Let’s face it – Nike has been completely dominating the sneaker market, including what we’re here for, hoop shoes. I know A LOT of you are huge Nikey fans and even if you’re not, you’ve got massive amounts of variety to choose from when it comes to the swoosh. Let’s break down to what I personally think are the current best Nike basketball shoes.
I’ll first explain what’s in store for you if hunting for a Nikey basketball sneaker, break down how and why I chose these particular shoes, and then break down the 9 regularly updated picks you can get today.
SHOW TABLE OF CONTENTS
But first, I want you to know certain things that await you when choosing a Nikey hoop shoe…
LOOKING FOR A NIKE BALL SHOE? HERE’S WHAT TO EXPECT
With great power, comes great responsibility…
For those that are interested or perhaps it’s your early days of researching & hunting for a new pair – I wanted to cover some basic stuff that comes with getting a swoosh sneaker.
Nikey is undeniably the biggest name in sports products, including basketball shoes. Thousands of models to choose from, many different signature lines by NBA stars, you name it. But with that also comes the not-so-pretty stuff as well.
But let’s start with why it’s a GOOD idea to get a Nikey hoop shoe first.
THE GOOD STUFF
Variety. Oh boy is there a lot to choose from. Sure, a lot of us just need a good pair of shoes regardless of the brand but even if you’d narrow it down to just Nike – well, you’re not doing a lot of narrowing down in this case. They dominate.
First, you’ve got the most popular and so-called flagship signature lines available at your fingertips: the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Kyrie Irving, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Paul George are ALL signed by Nikey.
Not to mention most of these guys also have 2nd and even 3rd additional shoe lines next to their main one. That’s a lot of shoes. Whatever your budget is and wherever you are, chances are you’ll find the shoe that suits your criteria.
Second, there are shoes that aren’t considered signatures but are still endorsed by a player, which means they’ll usually be a little “fancier” than a budget team model. And of course, there are also team models (some of them being REALLY damn good) as well as the cheapest of the bunch, going for as low as 80 bucks at retail.
You get the idea – there is A LOT to choose from.
The second biggest thing would be the tried and true stuff we’re getting, if we know what to look for that is. The classic herringbone traction pattern is still being used several decades later and it still produces some of the most deadly traction, regardless of the court.
We also love Flyknit all these years later. If the engineering for that shoe was on-point and it features a Flyknit upper, we almost certainly know it’ll be super comfortable in there. This is what Nikey has managed to establish throughout many years – tech and concept that we love and trust.
Not without exceptions of course, but you get the idea. If you know what you like and what works for you – chances are you’ll love it after picking it up.
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
But with the brand generating gigantic numbers and having production at crazy rates, there will be downsides from a regular consumer’s side. Such as yourself.
First of all, there are a lot of weak models released every year. The more variety you’ve got, the more confusing it can get for an everyday dude. You might’ve loved Nike’s Hyperdunk series which was among the most popular and respected team lines.
Well, they took a step sideways and replaced the line with a new “flagship” model called the AlphaDunk. Most people would think the shoe is just as good as the previous Hyperdunk’s, as an even bigger budget was used to make it and market it.
Surprise surprise, the Hyperunk was one of the weakest shoes of 2019. There were plenty of examples such as this one that happened throughout the years from the swoosh.
Not to mention the inconsistencies among the brand’s production. Not saying this happens all the time but this ties into the good stuff as I’ve mentioned exceptions DO happen. And some of those have the potential to break someone’s trust for a while, or even for good.
Take the Jordan CP3.12 for example (Nike is technically with Jordan). That shoe retailed at $100 and featured a fully Flyknit upper that’s buttery smooth. But then we’ve got the Air ZOOM UNVRS which uses re-engineered Flyknit for $160. And it sucks. I think the CP3.12 is a better overall shoe but why are we paying for it less for ver similar tech & materials offered?
KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED!
We must weigh the benefits and drawbacks when shopping for a new pair, and use our capabilities in research, instead of falling for the brand’s marketing campaigns.
Those CAN lead to a good purchase sometimes but that’s just luck. I don’t know about you but I’d be better off making an informed decision and failing rather than not trying at all.
But try not to worry about all of this too much – it’s good to keep in mind but that’s also why I’m here!
Let’s talk about how I chose the shoes for the list. With the correct mindset, basic knowledge, and a solid list – you’ll be well on your way to putting this Nikey puzzle together 😉
BEHIND THE SHOE LIST
I believe you should know HOW I chose these particular shoes, along with a few additional notes to keep in mind
I’ve picked 6 different categories, with one best shoe from Nikey best representing each one. This will help people shoot their shot more easily as not everyone’s the same – we all play differently, our bodies are different, our court conditions are different as well.
In the end, I also left you with what I think are the 3 best all-around Nike basketball shoes if you don’t want to overthink this too much. Grab either one and forget about it!
I’ve excluded any Jordan models to be fair to the list, as we’re talking about Nike shoes exclusively, even though the brands are technically together.
Here are the main points of emphasis I stuck to when picking the shoes.
I. FIT, PERFORMANCE, AND BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
I’ve picked the shoes that excel in providing a secure, comfortable fit, solid all-around performance (regardless of the category) on the court, and of course, value for your wallet. You don’t want to be spending $150+ on a pair that you’ll need to replace a few months later.
So keeping a balance between comfort and durability is very important here. Keeping a price relative to what’s being offered is also just as important.
II. NO GUESSING GAME HERE
Every single shoe in the list was tried-and-true by me, and by many other reviewers/consumers of course. I usually test my shoes for at least 2 months before putting a full review out. I believe that’s the only way to provide a comprehensive and accurate evaluation.
I’m a 6’1 two-guard at ~175 lbs and I love playing with a lot of explosiveness & force. If you’re looking to know what are the limits of each shoe – I think my playstyle, in particular, will help you get closer to achieving that.
III. THE LATEST AND GREATEST ONLY
Forget about the 2000s or Retro’s. When it comes to performance and staying safe & efficient on the court, we need to keep up with the latest offerings from Nikey. As a matter of fact – we barely have any other choice.
All of the main sports retailers usually have stuff that’s 2-3 years old at most. And if you’re shopping on places like Amazon, you CAN get older stuff there but the prices aren’t usually worth it. This is why I chose the models that are still widely available everywhere, for the sake of convenience.
IV. REGULARLY IMPROVED
Last but not least – make sure to check back here later! I’m regularly updating shoe lists like this one as soon as I find a better candidate. At the end of this year – you might see a completely different list!
THE BEST SHOES FROM NIKE – 9 PICKS
6 shoes divided into 6 categories & 3 all-around picks. I’ll break down each shoe’s strong points, possible drawbacks, and additional things you should remember before buying
I. BEST FOR GUARDS
FULL REVIEW ? 130 USD ? 8.3/10
WHAT YOU GET
Kyrie’s signature line is usually the go-to choice for a guard-orientated shoe and in my opinion, the 6th shoe in the main line is the most well-rounded option for most guards. Say what you want about the improvements made for the Kyrie 7 but I still believe the previous model delivers in a more trustworthy manner.
Starting with the cushion setup, we’ve got Zoom Air Turbo at the front for a quick, responsive, and low-to-the-ground ride & a Phylon midsole to still provide a little bit of shock absorption.
Be aware, this is not a bouncy shoe whatsoever but the ride is balanced enough to where you feel super quick, yet still protected – you won’t feel like your knees had a stroke two hours in. Kyrie 2 anyone?
Next, the leather/nubuck (depending on which you’ve got) build at the back & lighter textile at the front make for a great old-school and new-school combo, providing both support and mobility.
You just feel fast and secure with these – perfect for a guard like Kyrie himself but also suitable for just about any guard who values performance & a fast, distraction-free game at all costs.
The forefoot cables attached to the laces constantly got loose for me, requiring regular re-adjusting mid-game. Nothing deal-breaking and I’ve got it resolved after completely re-lacing the shoe on the looser side, but still something you should know. You’ll likely need to do some tinkering with the laces, that’s all.
Also, do you see that midfoot strap slapped on top of the upper? Well, that does nothing to improve lockdown or support. Just so you know.
- Regular/narrow footers should all go true to size OR order a few different options to be safe
- Most footers should go up 1/2 a size
- Raw materials at the back will take some time to break in
- Great traction & ready for outdoors
II. BEST FOR BIGMEN
FULL REVIEW ? 140 USD ? 8.5/10
WHAT YOU GET
The Zoom Rize quickly became one of my favorite kicks to give my all when playing – for a couple of reasons. And those reasons also happen to explain why this is an excellent fit for the big guys of basketball.
The cushion setup is where it’s at with this one. Forefoot Zoom Air + a Phylon midsole might not sound much on paper. But I’m talking bounce. I’m talking springs under your feet in the best possible way possible.
This is one of those setups you have to try to understand the level of efficiency it can bring, especially for bigs who need strong impact protection, proper energy return due to constant rebounds & fights under the rim. This is a very fun setup to play in, but it’s also very fast, responsive, and doesn’t take away your quickness. It’s awesome.
And then there’s the deadly traction, fantastic all-around support with a higher ankle cut that doesn’t get in the way, and an engineered mesh upper which is nothing special but works well enough to contain a heavier guy’s foot properly. A solid modern take on a big guy’s shoe in today’s basketball.
For $150 at retail, this mesh upper isn’t very fancy and might feel a little stiff & crispy at first. Ventilation is also subdued so those summer under-the-sun games will bring some sweat buildup inside that’s for sure. Performance-wise though, it was enough for me.
- Most foot shapes, including wide footers, should go true to size
- The upper fully broke in within 1-2 weeks
III. BEST ON A BUDGET
FULL REVIEW ? 70 USD ? 8.1/10
WHAT YOU GET
What a surprise this was. Each time I say something about the Precision 4 – remind yourself these retail at $70 and all things should fall into place. This is a surprise budget model that’s better than quite a lot of $100 shoes by the same brand. This quirk of yours is very much welcome this time, Nikey.
If we’re talking tech specs – you won’t find much there, obviously. Just a foam midsole for the cushion setup but it’s actually decent – there’s a little bit of impact protection and cushion that you can actually feel underfoot.
Stack these against a $100 Mamba Fury or even a $140 Curry 7 and this setup beats them both in my opinion. Not by much, but still. The shoe is also supportive given its minimal design and how light these are. A secure fit & wider platform makes up most of the support & stability.
Not an ideal option for a heavier, athletic guy, sure, but might just be enough for playstyles/builds that don’t need top-tier security and could opt-in for a more mobile setup. The upper’s a knit and it’s actually pretty decent. Not a $200 LeBron knit but still a knit. It’s comfortable is what I’m trying to say.
Lastly, the Precision 4 has great outsoles which gripped both outdoor courts I’ve played on well AND they’ve got outdoor-ready rubber. If you’re looking to cut your wallet some slack – a solid deal is an understatement here.
Heavy dudes or athletic freaks probably won’t find these as an ideal option given its fairly barebones cushion setup and security that’s more on the minimal side. One small thing I had is the laces. They constantly got loose for me, similarly to the Kyrie 6‘s forefoot section.
- True to size for most foot shapes, including wide footers, is recommended
- Takes 2-3 days to fully adjust to the upper
- Outdoor-ready traction
IV. BEST FOR OUTDOORS
FULL REVIEW ? 185 USD ? 8.8/10
WHAT YOU GET
This is the oldest shoe out of the list but I had to throw the 16th LeBron here. Even after the LeBron 17 and 18, I still believe the 16 is the most-well rounded shoe that also happens to be a great outdoor option for several reasons.
Firstly, does full-length Max Air + Zoom Air pods underfoot ring any bells to you? It should because this setup is among the most efficient when it comes to outdoor play.
Paying on abrasive surfaces such as concrete will put your knees and other joints under more stress than usual and we MUST have a baseline level of impact protection when hooping outdoors, regardless of preference.
This setup is bouncy, responsive, fast, delivers in absorbing shock and returning energy quickly and unlike LBJ’s other shoes, it’s extremely well-balanced, so anyone can pick these up and feel really good on the court.
The shoe is also supportive as hell, given the support features, a reinforced Battleknit upper, and a stable platform even with all those chunky Zoom pods straight out of space.
And of course, the traction. It’s deadly AND it’s durable – exactly what you want when constantly banging on the blacktop. They don’t make ’em like this anymore – give us more outdoor-ready stuff LeBron!
Expect some heel slippage at first – I’ve had some but it went away fairly quickly, after the upper adjusted to my feet and wrapped around it nicely.
Some people also reported the traction might feel a little iffy at first, so be sure to give the rubber some time to sharpen up and things should normalize. Lastly, ventilation won’t be much of a thing when we’re talking about a knit that’s heavily backed with nylon.
- True to size is optimal for most, including wide footers
- You could go up 1/2 a size for a roomier fit IF you’re a wide footer
- Breaking the upper in won’t take longer than a week
V. MOST SECURE
LEBRON SOLDIER 13
FULL REVIEW ? 140 USD ? 8.1/10
WHAT YOU GET
LeBron’s shoes are usually no slouches in the security department. I mean we’re talking about a 250-pound man going 100 miles an hour towards your life. But his secondary line’s Soldier 13 in particular impressed me the most with an untraditional laceless design that relies on a perfect fit & a bunch of straps. And it went well.
Security always starts with the fit and the Soldier 13 provides as close to a one-to-one fit as it gets. As soon as I’ve put these on, I feel buckled in like it’s no tomorrow. You MUST get the size perfect for you though – if leave too much dead space, you’ll compromise the shoe’s containment and support.
This is true for most shoes but especially for the LeBron Soldier 13 since all you’re left with are two straps to adjust the fit. But if you get right, which is not hard to do, you’ll be in for a very secure experience. The shoe’s platform is also wide which adds to the stability, and external heel counters for heel & ankle lockdown.
And of course – don’t forget it’s a well-rounded shoe! Classic herringbone traction, a solid cushion setup consisting of forefoot & heel Zoom Air, and a lightweight fabric upper.
The main concern for this one would be the way these fit. Remember, what you get is what you pretty much stick with down the line. There’s not a lot of breaking in to do and there aren’t any laces, so if you feel the fit isn’t perfect for your feet a few days in, chances are it’ll stay this way.
This is just the nature of laceless shoes – while it’s a nice concept, it does have its limitations.
- True to size will be okay for most people
- Prominent wide footers could go up 1/2 a size if needed
- The upper breaks in a matter of a few days
- Outdoor-ready traction
VI. MOST COMFORTABLE
FULL REVIEW ? 200 USD ? 8/10
WHAT YOU GET
I think some of you seen this one coming for sure. The latest LeBron 18 is undeniably the most comfortable and ridiculously fun shoe to shoot some hoops in. You’re paying a small fortune for it but if your wallet can afford it and you’re looking for a flagship shoe that’s packing everything that’s available right now – this is it.
It all starts with this absurd cushion setup. A full-length Zoom Air unit that goes from heel to toe, a Max Air unit in the heel, and a premium Cushlon midsole to top it all off. The ride feels insane, and not everyone’s going to like it for performance reasons.
But if you want to find out how maximum bounce, nearly over the top spring back and cloud-level softness underfoot feel like, this shoe is as close to too much as there is right now.
But it doesn’t end there. There’s also the Knitposite 2.0 upper which is a knit backed with lots of Fuse to prevent it all breaking down on you before the clock runs out. This knit wraps around your feet in a super comfortable & secure manner and tons of internal padding is the cherry on top of a cake.
Don’t get it twisted though – the Nikey LeBron 18 is a great performance basketball shoe. It’s got solid traction, they’re supportive, and for a knit, they’re more durable than they look.
One annoying nuance I’ve had with these is the cheap, thin tongue used in most of the colorways available. Might be a little ironic when we’re paying $200 for a “top-level” shoe but certain components such as the tongue are so inconsistent.
Two things about the tongue: one, make sure not to pull it too hard as it did rip off for some people. Two, make sure to wear thicker, higher-cut socks as the tongue tends to cut into my shins due to how ridiculously thin it is.
For the shiftiest and fastest of players out there, lateral containment might be a little questionable. The midsole alone makes for a high ride off the ground and the shoe’s upper doesn’t always hold your foot in during more aggressive lateral movements.
I’ve never fully slid out of the footbed but it was enough to cause some concern at times.
- True to size is optimal for most, including wide footers
- Wide footers can go up 1/2 a size for a little more wiggle room
- The elevated ride might feel a little unnatural at first
- Don’t take these outdoors too often
VII. BEST OVERALL #1
FULL REVIEW ? 150 USD ? 7.9/10
WHAT YOU GET
The KD 12 is my second-favorite modern KD shoe right next to the KD 9. I liked the KD 13 but I thought it had some issues that take them out of the picture as a well-rounded, versatile shoe for everyone. The KD 12 is just that- a well-rounded, versatile shoe that does pretty much everything in a solid manner.
Full-length Zoom Air sitting directly under the foot + an additional hex Zoom unit in the heel makes for an awesome cushion setup. It’s not overly-crazy like the LeBron 18’s or minimal such as on the Kyrie 6.
It’s literally the best of both worlds, combining bounce, quick energy return, impact protection, response, and stability all in one shoe. It’s every bit of efficient.
And then there’s the unrestrictive support that delivers in not taking away your comfort that the textile & mesh upper brings, and traction is excellent. Everything about the shoe screams versatility, so if you’re scratching your head right now – the KD 12 just might solve your puzzle.
KD’s shoes are often narrow in the way they fit and this one’s no exception. Not an ideal fit for wide footers but after personally going up 1/2 a size, I don’t have any major complaints, so it’s definitely doable.
- Regular/narrow footers – go true to size
- Most wide footers will need to go up 1/2 a size
- Keep outdoor games to occasional with these
VIII. BEST OVERALL #2
ZOOM RIZE 2
FULL REVIEW ? 160 USD ? 8.4/10
WHAT YOU GET
While both the first and the second Zoom Rize shoes are fantastic options for just about anyone, I’ve found the second iteration’s tweaks make for a better overall performer by a notch.
So, same great traction that’s ready for some outdoor action, almost the same cushion setup slightly tweaked for more response at the front and more protection at the heel. The upper underwent the most changes, stripping off all the unneeded weight from the first shoe and utilizing a lightweight modern material set up that did feel lighter, quicker, and a little more forgiving.
Support is still there, even with this lighter, less structured build. Both shoes will work well but if you’re looking for something a little more 2020 or 2021-like, the second shoe might feel a tad bit better for you.
An argument could be made on the fact that the Zoom Rize 2 offers less stability compared to the first Zoom Rize. You might be right, but in practice, I think the difference is marginal. The second shoe does ride a bit higher off the ground, so players not used to such elevation might feel a little weird at first.
- True to size will be fine for most people
- Regular/narrow footers can go down 1/2 a size for a tighter fit
- You can go with an XDR rubber outsole via Nike By You for better outdoor durability
IX. BEST OVERALL #3
KOBE A.D. NXT 360
FULL REVIEW ? 200 USD ? 7.8/10
WHAT YOU GET
Last but not least, here’s what I think is the most well-rounded Kobe shoe to date. Prepare to be wrapped around 360 degrees of Flyknit goodness.
The Kobe A.D. NXT 360 packs a midsole consisting both of Reach and Lunarlon, which makes for a very fun ride that delivers pretty much all you need, regardless of playstyle. It’s quick, responsive and unlike a lot of other stuff from Kobe, it doesn’t feel dead for someone who’s lighter.
And then there are the 360 degrees of Flyknit material that wraps around the foot like a damn compression glove. That’s the best way to describe it and I mean that in a good way. It’s super comfortable, light, breathable, and takes close to nothing to break in.
The front section sports an ultra-thin, minimal knit while the back has a little bit more structure to secure your ankle & heel. Not the strongest support there is available but if you’re getting a Kobe shoe, chances are you don’t need that in the first place.
While the shoe gripped the floor well and consistently for me, it’s got a traction pattern that welcomes dust inside. Pair that with tacky translucent rubber and you got yourself a sponge for picking up nasty debris on the court.
You will need to wipe the outsoles down regularly to keep things consistent but it’s not that terrible. I’ve seen worse cases.
- True to size is optimal for everyone
- Try to stay away from outdoor play with these
DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE REST
That concludes the ultimate Nike basketball shoe list! I truly hope you’ve found it useful! You can use it as your go-to cheat sheet for an upcoming purchase or just a handy reference to remind yourself what to look for and what to expect when it comes to Nikey’s products.
HOWEVER, there’s always much more waiting for you. It’s not just Nikey. Plenty of shoes from adidas, Under Armour, and lesser-known brands such as Li-Ning, Brandblack, ANTA, and more have some really good stuff available, and usually for very competitive prices.
BONUS: if you’re a fan of Nikey’s basketball footwear, I encourage you to turn back the clock and take a look at the year 2017. That’s right – that year was one of the most amazing runs of constantly fantastic hoop shoe releases from the Swoosh.
I’ve actually just made a full list & guide of the best shoes released in that year. Check it out!
I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below. Do you own any of these? Maybe you feel different about it? Or perhaps you’ve got a question? Let me know!