7 Best Nike Basketball Shoes in 2024

Dimitrije Curcic
Dimitrije Curcic on
7 Best Nike Basketball Shoes in 2024
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When it comes to sports footwear, Nike leads. This holds true even in performance basketball where the brand and its subsidiary Jordan hold more than 80% of the market. This makes quite an extensive range to choose from.

Some models come with extra cushioning, some have outstanding grip, and some provide the most secure lockdown around your ankle. On top of that, you can also find those all-around performers that successfully blend all of the above. We are aware that this is a tedious process of choosing. 

To help you find the right option, we have tested and reviewed over 100 basketball shoes. We don't stop there because we also selected the cream of the crop for various categories. 

How we test basketball shoes

Coming up with unrivaled Nike basketball shoes in their own respective categories is not an easy task. We say this because we actually do the whole procedure for every shoe we tested. If you like to know what happens behind our comprehensive reviews and recommendations, read below:

  • We acquire the basketball shoes from Nike that we want to test. We value objectivity more than anything so we are very stern about this.
  • We play basketball in these shoes, both indoors and outdoors. The main features we observe and examine are grip, spring, lateral support, and lockdown, among others.
  • We conduct different tests in our lab that measure different aspects of the shoes. We also tear the shoes apart and look into all its components. 

Best Nike basketball shoes overall

What makes it the best?

The main highlights of the Nike LeBron NXXT GEN are its immense heel support plus torsional resistance, energizing bounce, and outdoor playability. These benefits make this shoe perfectly suitable for several types of players; hence, we declare it the best one from Nike to date.

The shoe’s heel stiffness and torsional resistance worked together to bring us a stable and supportive ride. In the lab, we manually twisted, bent, and squeezed the shoe in order to test its flexibility. The NXXT GEN gets heel stiffness and torsional resistance scores of 3 and 4, respectively, on a five-point scale where 5 is the stiffest.   

When it comes to energy return, we felt that the Zoom Air unit in the midsole did its job so well. We felt high amounts of springback with every step, and it helped propel us to the basket quite efficiently. We have to say, this version of the Zoom Air unit is one of the most well-implemented!

When we used an HC durometer to measure the outsole rubber’s hardness, the device showed 84.5, which is slightly higher than the average (81.5). We never had issues playing outdoors while wearing the LeBron NXXT GEN from Nike.

One issue with the shoe is the non-uniform breathability of its upper. After pumping smoke into the shoe, we saw that the smoke did not rise as freely through the toe box as through the tongue. This shoe only got a 2 out of 5 from us for ventilation.

Pros

  • Top-notch traction
  • Lightest LeBron shoe (as of 2023)
  • Nice bounce in the forefoot
  • A fine balance of court feel and impact protection
  • Effective foot containment
  • Very comfortable wraparound feel
  • Quality materials
  • Standout design and colors

Cons

  • Surprisingly not for wide feet
  • Still kinda expensive
Full review of Nike Lebron NXXT GEN

Nike basketball shoes with the best traction

Nike KD 15
92
Superb!

What makes it the best?

Among all the shoes in Nike’s arsenal, it’s the Nike KD 15 that brings the most promise when it comes to traction, which we experienced as consistent on both indoor and outdoor courts. We also appreciated this KD shoe’s close-to-the-ground construction and excellent torsional rigidity. 

The bite of the KD 15 was really amazing; shoemakers should take note of how this shoe does it! Stopping on a dime was such a breeze. Quick changes in direction were never an issue. The whole grip experience was just a pure chef’s kiss. 

Through our caliper measurements in the lab, we learned that the midsole is 3.3 mm thinner at the heel and 1.1 mm thinner at the forefoot. This configuration allowed us to feel the court more, enhancing our control over our movements.

The shoe’s base also did a good job keeping our rides stable and protecting us from twists. After manually twisting it in the lab, we thought that this shoe deserved a perfect score of 5 out of 5 for torsional rigidity.

The shoe’s breathability was definitely a weak point. After conducting our standard breathability smoke and light tests, the KD 15 only got a disappointing 2 out of 5. Those players with sweaty feet should stay away from this KD shoe.

Pros

  • Consistent grip on different surfaces
  • Dust-resistant outsole
  • Plush and protective foam
  • Bouncy midsole
  • Secure heel counter
  • Well-ventilated upper
  • Feels light
  • OK for outdoors

Cons

  • Not for wide-footers
  • Lacks flexiblity
Full review of Nike KD 15

Nike basketball shoes with the best cushioning

Nike Lebron 20
93
Superb!

What makes it the best?

A Nike LeBron shoe is considered synonymous with quality. Hence, it requires a lot to rise above all the Nike LeBron kicks in our inventory. We’ve seen it in the lab and experienced on the court that the LeBron 20 did not hold back not only on durability and grip, but also on cushioning prowess! It’s not a surprise that this shoe became our best pick for cushioning among all Nike kicks on record.

The Dremel test results on this shoe are impressive. We subjected the toe area of the upper to aggressive friction, which was way more than what guys normally experience on-court. No hole in sight after that so we give it a 4 out of 5 for durability. We dare say that even frequent toe draggers can’t break down this shoe’s upper.

We thoroughly enjoyed a consistent grip in a good number of games. It has a noteworthy bite on different types of court surfaces. What we experienced during our test games was better than just stopping on a dime. This is just how good this shoe is!

The amount of impact protection that this shoe provided is also worth mentioning. Using an HA durometer, we learned that the cushion is softer than average (26.6) with a rating of 25.5. On feet, the experience was like this: the foam is soft enough to absorb impact, but it is still firm enough to ensure stability and court feel.

It would have been a lot better had this shoe delivered more breathability. After seeing how challenging it was for smoke to escape through the upper, we could only give it a 2 out of 5 for ventilation.

Pros

  • Amazing overall performance
  • Great traction
  • Tremendous impact protection
  • Pronounced court feel
  • Dependable bounciness
  • Comfortable upper
  • Incredible foot containment
  • Stylishly streamlined looks

Cons

  • Not for outdoors
  • Has to be broken in
Full review of Nike Lebron 20

Best lightweight Nike basketball shoes

What makes it the best?

A stand-out aspect of the Nike Zoom Freak 4 is its stability, which it provides without needing a higher collar. Besides the anti-wobble structure, this shoe also boasts pronounced court feel at the forefoot. And the Freak 4 delivered all this without adding so much to its weight. Because of all these benefits, we consider this shoe the most valuable lightweight shoe out of all Nike basketball releases.

In the lab, our caliper showed that the platform is 115.7 mm wide at the forefoot. This adds 3.1 mm more width to the average, giving the shoe a lot of extra room to stably hold the foot. 

Our caliper measurements also showed that the forefoot is 8.3 mm lower than the heel. Because of this setup, our heel strikes were a lot easier to execute. We also got to feel the court more through the forefoot, which in turn made us quicker on our feet.

The weight of the Nike Zoom Freak 4 is 12.3 oz or 348g. This is 1.4 ounces lighter than the average, which currently stands at 13.7 oz or 387g. Because of its lightness, we became even more agile as we drove toward the basket.

In spite of all the goodness, we still cannot recommend this shoe to ballers who want to feel a lot of plushness underfoot. As per our HA durometer, the softness (27.0) of the midsole does not fall far from the average (27.9). This means that the impact protection that this shoe can give is decent at best.

Pros

  • Noticeable upgrades
  • Amazing grip on indoor courts
  • Dust-resistant outsole
  • Smooth steps
  • Pretty good court feel
  • Dependable impact protection
  • Jump-improving bounce
  • Reliably supportive structure
  • True-to-size fit

Cons

  • Not ideal for outdoors (but OK)
  • Not for bigger players and wide footers
  • Cheap-feeling materials
Full review of Nike Zoom Freak 4

Nike basketball shoes with the best comfort

What makes it the best?

The breathability of the Nike LeBron Witness 7 was truly noteworthy. It made our steps a lot lighter, easier, and comfortable. Besides providing a lot of ventilation, this basketball shoe also offered a lot of impact protection, keeping us pain-free all throughout the games. The durability of its outsole made it suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. It is for these reasons that we hail this shoe as the most comfortable in Nike’s arsenal.

Upon wearing this shoe, we already felt its breathability. When we did the smoke test on it, we were not anymore surprised when the smoke easily escaped through the upper. We were so impressed that this shoe garnered a 4 out of 5 from us.

Based on our caliper measurements, the Witness 7’s heel is the tallest that we have ever seen. It is 4.1 mm thicker than average! On court, we felt the generous cushioning absorbing the impact of our harsh landings and aggressive steps.

To the touch, the rubber outsole of this shoe indeed felt quite resistant to abrasion. Readings from our HC durometer confirmed our initial observation. While the average sole hardness score is only 81.5, the Nike Giannis Immortality 2’s outsole got as high as 85.8.

The height of the heel gave the Nike LeBron Witness 7 a lot of impact protection, but it also brought it too high off the ground. Those players who love court feel may find this shoe seriously lacking in that regard.

Pros

  • Highly effective traction
  • Impressive impact protection
  • Optimum comfort
  • Breathable upper
  • Reliable heel lockdown
  • Good lateral stability
  • Great outdoor option
  • Fashionable design

Cons

  • Lacks court feel
  • Poor upper durability
  • No outriggers on the sole
Full review of Nike Lebron Witness 7

Best Nike basketball shoes for outdoor courts

What makes it the best?

The Nike Cosmic Unity 3 is undoubtedly an outdoor-worthy shoe, so it easily takes the crown as the best for outdoors among Nike’s basketball shoes. The enhanced court feel and stability that the midsole afforded made our experience with it even better.

The outsole rubber registers a good 86.5 on the HC durometer when the average is only 81.5. This means that the rubber is hard and is able to withstand abrasion. True enough, the shoe easily endured the harshness of outdoor play during our actual game tests. 

Many of us play as guards, and the court feel that this shoe delivered during our test games allowed us to be quicker on our feet. In the lab, our caliper showed that the stack height of this shoe is only 27.9 mm at the heel and 20.7 mm at the forefoot. These figures are 2.1 mm and 0.9 mm thinner than average. As a result, we felt much closer to the court surface while wearing this basketball shoe. 

What made the experience better was the firmness of the tooling. Using our HA durometer, we learned that it is on the firmer side with a rating of 33.3 when the average is only 26.6. Aside from enhancing ground feel, the firm midsole also ensured stability.

The Cosmic Unity 3 is not a good pick for those who want a lot of tongue cushioning. The padding in this part of the shoe is only 4.9 mm thick, which makes it 4.5 mm thinner than average.

Pros

  • Perfect for outdoor courts
  • Outstandingly durable
  • One of the most stable shoes
  • Wide platform
  • Very secure lockdown
  • Reliable traction on all courts
  • Breathable enough
  • Sustainable materials

Cons

  • Firm sole with poor impact protection
  • Heavier than average
  • Break-in needed
Full review of Nike Cosmic Unity 3

Best budget Nike basketball shoes

What makes it the best?

The Air Max Impact 4 is simply an amazing shoe. At $90 per pair, this model is way cheaper than average, which is priced as high as $135. Performance-wise, this basketball shoe delivers impressive lightness and flexibility. Yet, it doesn’t fall short when it comes to providing twist protection. Hence, it’s easy for us to declare this shoe as the best budget pick in Nike’s lineup.

At only 12.06 ounces or 342 grams, this cheap basketball shoe is definitely a lot lighter than the typical hoop footwear (14.22 ounces or 403 grams). When used on the court, these light kicks didn’t get in the way of our movements and strikes.

When it comes to flexibility, this shoe is not to be overlooked, either. Our digital force gauge in the lab showed that this shoe needs only 34.7N of force to be bent at 90 degrees. This number is significantly lower than the 40.9N required by a typical hoop shoe.

In spite of its lightness and flexibility, the Air Max Impact 4’s base never ran out of the needed rigidity to resist torsional twists. This shoe, instead, got a pretty high score of 4 out of 5 for torsional rigidity after we gave it a pretty good squeeze and twist in the lab.

The shoe’s stability, however, made us a little worried. Its platform, particularly the heel area, is way too narrow. The heel is only 82.5 mm wide when the average opens as much as 91.1 mm.

Pros

  • Traction is consistently good
  • Responsive cushioning
  • Decent impact protection
  • Comfortable and well-ventilated upper
  • Dependable foot containment
  • Great for outdoor use
  • Value for money

Cons

  • Needs to be broken in
  • Not for wide-footers
Full review of Nike Air Max Impact 4

What sets the best Nike basketball shoes apart

Nike dominates the basketball market definitely not by chance. It offers a good deal of innovations that help with performance on the hard court. 

Many of the proprietary technologies featured in Nike basketball shoes debuted in running shoes.

 

Technology

Description

Cushion

Air 

Polyurethane pouch filled with dense gases, achieves that feeling of comfortably ‘walking on air’

Zoom Air

Air unit with tightly stretched tensile fibers knit inside it for a more perfect balance of responsiveness and impact protection

Lunarlon

Special foam, bouncier and 30% lighter than phylon 

Vapormax

Air packets that are put directly beneath known pressure points for a more targeted and efficient cushioning

React

Special lab-produced foam that is both soft and responsive

Upper

Flywire

Suspension-cables-like wires on both sides, cradling the foot and holding it securely in place especially during motion

Flyknit

Digitally engineered knit that is light, form-fitting, and seamless

Battleknit

Flyknit innovation for LeBron James that becomes increasingly stiff at the midfoot where stability is most needed

Knitposite

First used on LeBrons shoes, this is basically Flyknit infused with heat-molded yarn that makes it more durable and supportive

Beyond technologies: Other factors to consider

Apart from technologies, other factors play important roles in ensuring your enjoyment of Nike basketball shoes

Playing style

Expectedly, many of the top Nike basketball shoes are from signature lines dedicated to some of NBA’s most prolific players like guard Paul George and power forward Kevin Durant. This should make choosing the right shoe easier. Shoes from signature lines are sensitive not only to the star player’s personal preferences but also their playing positions.

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According to Basketball Reference, Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James are versatile players who can handle almost all playing positions. We can expect their shoes to be as flexible as they are.

Style and aesthetics

Nike basketball shoes are as pretty as they are high-performing. They will be of use even when you are off the court. 

Low or high, know what you want. High-top basketball sneakers are espoused by players like LeBron James. Low-top basketball shoes are worn by many of Nike’s NBA stars, the most prominent of which being Kobe Bryant. Wanting one collar length over the other is just a matter of preference. 

Know your color. Nike basketball shoes are available in thousands of colorways. Many of them commemorate important events or holidays such as Black History, Christmas, Easter, and the NBA Championships. There are also colorways that reference the lives and careers of their signature athletes. 

To know more about the general steps to consider when buying basketball shoes, read our detailed buying guide.

Indoor or outdoor? The sturdiness test

The basketball shoe industry in general is largely driven by the NBA. With this, Nike releases basketball shoes that are deliberately for indoor hooping on a well-kept hard court.

You need to know how to assess a shoe’s outdoor playability before you use it on asphalt or any other type of outdoor court. Here’s how you can assess the shoe:

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Get the best Nike basketball shoes for less

The top Nike basketball shoes are going to be even greater if they are NOT expensive.

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Non-signature models are not expensive simply because no big names are attached to them. 

The price of older models are deliberately brought down in clearance sales. Remember, the presence of a newer option does not automatically make older models less effective. They still have the technologies that make them desirable.

Even within signature lines, Nike develops takedown models to appeal to a wider audience. These basketball shoes are cheaper because they use non-premium materials. LeBron’s Witness line and Kyrie Irving’s Flytrap series are examples of takedown signature releases from Nike.

Author
Dimitrije Curcic
Dimitrije Curcic
Dimitrije Curcic has been playing basketball for over 22 years. Like Manu Ginobili, he’s a left-hander whose moves led him to a better career-shooting percentage than the Argentine himself. After playing professionally for 10 years, Dimitrije moved to coaching for two seasons before he became a basketball statistician for StatScore, and FanSided contributor for the San Antonio Spurs. Dimitrije loves to tell hoop stories through numbers and graphics and has been featured on Fansided, FiveThirtyEight, Eurohoops, and TalkBasket among the others.