeast models, endorsed by NBA stars such as Chicago’s Derick Rose and Orlando’s Dwight Howard, are some killer performance shoes and got the attention they deserve on the hardwood floors. Reebok also brought to light their new ‘ZigTech’ technology, producing a new model aptly named ‘Slash’ that suits the high energy style of play in basketball.
Definitive lists can cause quite a stir and there’s always some pieces that get missed. Here are few that didn’t quite make the ‘Top 5’ list but are more than worthy of your attention and deserve full recognition; Nike Hypderdunk 2010, Adidas TS Supernatural Creator (Derick Rose’ ‘Bulls’ colour-up), Nike Zoom KD II (Home, Creamsicle’s and Allstar’s), Nike Air Huarache 2010, Air Jordan 2010, LeBron Soldier IV (Black/Red), Nike Zoom LeBron VII P.S, Reebok Pump Omni Lite (Dee Brown colourway reissue), Nike Air Max CB 34 (Black/Purple) and the Air Jordan Alpha 1.
5. Nike Air Max Uptempo 97 (Black/White/College Blue)
A welcome reissue amongst diehard Nike heads, the Uptempo 97 is another one of Nike’s crazy 90’s hoop shoes, but this design just had the right balance of futuristic aesthetics without becoming invalid off the court. It’s basically just a superb design and a shoe that a lot of people hold close to their hearts – a symbol of the NBA golden era if you will. You’ll probably remember Pippen going hard in these throughout the 96-97 season, with Ray ‘Jesus Shuttlesworth’ Allen and his Lincoln boys also giving these an outing in ‘He Got Game’.
The combination of white tumbled leather and black suede on the upper is overshadowed by the sheer eccentricity of this design, but all the elements seem to be in balance and just right throughout. Those extra Nike swoosh’s are almost gimmicky and feel like they shouldn’t be there, but again, it just works. The full length Air unit and BRS 1000 carbon rubber sole technology was fundamental in making this a high quality performance shoe.
Though there’s always some apathy for this kind of shoe among most of us Brits, this classic was a superb release in 2010 for the basketball world.
4. Air Jordan XI Cool Grey
“Number 4?!” Controversial I know. Just an incredible piece of footwear design, most stores in the UK didn’t hold on to these for very long and after the 2009 reissue of the ‘Space Jam’ XI’s it was to be expected. The obsession for the AJ XI over in the US seems to have rubbed off on us and it looks as if it’s going to be just as popular over here now.
The Cool Grey XI is sublime, with grey patent leather and nubuck that combines perfectly with hits of pure white in all the right places. One alteration that seemed to have payed off on this retro was the switch to a blue tint on the outer-sole. Two things that were good about the switch being the prevention of future yellowing and the fact that it looked so damn good with that grey and white!
Like the Space Jam release, a special Air Jordan XI box was produced for the 2010 Cool Grey’s and although you definitely paid for the extras, it seemed to make the whole package that bit more special. It was the cherry on the cake of a well constructed shoe, which left people feeling more than satisfied with this reissue.
Going by the trend which started around Christmas 2008 with the release of the ‘Bred’ XI’s, the Space Jams following up in 2009 and now the Cool Grey’s in 2010, there’s bound to be another release at the end of this year… Concord’s please.
Images courtesy of Crooked Tongues.
3. Nike Zoom Kobe V ‘Dark Knight’
The Kobe V raised a few eyebrows with it’s seriously low profile (for a basketball shoe), but it was for good reason as it allowed maximum freedom of movement that suited the fast paced playing style of Shooting and Point Guards. Not only did the low cut profile allow that to happen, it also allowed for less material to be used, instantly reducing the weight.
The choice of Flywire was used, resulting in a stupidly lightweight shoe and also providing support where needed with the inner sock liner hugging your feet for a custom-like fit. The full length Zoom unit also provided some incredible comfort. I’m only touching the surface here, the Kobe V has a huge amount of small tech’d out details that all contribute to making this an incredible performance shoe.
Various colour-ups came out and the ‘Chaos’ version nearly took this spot, but the ‘Dark Knight’ make-up just edged it. That neptune blue, black and grey colour combined with the iced outsole and red hits underneath flowed so well. Various details such as Kobe’s signature on the heel, ’24’ on the footbeds and Kobe logo on the tongue were also all great finishing aesthetic touches.
The Kobe V is a slab of modern basketball footwear genius, instantly memorable and managed to get the perfect balance between science and art.
2. Nike Air Max LeBron 7 ‘Red Carpet’
Similar to the Kobe V, the LeBron 7 took basketball footwear design to new levels. Designer Jason Petrie killed it on these and it seemed to be the first shoe in the LeBron line that people appreciated fully on and off the court.
The combo of a full 360 Air Max bag (which was specifically developed for basketball for the first time ever), Flywire technology, seamless inner construction and those various ‘LB23’ details made for a serious basketball shoe that performed on the court and looked just as good off it. Though the Flywire versions were a tad too techy for most people, there was one make-up that really oozed style for day-to-day wear.
The ‘Red Carpet NFW’ QS version is straight fire, gully, dope, sick and all that jazz. Exchanging the Flywire with a black woven upper, it was a nod towards LBJ’s luxurious lifestyle. That small switch up from Flywire really took the LBJ 7 into lifestyle territory and provided a superb option for rocking on a daily basis off the court. Hits of aqua and red were a solid choice and it’s all done tastefully with even that full aqua Air Max unit looking not one bit out of place. The execution was incredible and made for a release that will no doubt get the forums pleading for a reissue 10 years down the line.
I have a feeling that the LBJ 7 is a potential future classic.
Images courtesy of Nike Lebron.
1. Nike Zoom Hyperfuse
It had to be number 1. A nimble, agile and groundbreaking basketball shoe design that isn’t just suited or limited to the hardwood floors. The Fuse technology used to create the ‘Hyperfuse’ mixes synthetic leather and mesh without a seam in sight.
Less bulk, a refined shape and a composite construction is what the Hyperfuse successfully achieves; it’s a modern basketball shoe that manages to stay elegant and subtle whilst being one of the best performance footwear designs ever made. Many NBA stars were rocking these deep into the 2010 Playoffs before they got released to us folks, and most players are still ballin’ in them now.
Again, it’s a futuristic design that looks good on and off the court, with a plethora of colour-ups now available to suit various tastes. There’s also some low versions ready to drop this year and the sequel to the standard Hyperfuse should be even better than it’s predecessor. The ‘Fuse’ technology looks set to cross over into other areas of Nike footwear, so keep your eyes peeled.
Extra credit must be given to designer Leo Chang. The Hyperfuse is just a straight up masterpiece and a future classic that really pushed the boundaries of basketball footwear design.