Best Basketball Shoes for Centers in Today’s Era

Today, we’ll be breaking down the very best basketball shoes for centers.

Why? Because we’re in an era of player positions that blend with each other more and more. And with that comes the trouble in finding the right shoes. Hear me out…

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Best Basketball Shoes for Centers: Dunk

But those are still available!


It seems like every single player now needs to be able to do almost everything and that also greatly resembles the shift in today’s shoe market as well – finding a classic “center” shoe is a rarity today.

But for guys that still exhibit the big men’s position – it is vital that we talk about this and compile a developing list of something you’ll be able to hold onto for a long time. Whether you play as an old-school big guy or better resemble today’s modern frontcourt player – this list is for you.

I’ll be breaking down what qualities make up a good center’s shoe, I’ll explain how I compiled the list and finally, I’ll give you my handpicked shoe list of 7 different models.

Buckle up and enjoy the ride! (or click here to skip to the shoe list)

Don’t overcomplicate this!


Best Basketball Shoes for Centers: Scream

Before jumping straight to the shoes, you need to know what specific qualities should make up a shoe that properly accommodates a big men’s game. You should equip yourself with some basic knowledge which means you’ll be able to make a correct purchase on your own in the long run.

However, the main thing I want to stress is don’t overcomplicate this process. There are only a handful of things you should pay attention to. The rest is completely based on what you prefer.

How the shoe fits, how it feels on feet, whether you prefer lighter or heavier builds, whether you play indoors/outdoors – all that is completely subjective. I did my best to provide a list that would cater to as many of those different preferences as possible.

That’s where dedicated shoe reviews come in handy if you’re not yet sure what you prefer or what works best for you. Trying different things + shoe reviews are your way to go!

But having said all that, there are still a few things you must pay attention to in order to play safely & effectively.

I. PLENTY OF CUSHION WITH IMPACT PROTECTION

One of the first things you should pay attention to is the shoe’s cushioning setup. What kind of midsole is being used, what additional tech is implemented. Even the insoles can affect your step comfort pretty greatly.

Centers are usually among the heaviest, tallest, and overall largest players on the court. This means that they produce the most force upon impact (think jumps, landings, etc.) and they absolutely require competent impact absorption to protect your knee, ankle, and other joints.

While impact protection is the most critical element in a shoe’s cushion system, we should also be aiming for a fast spring back upon impact to propel our movements and prevent us from feeling sloppy.

An excellent big men’s cushion setup should consist of strong impact protection, quick foam rebound properties upon impact, and a balanced well that doesn’t slow you down but doesn’t leave you susceptible for injury either.

II. STRONG SUPPORT

Another vital component is the shoe’s security. While it’s almost as equally important for just about any other player, bigger guys need all the support they can get.

That’s due to their large frame, heavier weight, and constant battles under the rim that can produce all kinds of awkward jumps, lands on someone’s foot, double or even triple jumps for a rebound tip-in, etc.

Essential support features such as internal/external heel counters, midfoot shanks, lateral outriggers, a flat & wide platform, lockdown cables, and some others should be in place. Of course, the shoe must first fit you near-perfectly which is the first step to achieving a secure experience. The features come second.

And if we’re talking low tops vs. high tops – this will come down to what you like more. Gone are the days where a high top shoe means better ankle security – if you’d like to get some more insight on that, check this guide out!

III. ENOUGH STRUCTURE TO THE UPPER

This ties in directly with support – most of your big men’s shoes should have enough structure implemented to the upper to keep your foot contained at all times. This is why you usually don’t see a LeBron shoe consisting purely of a knit or soft mesh with nothing backed up.

There need to be pieces of reinforcement in place not only to preserve durability but also to make sure your foot doesn’t slide out of the footbed during movements. TPU/Fuse panels on top of materials are today’s standard when it comes to structuring the upper.

But don’t forget about raw materials too – shoes based on leather, suede, or nubuck might not be as light and soft to the touch but they sure as hell ensure you’ll be getting top-notch containment. Something to keep in mind for sure.

IV. ALL-AROUND PERFORMANCE, OBVIOUSLY

Now this one’s quite obvious and fits pretty much any kind of player out there but let’s not forget about the rest of the shoe. Balanced all-around performance and a great fit are keys to any good basketball shoe.

Traction, build quality, durability for outdoors and the use of high-quality materials are all important to provide a seamless experience on the court. Forgetting you’ve got a shoe on while playing is something you should strive for – this means a shoe is actually doing its job.

Let’s touch on how I put this thing together


Best Basketball Shoes for Centers: Science

Now that you know what to look for, let me break down the main factors I took into account when making the list.

One thing I’d like to mention first – I’m by no means a center. I’m a 6’1 guard but I’ve played in dozens of different shoes, including those that I believe make for a solid center’s shoe. I also play explosively and above the rim when I can.

With the combination of my experiences with different shoes, my playstyle that really pushes certain qualities of shoes, AND researching information on what bigger guys like to play in, I believe you should have a very nifty list in front of you.

I. THE SHOES YOU SEE ARE ALL BANGED UP BY NOW

All the shoes I’m showing you were played in by me for at least 2+ months. Some of ’em already have many months clocked in. Most of the action was outdoors since all gyms are still closed where I live due to the pandemic.

I believe that I simply have no right to recommend you something I haven’t tried – this means that there are plenty of shoes I haven’t tried yet and some of them could potentially be good options for centers.

However, this is also why I encourage you to come back here occasionally – I’m doing my best to regularly update the lists once I find new shoes that I like & put enough mileage in them!

If you don’t see a full review for a particular shoe, this means that I’m still testing ’em but I’ve already got a good idea of what I think, so the review will follow shortly!

II. NO OLD-SCHOOL STUFF HERE

You’ll see that all my shoe lists only include shoes released in our modern era. None of the kicks on the list are older than 2 years. Now I know that there are some really killer OG kicks out there but for practical reasons, I’ve chosen to only work with the latest & greatest.

This way, you’ll still be able to find all of ’em over at your favorite retailer for actual retail prices. Good luck with that if you’re hunting for a 2008 Jordan.

Lastly, I’ve split the list into multiple categories – this should help you guys really pick what you like, as no player is the same when it comes to shoe preferences.

At the end of the list, you’ll find my top 3 best basketball shoes for centers that are well-balanced and provide a little bit of everything. If you’re not sure what to go with – just stick with these three!

A CENTER’S DREAM – 6 PICKS

It’s that time! Let’s break down the best center’s shoes in the following categories: budget, outdoors, cushion, security, overall


BEST ON A BUDGET

My Rating: 8.3  |  Retail Price: $120

Best Basketball Shoes for Centers: UA Embiid One

WHY IT’S A GREAT BIG MEN’S SHOE

This one’s an all-around punch that won’t break the bank too much if you’re on a budget: the big guy Joel Embiid’s first signature happens to be a good big guy’s option. Who would’ve thought?

Priced at $120, I was never phenomenally impressed while playing in these but one thing was for sure. This is an all-around solid basketball shoe that delivers in every aspect quite well and has the qualities we are looking for to suit not only most players/playstyles but especially frontcourt guy, a.ka. the big guy. 

The Micro G midsole + HOVR heel unit is what makes this one not only solid performance-wise but also pretty damn fun. Forget about Curry’s shoes from Under Armour for now. If you’ve never played in UA’s hands-down best foam compound, the Embiid One is a shoe to try that out, at least partly.

There’s tons of full-length impact protection, weight distribution upon a movement, and overall ride stability I felt were very strong due to the midsole cupping your foot, the TPU wings, and overall strong support. Banging the blacktop with these is buttery smooth, soft, and a little springy.

The shoe is made from lightweight mesh but it’s got TPU pieces on key areas so neither you’re feeling restricted or insecure. For this price and compared to other “center-friendly” shoes, the Embiid one delivers on all ends. A very practical option that also got the outsole durability for moderate outdoor play.

THINGS TO REMEMBER

I didn’t notice any real drawbacks for this one, so go true to size with these, even if you’re a wide footer like myself as the upper’s very forgiving, breaks in quickly, and conformed to my feet nicely.


BEST FOR OUTDOORS

My Rating: 8.5  |  Retail Price: $140

Best Basketball Shoes for Centers: Zoom Rize

WHY IT’S A GREAT BIG MEN’S SHOE

If the Embiid One sounded like a fun shoe to play in, the Zoom Rize by Nikey introduces itself. I loved my time in the Zoom Rize for very similar reasons I did in the Embiid One but this one’s just even crazier on the cushion department and feels like a rocket on feet.

A standard foam midsole + a Zoom unit doesn’t sound very fancy on paper but wait ’till you try giving this midsole some time to soften up. The ride is insanely springy, probably the quickest, most “powerful” feeling spring back I’ve felt for quite some time.

These play fast, feel the opposite of slow, and also got really nice impact protection. A perfect setup for stronger ground contact on outdoor courts.

Support was just as solid as on the Embiid One: the shoe features internal heel counters, outriggers for lateral protection, flywire lockdown cables attached to the laces, the fit is very secure and the engineered mesh upper has enough structure in high-wear areas to make for a killer package.

And guess what? The outsole’s got some good traction and very durable rubber, so it’s going to be your best outdoor option from a value-per dollar standpoint.

THINGS TO REMEMBER

Both regular/narrow and wide footers should go true to size with these as the mesh upper takes some time to break in and might feel stiff at first but eventually ends up feeling pretty good.

This type of mesh is very light but your feet will get hot in these, that’s for sure. Not the best airflow – if that’s something you care about.

Also, the Zoom Rize 2 launched in 2020 and it’s actually just as good as the first, I just didn’t include it as the main option due to them being barely available to order.

If you’re interested in getting them in the US though – your main options will be bidding sites such as eBay, or the shoe’s still available to order through the Nike By You shoe customizer. That will add 20 bucks to the price tag.


BEST CUSHIONED

My Rating: 8  |  Retail Price: $200

Best Basketball Shoes for Centers: LeBron 18

WHY IT’S A GREAT BIG MEN’S SHOE

LeBron’s latest signature shoe can be looked at as the “luxury” choice for a lot of people. Part of that is the $200 price tag of course but if you’re wondering what can a 200 hundred dollar shoe can bring you – it’s got one of the most ridiculous cushion setups EVER. And some other things.

The full-length Zoom midsole, heel Max Air & Cushlon midsole combo provides a truly bouncy ride like not many other shoes do. The Ebmiid One is balanced well, the Zoom Rize is springy as hell but the LeBron 18 is just a ton of everything.

Impact absorption, underfoot softness (or should I say underfoot pillows), bounce, and foam rebound. It’s all there and it’s in very large quantities. If I’m feeling bored, these can be addicting, for real. Not everyone will like this type of one-sided setup but for centers who are looking for absolutely maximum cushion, this is the way to go.

And of course, this is still a solid all-around option with the cushion being the star. Traction’s solid, it’s a supportive shoe that doesn’t feel heavy (even though it is quite heavy on paper), the upper’s a knit reinforced with Fuse and they are MAD comfortable once you get used to it.

THINGS TO REMEMBER

There are two things that you should take note of before getting these. Lateral containment is something not everyone might find sufficient. If you’re particularly shifty, you’re that fast and nimble type of big guy that’s got a lot of lateral game, you might want to think twice about these.

There were times were my foot wanted kinda slipped around the footbed. While it wasn’t terrible and I’ve never fully slid out, I’d still recommend these mostly to guys that aren’t the shifty Giannis or the nimble Kevin Durant.

And I don’t recommend taking these as your primary outdoor option, the outsole doesn’t seem very durable, so keeping games to occasional should do the trick.


MOST SECURE

My Rating: 8.5  |  Retail Price: $225

Best Basketball Shoes for Centers: WoW 8

WHY IT’S A GREAT BIG MEN’S SHOE

Time for a hidden gem if you’ve never heard of Dwayne Wade’s signature line by the Chinese brand Li-Ning. I recently got into it myself and found myself very impressed with the way this one’s built.

It looks like a damn spaceship but after getting used to it, I think this is among the most supportive and most secure shoes you can get right now. Not only that but thanks to clever engineering and great material choices that are well-structured but not over the top, these are surprisingly mobile, unrestrictive, and distraction-free. Don’t let the looks fool you.

If you get the size right, you’ll get a very secure fit that’s well-contained thanks to the Cordura Nylon used as the upper. The material is pretty much nylon that doesn’t stretch too much but since it’s pretty thin by nature, it doesn’t feel stiff or the opposite, too flimsy after your foot fully adjusts to it.

There’s also additional stitching along the lateral portions of the shoe to further hold your foot in during movements.

Next, there’s a heel piece for lockdown at the rear, external outriggers for further lateral protection, a massive carbon fiber torsional shank plate, the tooling of the midsole comes up and cups your foot better than anything out there and then there’s the forefoot strap along with an (almost) traditional lacing system.

Talk about jam-packed.

The rest of the shoe is also solid: BOOM cushion is utilized which isn’t the bounciest foam in the world but very well-balanced and feels nice 1-2 weeks in. Traction never failed besides a few small slips here and there and this will be a durable option even though it’s mainly a nylon base. These things are extremely well-reinforced.

THINGS TO REMEMBER

The very first thing to remember would be the outsole: I’ve surely seen more durable rubber, so keeping outdoor activity to occasional is recommended if you’re not looking to throw $225 in the water.

Also, give these some patience – me being a wide footer, I thought the shoe is straight-up incompatible for me but things got much better 2-3 weeks in.

Lastly, pretty much anyone should go up 1/2 size. I do confirm these fit a bit long so even wide footers will need to go up if you don’t want to end up losing security.


BEST OVERALL

My two favorite all-around shoes that best suit big guys


My Rating: 8.1  |  Retail Price: $130

Best Basketball Shoes for Centers: Marquee Boost

WHY IT’S A GREAT BIG MEN’S SHOE

I think the adidas Marquee Boost could fit pretty much any kind of player, regardless of style or build. You can think of it as a budget option if you want Boost, or you can think of it as a very solid low-key option for bigger buys since all the qualities we need are there.

Boost is adidas’s baby and while this version of it on the shoe isn’t my favorite, it’s still Boost and it’s still great. The forefoot section of the foam is caged into a plastic carrier making it very responsive and lower to the ground.

The heel portion is where Boost feels like Boost. Fantastic impact protection, blazing-fast foam rebound that Boost always delivers, and the rear just feels super soft. If you’re not sure which setup to go with – this is a great choice for a player that does a little bit of everything, including a big guy.

The shoe is also supportive, as adidas pretty much never fails in that department. At least among most basketball shoes that I know of. The outsole utilizes a trusty herringbone pattern that’s outdoor-friendly and grips pretty much any kind of floor well.

The upper is mostly mesh with some Fuse layers on high-wear areas, there are also hints of a knit and the area around the laces is synthetic leather. Once again, nothing crazy but very well-balanced: feels light, comfortable, and well-contained. 

THINGS TO REMEMBER

First off, be prepared these to play a little bulky at the start. However, breaking them in is very quick and things should normalize if you got the size correct for you. Speaking of sizing, most people will want to go up 1/2 a size, as the shoe fits a bit long.

Lastly, this outsole uses some very tacky rubber but that also means dust piles up in the grooves almost immediately. If you play on a banged up court, be prepared to be wiping these off constantly to maintain 100% traction.


My Rating: 8.4  |  Retail Price: $175

Best Basketball Shoes for Centers: AJ 34

WHY IT’S A GREAT BIG MEN’S SHOE

Here’s to my second-favorite shoe of 2019 that’s carried over all the way to today for me. Despite being commonly crowned as one of the best performance basketball shoes for just about anyone, the shoe is also a great option for a frontcourt player.

Heel & forefoot Zoom Air along with a high-quality Phylon midsole are the shoe’s cushion specs and it feels every bit of awesome. Take virtually everything I’ve said about the previous shoes and create a very performance-friendly mixture that delivers for pretty much everyone.

There’s lots of impact protection without feeling sluggish or being elevated too high off the ground. There’s moderate spring back that’s both soft and snappy enough to supplement your movements and make you feel explosive. Heel-to-toe transitions are insanely smooth which makes me forget I’ve got these on while balling.

This isn’t the bounciest or the fastest setup ever but it’s almost perfect if you’re looking strictly for performance. It just works.

Jordan Brand never shied away from making their shoes very supportive and structured but a lot of them ended up feeling heavy, stiff, and bulky at times. Not the case with the AJ 34 – the unneeded weight has been taken care of, the upper is lighter than ever but you’re still super secure at all times.

If I had to crown a shoe with the best balance of comfort, security, and performance – the AJ 34 would be up there. No questions asked.

THINGS TO REMEMBER

Keep outdoor play spaced out with these – I’ve seen worse rubber on a shoe before and this is probably better than average but still not enough to be considered a pure outdoor option in my opinion.

Also, the ankle collar tends to ding into my ankle a bit if I’m wearing low cut socks. Slap on some crew cut socks and you’ll be fine though.

Besides that, I’ve got nothing bad to say about these. Most people will be fine going true to size, even wide footers. Expect a snug, one-to-one type of fit.


Best Basketball Shoes for Centers: End

That’s a wrap for the guide and shoe list! Again, be sure to come back here occasionally as there’s a good chance I’ll find new options that I think would fit big guys well and I’ll make sure to update the list.

But wait – there’s more to come.

I’ve made several other shoe lists along with a quick guide to get you familiar and make good decisions.

CHOOSE YOUR SHOE BUDGET

BEST CUSHIONED SHOES

BEST OUTDOOR SHOES

MOST SECURE SHOES

BEST SHOES OF 2020

 

As always, I’m really looking forward to hearing what you’ve gotta say on this one. Do you have your go-to favorite shoe as a bigger guy? Maybe some questions are still unanswered for you?

Leave a comment down below and I’ll get back to you as quick as I can!

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2 thoughts on “Best Basketball Shoes for Centers in Today’s Era

  1. I have tried an array of shoes over the years. And based on my experience I would say that when deciding on basketball shoes, you should look for a comparatively flat and wide outsole to deliver you with maximum balance. For additional grip, search for outsoles that feature a herringbone or hexagonal pattern, since these are intended to aid secure your feet and prevent you from slipping up and down the court.

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