I believe NOW is the perfect time to break down the best Jordan basketball shoes. Why? Well firstly, EVERYBODY loves Jordans or at least heard about them but usually not for their values on the court.
SHOW TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Need-to-Know Stuff First
- Here’s what to Expect with Jordans
- How I Chose the Shoes
- The Best Jordan Basketball Shoes (per Category): 6 Picks
- The Best Jordan Basketball Shoes (Overall): 3 Picks
- Never Limit Yourself to One Logo
I’m talkin’ sneakerheads, sports fans, or just people who like rocking a new trendy pair of kicks. But for performance basketball, the Jumpman brand actually made drastic changes in their engineering process not long ago, creating a massive shift in how the newest Jordan ball shoes feel when in action.
It is now or never.
NEED-TO-KNOW STUFF FIRST
Here’s what I’ll cover for ya
But before you jump in buying the latest Air Jordan hoop shoes like it’s no tomorrow, we need to cover the need-to-know first. Or you can just skip to the shoe list – that’s up to you.
I’ll first break down what to generally expect when shopping for AJ basketball shoes in terms of benefits & possible drawbacks, break down my methodology behind creating the shoe list and give you a well-rounded cheat sheet of shoes that cater towards different players/situations.
I’ll also show you my 3 personal favorite Jordan shoes that are fantastic overall performers.
Let’s hop in!
HERE’S WHAT TO EXPECT WITH JORDANS
You gotta know the good and the bad
Just like with all brands, not everything is peachy, especially when it comes to Jordan Brand.
They’ve had their ups and downs throughout several decades of sneaker industry dominance but I believe you should know a few main key points that have to do with Jordan performance basketball, and what to generally expect in their market tendencies when hunting for a new pair.
+ THE TIME FOR PERFORMANCE IS NOW
In the last few years, a visible breakthrough has undergone Jordan’s making of basketball shoes, in a good way. Sure, they’ve had a bunch of solid releases dating all the way back to the early-late 2000s but the last few Air Jordan basketball releases were the real MVP’s.
They’re now lighter, faster, and more comfortable than ever – hardly the same thing could be said about older Jordan kicks. With some exceptions of course.
Pair that with the addition of Russel Westbrook to Jordan’s signature athlete lineup and add Chris Paul’s last couple of shoes to the mix, and there is no better time to hunt for a pair of Jordan basketball shoes.
The shift is real – performance and 2021-level modern engineering standards have finally caught up with the Jumpman brand and we, the consumers, are the winners here.
– THE SPAN OF 2021-READY KICKS IS PRETTY SHORT
This ties in with the statement above – since Jordan basketball kicks have really changed and developed not long ago, the current arsenal of 2021-ready stuff isn’t that huge.
Sure, we’ve got some shoes in the main Air Jordan line, a few releases by Westbrook, and a couple of Chris Paul’s sneakers, while most of his stuff is tough to get these days. This might contradict the earlier key point for some of you but think of it from both sides. Pretty much all we’ve had a while ago is the main Air Jordan line.
Now, more athletes are signing up and creating some great performance choices but if we had to really compare the variety of such kicks with Nikey’s signature arsenal or even adidas, Jordan Brand still has ways to go.
I’m not in charge of AJ’s marketing/business decisions but I’m pretty sure this will stay that way for a while. They’re making loads of cash from the constant re-releases of the beloved Retros and even the new releases are selling well. Whichever way you look at it – it’s best to at least know both.
+ 35 YEARS WORTH OF SHOES
But perhaps you like Retros? I’m talkin’ actually playing in them on the court. The thing is, a lot of people still do that, so if you’re not like me and have a feel not just for the newer performance stuff, there are 35+ years of kicks waiting for you.
While I generally don’t recommend old-school Jordans for playing basketball much, there’s no denying that there is still some stuff there that’s super solid on the court. A lot of Retros are tank-like durable, utilize high-quality, thick raw materials like leather and of course, bring some unique aesthetic vibes not a lot of other brands pull off.
I’m not here to pick out and talk about Retros as modern performance basketball is more my thing and I do believe you’ll achieve the most comfort, efficiency and security with newer shoes but if you can manage to get your hands on some Retros and do some research – there’s a whole new land for you to explore.
Some of ’em are true hidden gems that can still pull a thing or two on the court.
– OUTDOOR HOOPER? SOME IFFY NEWS FOR YOU
Now, if you’re like me and usually opt for current releases by AJ/Jordan Brand, outdoor shoe qualities are something not seen regularly on Jumpman shoes.
The last few Air Jordan’s had decent outsole rubber slapped on but it’s still fairly weak compared to some outdoor-ready models adidas or Under Armour has been putting out.
Jordans ARE playable outdoors but most of their stuff isn’t really made for that purpose. They’ll last a while, sure, but if you’re looking for a complete outdoor tank that you intend on wrecking for several years – you’ll rarely come across such an option when it comes to Jordan.
However, I do have some options for you on the list for more reliable outdoor play compared to the average Jordan shoe – check ’em out below!
+ YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR, USUALLY
It’s no secret that Jordan shoes are usually pretty pricy. Whether we’re paying for the heritage and logo, I’m not going deep into that debate. What I do know is the quality is there. Most of the time.
Of course, not everyone will be able to spend $160 on a single pair of hoop kicks but if you can – you’ll most likely get a solid pair that’ll provide comfort, build quality, and great materials. Let alone top-of-the-line tech that’s shared with Nikey.
– THE JUMPMAN IS A PRICY LOGO TO ROCK
With that, comes the flipside. There’s not a lot of accessibility from a consumer standpoint when it comes to buying Jordans. With Nikey, adidas, UA, or most other brands, you usually see “budget” options that offer a bit less, signatures included, but don’t break the bank, or just cheaper team models with no name attached.
With Jordan, that’s not as common. There are a handful of cheaper options to go with but you’d usually need a thicker wallet if you’re looking for a Jordan basketball shoe. Do you usually get what you pay for? Yes. But could the market be a little more diverse, targeting the “budget” audiences more often? Absolutely.
HOW I CHOSE THE SHOES
The main principles I stuck to when putting the list together
I always stick to several main criteria when putting together a list like this one. I believe these are just as important for you to know as the list itself. This way, you’ll have some perspective going into the actual shoes and motives behind the reasons for me picking them!
I. WELL-ROUNDED PERFORMANCE, COMFORT & VALUE ARE KEY
While the shoe list is devoted to recommending an optimal shoe for different players/situations, ALL the shoes in the list are still solid all-around performers that usually fit more than a single playstyle. They’re all comfortable, provide a secure fit and deliver based on how much needs to be spent.
That’s very important if you’re having a tough time choosing. Going with any of the options in the list will most likely be a good idea since there are no “bad” shoes picked here per se.
II. NO SHOE LEFT UNTOUCHED
All the shoes in the list were personally tested and played by me for at least 2 months, though I usually play longer in most shoes before I put out a dedicated review/constructive opinion on ’em. I’m a 6’1 two-guard at ~175 lbs and I do consider myself explosive & athletic.
If you’d like to know how a shoe performs when pushed to the limit – this is a good place to start. Most of the stuff mentioned here (besides a couple of shoes) is solely tested outdoors due to gyms still being closed in my country.
It sucks but there’s also a good side to it – you’ll be able to know if the shoes can last and perform well in the park for at least a few months.
III. FORGET ABOUT RETROS FOR NOW
You can rock Retros or older releases as much as you’d like but this particular list isn’t for that. From practical and performance standpoints, it’s a better idea to watch out for fresh releases, preferably in the last 2-4 years.
I’ve chosen this route because those types of releases are still widely available to get at acceptable prices (retail or close to it). Good luck finding a 2002 pair in your size that’s not going over $300+ and performs well on the court at the same time!
Not saying it couldn’t be done – just saying that’s not how it usually works.
IV. REGULARLY UPDATED
Last but definitely not least, make sure to come back to this list and any other lists of mine occasionally! I’m always on the hunt for new possible options for you guys and I update the lists accordingly to better match today’s standards.
Whether I switch out the shoes or just add more options on top – you might see a whole different list in a year’s time!
THE BEST JORDAN BASKETBALL SHOES
9 picks, in no particular order. Each shoe’s strong points, possible drawbacks, and additional things you should know about
I. BEST ON A BUDGET
MORE DETAILS 💰 $100
WHY IT’S GOOD
Chris Paul’s latest flagship from Jordan went under a lot of people’s radar. The CP3.12 is an important Jordan shoe. Why? It shows us the inconsistencies Nikey & Jordan can sometimes bring into the market without much explanation.
The shoe originally retails at $100 and you get a full-on Flyknit upper, Zoom Air, durable outsoles, and a very well-rounded overall performer. Why do we mostly pay $150+ for Flyknit on other models? I really don’t know. But what I do know is the CP3.12 is still a fantastic shoe that should suit just about anyone.
Good ol’ herringbone traction pattern we’re all accustomed to giving us deadly traction no matter the surface, forefoot Zoom Air & Phylon midsole cushion setup that’s responsive and keeps you low to the ground but doesn’t completely omit step comfort & impact protection is there too.
We also received support upgrades from the last shoe, making this one both lighter AND more secure-feeling.
But the biggest draw for some is the Flyknit goodness all over the shoe’s build. It literally feels like the premium stuff we get (Air Jordan 29, Hyperdunk 2017 Flyknit, etc.) and usually for more than $100. A solid guard’s shoe but one that covers most essential checks for just about any position.
The biggest drawback for this one doesn’t really have to do much with the shoe’s performance. It’s just that they’re quite tough to get online, especially if you’re used to ordering stuff from the usual sports retailers like Footlocker, Eastbay, Finish Line, DICK’s, etc. These are mostly unavailable over at those places.
Your best bet will be eBay, Amazon, StockX, that sorta thing. Good news though, if you’re willing to do some digging and bank on a pair from such places, I did see quite a lot of sizes people are selling, and most of them are very close to retail. I’ve seen several pairs that go under $100 too.
- True to size is optimal for most
- Good for wide footers (go up 1/2 a size)
- Outdoor-ready outsoles
II. BEST FOR GUARDS
JORDAN JUMPMAN DIAMOND LOW PF
WHY IT’S GOOD
The quickest & lightest-feeling shoe on the list is definitely the Jumpman Diamond Low PF. Jordan Brand actually did a good job with several of their non-signature budget models and this one, while being quite versatile, is a great fit for a quick, nimble guard.
The shoe sports a diamond & herringbone traction pattern combo that grips well, though due to the dense placement of the grooves, you’ll need to wipe ’em down occasionally to keep the traction healthy.
Forefoot Zoom Air & a Phylon midsole is the shoe’s cushion setup and while it’s nothing groundbreaking, I think it’s a great fit for a wide span of guards, not just shifty Kyrie’s or explosive Westbrook’s.
It’s very responsive and quick at the front while still keeping some bounce, while the heel portion of the Phylon is quite soft but doesn’t sink your heel into it, so you’re getting a moderate amount of shock absorption while staying shifty.
Lastly, the Diamond Low PF utilizes modern lightweight materials such as textiles and synthetics for the upper and the support provided doesn’t come off as restrictive. It’s all about mobility here but if you think lows are generally unsafe to play in – I’m afraid you’re not caught up with today’s basketball security standards and principles.
Just like the CP3.12, this one might be a little problematic to find at your usual places. Do a quick dig into eBay & Amazon and you should be able to find some pairs for acceptable prices though.
- True to size is optimal for most (including wide footers)
- Give the traction some time to break in
- Try not to take these outdoors too often
III. BEST FOR THE FRONTCOURT
JORDAN WHY NOT ZER0.2
WHY IT’S GOOD
Here’s the thing – I think ALL Westbrook’s signature shoes are somewhat suitable for a classic big guy’s playstyle, so it was quite tough to pick the best one. I personally believe the Why Not Zer0.2 is the closest to optimal but generally, you’ll be okay with any of the current 4 shoes released in his main line.
The shoe has some grippy outsoles that should cover just about any surface you can think of, and thankfully the rubber isn’t that tacky, so long-term dust buildup issues aren’t a thing here despite the dense pattern.
Unlocked forefoot Zoom Air & an injected Phylon midsole represents the cushioning and you can think of it as the Jumpman Diamond’s ride on steroids.
It’s still a fairly quick ride, though it’s higher off the ground this time and this Phylon is on the softer side. The responsive foam rebound is there throughout the midsole, so constant battles under the rim will be well-supplemented. There’s enough impact protection here for everybody.
While the shoe’s construction isn’t an ideal vision a center would have, it manages to stay fast & aerodynamic while still providing enough support even for the heaviest-footed players. Beefy heel counters, excellent containment, the FlightSpeed system. You name it.
I do believe some of you won’t appreciate the fairly narrow platform the shoe utilizes, especially at the front portion.
The support features are all there, yes, but for certain guys who really like to get up in the air and/or their game could be considered shifty, usually, a wide & flat platform is the preferred setup to ensure maximum stability when doing lateral movements and planting the feet at more extreme angles.
But then again, if you’re a big guy – chances are you won’t find this as a big issue. Even big guys who like spreading the floor and shooting threes will still find this setup sufficient in my opinion.
- True to size is ideal for most (including wide footers)
- Try to keep outdoor games to a minimal
- Injected Phylon needs a bit of time to soften up
IV. BEST FOR OUTDOORS
JORDAN REACT ELEVATION
WHY IT’S GOOD
Here’s to the best outdoor option Jordan Brand has provided in the last few years. Probably the saddest part for a lot of us (myself included) – Jordan just doesn’t make a lot of outdoor-ready shoes that will last a long time without throwing your wallet at the screen again.
The React Elevation is one of the only trusty options in my opinion.
The shoe features decoupled translucent rubber outsoles and before you go off screaming – don’t worry! These are actually very durable and despite some cosmetic wear & tear in certain areas, the traction is just as good as it was out of the box. And I’m talking 6 months of outdoor action. Don’t get fooled by the looks here.
The cushion offered is great for more unforgiving, abrasive surfaces that can take a toll on your knees, especially if you’re older. A very responsive forefoot Zoom Air unit is in place as well as React foam in the heel.
It’s an awesome combo that manages to keep a fairly low footprint but provides everything you need in subtle amounts: response, bounce, impact absorption, and stability.
I didn’t find any security issues with these and I like to play explosively. The upper is mostly textile with a few synthetic overlays in high-wear areas. Nothing fancy but works once broken in.
I did find the upper a little cheap-feeling at times. It starts off a bit stiff & plasticy but give ’em some time and the upper will quickly break in. However, even after some adjusting time, I don’t find these as form-fitting as they could’ve been with a better upper in place.
There are two sides to this though: the upper can feel stiff, yes, but this textile is well-structured, meaning your foot will be contained at all times & won’t break down on you quickly. The other side is the lack of a one-to-one fit if you’re foot’s shape isn’t ideal for the shoe.
- True to size is optimal for most
- Not the best option for wide footers but it’s doable
- Durable outdoor-ready option
V. MOST SECURE
JORDAN WHY NOT ZER0.1
WHY IT’S GOOD
A true tank of the list, Russel Westbrook’s very first signature shoe didn’t look like a shoe he would create for some reason but it worked out wonderfully for those who need a well-rounded performer that will provide some of the most killer security there is to date.
The Why Not Zer0.1 features a very dense traction pattern for excellent multi-directional grip, though be prepared to do a quick wipe or two every so often if you play on an older/dirtier court. The cushion offered is full-length Zoom Air that’s bottom-loaded into a Phylon midsole. Yep, it’s as good as it sounds.
But the biggest draw for those athletic, explosive high-flyers is the amount of security you get with these. And it all starts with the fit. It’s incredible – something you should try just to see how a top-of-the-line fit feels like.
Once your foot is in these – there’s no going back. It’s locked down to a point where it’s almost too much but it never crosses that line. I think that’s near-perfect engineering. Once your foot’s in there, you pull down the laces which are attached to the FlightWeb system that pulls down on the upper internally.
And then there are the support features. The Fuse & mesh build has enough structure, to begin with, but just take a look at those insane heel counters. While it might present itself as ugly for some, the amount of work it does locking down your heel & ankle is fantastic, as it also extends all the way to the midfoot.
Then there’s the wide & flat base promoting stability, the midfoot strap for extra lockdown, and the internal wings that internally pull down around your foot. This is the epitome of function over looks and it shows. And equally as important, these don’t feel clunky or overly restrictive – they’re just right.
All that beefiness that comes from such a build will need some break-in time before you feel optimal inside. It’ll depend on the foot shape, of course, but I found myself feeling great & distraction-free about a couple of weeks in. And that’s coming from a wide footer.
Speaking of giving these time – you’ll likely have a tough time putting these on before the materials loosen up a bit. Even a few weeks in, I still find myself wanting to shout at my pair when I’m stuffing my foot inside there. The ankle collar & tongue refuse to move, making things a little complicated. Felt like you should know that!
- True to size is optimal for most
- Wide footers can get away with their regular size
- Try not to take these outdoors too often
VI. MOST COMFORTABLE
AIR JORDAN 34 SE
FULL REVIEW (REGULAR) 💰 $180
WHY IT’S GOOD
A lot of us are familiar with the regular Air Jordan 34 and just how good that shoe is, no matter the player, court, or style. But if we’re talking about getting the most out of your sneakers comfort-wise, let’s get up one more level with the Air Jordan 34 SE (Second Edition)!
The AJ 34 SE mostly has the same stuff offered on the regular version: fantastic traction, great all-around support while keeping the build mobile, the same awesome forefoot & heel Zoom Air cushion setup.
But the biggest change from the regular version were the materials used. Instead of modern lightweight synthetics, we’re now getting a blend of new-school and old-school: Performance Woven & mesh are still dominating the inner layer but now we’re getting touches of genuine leather at the front & back.
So you put the shoe on, lace it up, and then zip up the additional shroud the SE shoe gives us and the end result is every bit of awesome: lockdown is superb, my foot never moved inside the shoe, the materials sit very nicely around the foot creating a glove/sock-like fit that you just don’t get that often these days.
And of course – don’t forget it’s a beastly overall shoe! Anyone and anytime – the AJ 34 SE should deliver no matter what.
The introduction of raw materials to the build means a longer break-in period. Yes, these did feel a little stiff & suffocating at first but in around 2+ week’s time, I felt great in there, even as a wide footer.
Also, the SE version looks problematic to find at most sports retailers. eBay or resell places like StockX or GOAT will be your best bet.
- True to size is optimal, including wide footers
- They work outdoors but keep it to occasional
- 1-3 weeks needed to break in the shoe
VII. BEST OVERALL #1
JORDAN WHY NOT ZER0.4
WHY IT’S GOOD
The latest iteration of Russel Westbrook’s main line is the shoe I’ve played in the least so far (~2 months) but enough to easily put these among my all-around favorite Jordan shoes. It’s still the Why Not shoe we come to expect but with several tweaks that make it a great fit for pretty much everybody.
The Why Not Zer0.4 features a data-informed traction pattern that seems to be a thing that Nikey does now, and I can’t complain about it too much – it works. The cushion setup is a double-stacked Zoom Air unit in the forefoot along with a standard Phylon midsole. Amazing stuff.
The forefoot unit reminds me of the Zoom Rize in just how explosive the spring back feels. You really gotta try it yourself to get the gist of it, but this setup is a well-balanced option as a whole: a little bit of impact protection & compression at the back and super explosive at the front. Once I got used to this type of ride, it’s so much fun.
Of course, just like all Westbrook’s shoes, this one is just as supportive, packing the critical features even for heavier/larger players. The upper mostly consists of synthetic suede and while it’s nothing luxurious, it provides enough structure to keep your foot in place, it’s durable and feels great once broken in.
Everything about the shoe feels nicely optimized for just about anyone. There’s enough support & structure for heavy dudes, enough response for light guards, and just enough performance for anyone in between.
While the shoe gripped multiple outdoor surfaces well for me, the dense pattern does tend to get caught up in dust/debris. Hard plants/quick moves on a dirtier spot might cause a slight slip and even though those weren’t happening all the time, it still keeps the traction performance away from perfect.
Wiping ’em down every few plays is recommended with these.
- True to size is optimal, including wide footers
- Try to stay away from regular outdoor play if possible
- 1-2 weeks to break in the upper
VIII. BEST OVERALL #2
AIR JORDAN 34
FULL REVIEW 💰 $175
WHY IT’S GOOD
Some of you definitely seen this one coming. It’s not a Jordan list without the incredible Air Jordan 34. Take everything I’ve said about the Air Jordan 34 SE above and make it a bit lighter, strip off the zipper shroud, and leave just the Performance Woven & synthetic pieces for the upper. That’s the AJ 34 for you.
The same deadly traction that gripped every surface I played on with no issues (both indoors and outdoors), and the same amazing forefoot & heel Zoom Air setup that’s honestly hard to replicate. It’s the perfect representation of what Zoom Air can do: I felt fast, precise, bouncy, and stable, all while staying low to the ground.
The AJ 34 is a supportive shoe that doesn’t feel like it: a near one-to-one fit handles a good portion of the load but the inner Performance Woven layer locks down your foot in a comfy manner and it strategically stretches upon more pressure to keep you nimble, while staying tight when you need security. It’s awesome.
If you’re confused about the options here, you’re not yet sure of your play style or anything similar to that – just grab the AJ 34. No questions asked.
The only real gripe I have about these is their availability. Much like the other Jordan shoes that are more than a year old, it’s a little tough to track down a pair in your desired size and at an acceptable price. However, unlike the Jumpman Diamond or the CP3.12 – these aren’t that tough to get in comparison.
- True to size is recommended for everyone
- Keep outdoor action to occasional
- Regular version for a lighter build & SE version for better lockdown & premium materials
IX. BEST OVERALL #3
AIR JORDAN 35
FULL REVIEW 💰 $180
WHY IT’S GOOD
The latest Air Jordan 35 is a direct successor to the already amazing AJ 34. It’s tough to top what they did with that shoe but for certain players, the 35 might be even better. The shoe mostly performs and feels similar to the 34 but there are a few changes.
Nothing too different in terms of traction – still the same deadly grip, no real need to wipe these constantly either.
The cushion setup has similar specs but the forefoot Zoom unit is now bigger. The end result might sound contradictory but it’s all about implementation: this setup feels a bit faster & firmer but still bouncy enough to cater to a lot of players.
The materials received the biggest upgrade: a mixture of modern synthetics & genuine materials now utilize the Jordan 35’s build. It feels just as good as the AJ 34 does but the new material setup has more structure, so foot containment felt even better while the shoe felt about the same weight-wise.
The shoe also received a beefier midfoot shank that does add more weight on paper but, once again, doesn’t really feel like it and you get better torsional support in return. That’s one way to do an upgrade!
A lot of people, including myself have experienced an issue with the shoe’s inner lace loops digging into the arches of the feet while pulling the laces down. The tighter you lace these up and the more flat-footed you are – the more chances you’ll feel this issue.
For me, it was merely a slight distraction that was initially quite bad but got much better in a couple of weeks. For others – it stays super uncomfortable, so it’s a matter of chance in this case.
- True to size is optimal for everyone
- Just like the 34, keep outdoor games to occasional
- Comes in a synthetic leather & textile variant or a genuine suede & textile option
NEVER LIMIT YOURSELF TO ONE LOGO
It ain’t all about the Jumpman. Some true gems await you!
Whether you’re a casual hooper, a pro player, an older guy who still likes shooting some hoops, or just a kid – it’s all about perspective & having as much choice at your fingertips as possible. And knowing what to look for, of course.
Even though you’re a huge Jordan fan – I highly encourage you to try out other stuff. You’d be surprised how much better the performance basketball stuff has gotten over the years if we’re talkin’ adidas, Under Armour, or overseas manufacturers such as Li-Ning or ANTA. It’s not all about Jordan & Nikey.
With that, I recommend checking out my other brand shoe lists, as I’ve put them together for each flagship brand: adidas, Nike, Under Armour, and Jordan. All of those are constantly updated if I find better options down the road!
What are your thoughts on Jordan’s current offerings in modern performance basketball? Will you be getting one of these? Perhaps you’ve got a question I haven’t answered in the article? I’m always super excited to hear your thoughts and chat with you!
Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as quick as I can!