Shoe the Years: The Evolution of Basketball Kicks


Miguel Ayuso, Reporter

The NBA was founded in 1946 and since then the way the game is played has been ever-evolving. One of the most fundamental items for a basketball player is his shoes. Basketball shoes are both essential for performance and style. But that’s not how it has always been. 

Since basketball has been played the styles and brands have changed from decade to decade. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, Converse was the dominant shoe in the league, during this era the NBA was all about legends Bill Russel and Wilt Chamberlain. Few people today know that the “Chuck” is truly a basketball shoe. 


Shifting to the ‘70s, a time of cultural change and style. Walt Frazier was the face of the league, expressing himself on and off the court was what made him the star that people wanted to be a part of. Puma recognized this potential and made a shoe with him. The Puma Clyde was an instant hit and was quickly sported by the majority of the league. 

The ‘70s gave way to the ‘80s which was an era of extreme breakthrough and everyone was looking to make a statement. One player at the time did make a statement and has changed basketball shoes and sneaker culture ever since: Michael Jordan.

Jordan ruled the late ‘80s and his basketball shoes rapidly became an icon. The Jordan Basketball Shoes were the shoe of the ‘80s and made statements in both basketball and hip-hop culture. 

Moving to the ‘90s Jordan was still dominating the league. Players contributed more shoes alongside the second most popular star at that time, Penny Hardaway. Hardaway came out with arguably the most bizarre basketball shoe ever, that being the Nike Air Foamposite One. With this surplus of stars on the Nike roster, it’s no wonder Nike & Jordan shoes were all the hype on the courts and streets in the ‘90s. 

Landing in the 2000s Nike showed no signs of slowing down still on top of the sneaker world. During the Beijing Olympics, Nike released the iconic Hyperdunk, the Hyperdunk was a pioneer for shoe design and technology.

However, Nike wasn’t the only brand cooking up an Iconic shoe in this era, AND1 also had an ace up their sleeve. During the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest Vince Carter sported the AND1 Tai Chi’s instantly making them the most sought-after shoe of the 2000s. Vince Carter and Lebron James represented the NBA during this era from Carter’s revolutionary dunks and skill to Lebron’s sheer dominance. 

Today the court is shared by brands such as Nike, Under Armor, New Balance, and Adidas. With players like Lebron James, Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard, and James Harden all having their own signature shoes and from different brands, there is much more basketball shoe diversity. Basketball shoes aren’t just for basketball anymore and more often for style and lifestyle wear. Now every brand battles for the most innovative, technological, and stylish designs. Basketball shoes have evolved to meet style and performance standards.