In 1984, Michael Jordan wore a particular pair of black-and-red Nike basketball shoes during a preseason match that violated the NBA’s uniform policy. Commissioner David Stern reportedly banned the sneakers and imposed a $5,000 fine whenever His Airness would wear them during an NBA sanctioned game.
"Back then, the rules were you had to have the majority of the shoe in black or white. 51 percent has always been the number that's been thrown out. The basis of that was to create some form of team unity," Christopher Arena, NBA SVP of identity, outfitting, and equipment, explains to ESPN.com.
Since then, the rules have relaxed a little bit. In 2009, the league moved away from the 51-percent criterion. Under the current guidelines, players “may wear shoes containing any combination of white, gray, black and the colors with the team identity.”
"The unity wasn't necessarily that we were all 51 percent of one color," Arena continues. "The unity is that the players are all matching their team identity."
The Top Black Basketball Shoes by Brand
Because of league regulation, nearly every shoe model has a black colorway. Consequently, prospective buyers may be inundated with the sheer number of black basketball shoes available in the market.
In this section, we’ll try to help you out by listing down some of the top-rated, most popular, and highly collectible black basketball shoes each brand has to offer.
Nike leads the pack as the most worn shoe brand in the league. According to data compiled by ballershoesdb.com and versusreviews.com from 2016-2018, over 60% of active NBA players wear Nike basketball shoes on-court.
- Nike Hyperdunk 2017 TB. These mostly-black basketball shoes continue the iconic Hyperdunk lineage. It features a half-bootie construction, Nike React cushioning, a pressure-mapped outsole, and a molded heel counter. This is the shoe of choice of nearly 50 players including Eric Bledsoe, Bradley Beal, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Marc Gasol.
- Nike Kobe AD ‘Black Mamba’. Also worn by almost 50 players on-court, the Nike Kobe AD is headlined by All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Giannis Antetokounmpo. These Kobe basketball shoes are designed to provide wearers with responsive cushioning, lightweight support, and excellent traction. Dressed in black and university gold, the ‘Black Mamba’ edition features a Lakers-inspired theme. Written on the right and left tongues in Lakers font are the words “Black” and “Mamba” respectively.
- Nike PG1 Black Gum. During its first year in the market, the Nike PG1 quickly became one of the most well-received new signature sneakers in terms of both performance and style. These Nike basketball shoes feature a forefoot strap with Flywire technology for locked-down stability, a full inner sleeve for complete comfort, and low-profile Nike Zoom Air for responsive cushioning. This particular colorway perfectly blends performance and style with its black-on-black upper, finished off with a classic gum outsole.
- Nike Kyrie 3 BHM (Black History Month). Nike’s Ever Higher Fund seeks to inspire the underserved youth and unlock their potential through sports mentorship. This pair of commemorative Black History basketball shoes is designed to deliver financial support to the Ever Higher Fund. This limited edition Nike Kyrie 3 features a decorative marble graphic that represents the strength created when moving in harmony while gold accents serve as a reminder of the power of unity.
- Nike LeBron 15 ‘EQUALITY’. Nike launched the EQUALITY initiative in 2017 with the belief that the power of sport can inspire people to stand up and take action in their communities. In recent years, LeBron James has been one of the most vocal athletes when it comes to social issues. He believes that regardless of race, background, and status, everyone has the responsibility of speaking up and standing for something. Limited to just 400 pairs (200 black and 200 white), the Nike LeBron 15 ‘Equality’ edition was raffled off, and the lucky winners were encouraged to trade with each other to create a mismatched pair like James’s Black History basketball shoes. All the proceeds were donated to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture to support their various missions and programs.
- Nike Hyperdunk 2016 Triple Black. The Nike Hyperdunk 2016 was one of the most popular shoes during the 2016-2017 NBA season and remains as the shoe of choice of several NBA players this 2017-2018 season. This high-performance all black basketball shoes boast a combination of Flywire cables and Zoom Air.
- Nike LeBron Zoom Soldier 11 ‘Prototype’. Down 0-2 during the 2016 NBA Finals, LeBron James tried to shake things up by switching to an unreleased prototype of his LeBron Soldier X. James and the Cavaliers would ultimately complete a historic comeback and win the NBA Championship. The LeBron Soldier 11 ‘Prototype’ pays tribute to this career-defining moment and the man who continually strives for greatness. This debut colorway features an all-black upper with a four-strap closure. To maximize responsiveness, Nike Zoom Air bags are positioned at the forefoot and heel. Finishing off the iconic silhouette is an ice blue translucent outsole.
- Nike Zoom Rev 2017 MLK Day (Martin Luther King Jr. Day). In January 2017, Nike Basketball launched their MLK Day PE collection to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. All Nike and Jordan Brand sponsored athletes wore their all-black PEs in solidarity to honor Dr. King’s memory and his principles of equality. One of the Nike athletes who wore the Zoom Rev 2017 MLK Day PE was All-Star forward Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors.
The Three Stripes comes in second, edging out Jordan Brand. Although, the German sports giant still needs to cover much ground. Only 18% of NBA players rock Adidas basketball shoes on the court. However, with the signing of up-and-coming stars including Andrew Wiggins and Kristaps Porzingis, Adidas hopes to close the gap and challenge Nike’s supremacy in the NBA.
- Adidas Crazy Explosive 2017 Primeknit Black/Scarlet. Aside from a monochromatic black, contemporary basketball sneakers Adidas Crazy Explosive 2017 Primeknit are also available in an eye-catching Core Black/Scarlet colorway that features a black Primeknit upper with gold accents. A red outsole and TPU cage wrap the Boost-enhanced midsole.
- Adidas Dame 4 ‘Black Panther’. Although not an official colorway of the Adidas Dame 4, these custom sneakers have generated a lot of buzz among sneakerheads and Marvel fans alike. Sneaker customizer Stephen Perona gave Damian Lillard’s fourth signature shoe a Black Panther makeover. This one-off Dame 4 features a black upper with hints of purple and blue as a nod to the fictional metal called Vibranium. The details incorporated in the lacing system are reminiscent of T’Challa’s tech-filled necklace that houses his Black Panther suit. Rounding out the design are Black Panther logos and the texts “Wakanda" and "Forever” on each tongue.
- Adidas Harden Vol.1 ‘Black Ops’. After selling out the first two colorways (‘Imma Be A Star’ and ‘Pioneer’), James Harden’s first signature shoe goes into stealth mode. Dubbed as the Black Ops, the third colorway of the Harden Vol.1 is wrapped in a predominantly black upper with color-changing accents. The Harden Mark and The Three Stripes are enhanced with the Xeno technology to represent James’s uncanny ability to infiltrate the defense with his offensive prowess.
- Adidas Harden Vol.2 ‘Nightmare’. James had been terrorizing his opponents throughout the 2017-2018 season, posting MVP-caliber numbers while leading the Houston Rockets to the top spot of the Western Conference. To kick off his playoff run, Adidas unveiled a new colorway of the Harden Vol.2. Treated in triple black, the Harden Vol.2 ‘Nightmare’ draws inspiration from James’s ability to dominate on the offensive end and become a nightmare to match up against. The triple-black silhouette is contrasted by silver detailing on the forefoot, laces, The Three Stripes, and the Harden Mark. A blacked-out Boost midsole guarantees unrivaled energy return to keep James going as he leads the Rockets deep into the postseason.
- Adidas D Rose 8 (Chinese New Year Collection). In celebration of the Year of the Dog, Adidas collaborated with renowned Chinese artist Rhen Zhen and created a limited edition Chinese New Year collection. Drawing inspiration from the noble Tibetan Mastiff, Rhen crafted a unique colorway of the D Rose 8 with more of an artistic approach. The result is a sleek black colorway with shiny detailing.
Jordan Brand has lost their footing, placing third with only 10% of NBA players sporting their kicks on the hardwood. Despite this, Jordan is fighting back with recent releases from Russell Westbrook’s and Chris Paul’s signature lines. The brand also has a retro Air Jordan catalog that remains a hit among dedicated sneakerheads.
- Jordan Why Not Zer0.1 ‘Masters’. Russell Westbrook’s first signature sneaker features a fused mesh upper that offers lightweight containment, full-length Zoom Air for responsive cushioning, and an Air Jordan VI-inspired lace lock for locked-in comfort. The ‘Masters’ colorway pays tribute to his brother Reynard who finished his master's degree. These black basketball shoes feature mismatched colors that are designed to emulate the different colored tassels a graduate wears to celebrate their degree.
- Air Jordan 11 ‘Cap and Gown’. Originally released for the 1995-1996 season, the Air Jordan 11 signaled the return of His Airness. Michael made history by winning the All-Star MVP, regular season MVP, and Finals MVP awards. The AJ XI was also the first Air Jordan to feature carbon fiber and patent leather. Because of its elegance, the all-black version became an instant hit and was widely used in formal settings. In May 2018, Jordan Brand launches the new ‘Cap and Gown’ colorway in recognition of the Air Jordan 11’s special place at graduation ceremonies. These all black basketball sneakers feature upgraded materials including patent leather and premium nubuck. A metal Jumpman logo and graduation cord-like laces complete the theme. According to kicksonfire.com, the Air Jordan 11 ‘Cap and Gown’ is limited to around 50-100k pairs.
- Air Jordan 4 Black Levi’s. Michael made “The Shot” over Craig Ehlo while wearing the OG Black Cement colorway of the Air Jordan IV, forever securing its place in basketball sneaker history. This 2018, the iconic sneaker is receiving a denim treatment with the release of the Levi’s X Air Jordan 4. These all black basketball shoes feature a denim upper, visible air unit, and a gum outsole. Levi’s signature red tag is present as well as the Jordan branding on the tongue.
- Air Jordan XXXI ‘Black Cat’. Michael Jordan’s powerful style and status as the all-time apex predator are perfectly captured by his “Black Cat” persona. Built to offer premium performance, these Air Jordan basketball shoes boast full-length Zoom Air and the Flightspeed technology for heightened cushioning and explosive responsiveness. The ‘Black Cat’ edition of the Air Jordan 31 features a black and anthracite upper with a gradient Swoosh. The Flywire cables and outsole are dipped in white to provide minimal contrast.
- Air Jordan XIV ‘Last Shot’. 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of Michael’s game-winning and series-clinching shot against the Utah Jazz during Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals. Dubbed as the “Last Shot,” the Retro Air Jordan 14 pays tribute to this iconic moment and the OG silhouette MJ wore during that game. The Air Jordan 14 ‘Last Shot’ is instantly recognizable with its true-to-the-original black leather upper with hits of metallic red. Completing the AJ XIV’s Ferrari-inspired theme is the yellow shield logo with signature Jumpman branding.
Prior to signing Stephen Curry in 2015, Under Armour had little to no presence in the NBA. Currently, 4% of NBA players wear Under Armour basketball shoes on the court. UA also signed rookies Dennis Smith Jr. and Josh Jackson before the start of the 2017-2018 season to expand their presence.
- Under Armour Drive 4 Black/Black. Aside from the Under Armour Curry 4, the Drive 4 has garnered a lot of interest from the league. The Under Armour Drive 4 is built for the new generation of athletes who can attack from every position. These black basketball shoes feature a full-length bootie construction, external heel counter, reinforced lace loops, and an exposed Micro G heel unit.
- Under Armour Curry 4 ‘More Range’. Following the ‘More Buckets’ release, the ‘More Range’ edition of the Under Armour Curry 4 pays tribute to Stephen’s uncanny ability to drain threes from way downtown. This colorway of the fourth Stephen Curry basketball shoes features a nearly all-black silhouette complemented by icy blue branding with an iridescent glow.
- Under Armour Curry 3 ‘Trifecta Black’. Inspired by Stephen’s lights out shooting from deep, the ‘Trifecta Black’ colorway of the Under Armour Curry 3 features a black Threadborne and Anafoam upper resting on a blacked-out Charged sole. Meta-wing carbon fiber shanks finish off the stealthy silhouette.
Anta is still struggling to stay relevant in the league. Only 2 NBA players (including Klay Thompson) wear Anta basketball shoes on the court.
- Anta KT3 ‘Black Panther’. Marvel’s Black Panther movie has quickly become a cultural phenomenon and has inspired collaborative products such as apparel and sneakers. The Marvel X Anta KT3 is one such collab that created two limited edition silhouettes (high-top and low-top). The Anta KT3 ‘Black Panther’ boasts a black textured upper with silver accents as a nod to the superhero’s Vibranium suit. The high-top model features a few more Black Panther-inspired details such as the claw marks at the heel, iridescent tribal graphics, and “Property of Wakanda” stitched behind the removable shroud.
Black: What Does It Stand For?
Color is the most influential and powerful aspect of design. According to research, 85% of consumers cite color as the primary reason they purchase a product. The same study also asserts that 93% of buyers place color and visual appearance as the deciding factors when purchasing new products. It is important to note that a color’s influence and meaning are not entirely universal. A person’s upbringing, experiences, and preference, as well as context and cultural differences, influence the effects a certain color has on each person.
For instance, the color black evokes different emotional responses and has various meanings across cultures. Black is associated with fear, mystery, death, evil, aggression, and rebellion. On the other hand, the color black also corresponds to power, strength, authority, intelligence, formality, elegance, and sophistication.
The Color Black
"Black is real sensation, even if it is produced by entire absence of light. The sensation of black is distinctly different from the lack of all sensation."
- Hermann von Helmholtz, German scientist and philosopher
Devoid of hue, black is the absence or complete absorption of visible light. It is a mysterious achromatic color that has both positive and negative connotations. It can elicit a strong emotional response, and too much of it can be overwhelming.
Here are some reasons to wear/not to wear black.
- Black is oftentimes used as a symbol of power and evil. It is used to portray menacing characters such as witches and vampires.
- In many cultures, black is the symbol of death and grief. It produces feelings of gloom, emptiness, and sadness.
- In the Middle East and Ancient Egypt, black represents life and rebirth.
- Black indicates masculinity and maturity in some African and South American cultures.
- In Western culture, black indicates formality and sophistication. It creates a discreet feeling that boosts confidence in appearance and increases the sense of potential and possibility.
- In fashion, black is often used because of its slimming quality. In a recent study, more women are claiming that they prefer black. 40 percent of females chose black as their preferred color as opposed to only 16 percent of males.
- Black is a sexually alluring color that is associated with elegance and power. People who like black have secret fantasies and affairs. They may also be into BDSM and bondage. Often, they are influential people who like to dominate and control their partners.
- For teenagers and young adults, black is linked to rebellious behavior.
- According to studies, people who wear black clothing appear more intelligent, confident, and sexy.
Keeping It Neat: Tips on How to Clean Black Basketball Shoes
Although it may not seem like it, black basketball shoes may be challenging to maintain. Scuffs and stains can easily ruin the color and make the shoes look more worn out than they actually are. Before you wash and dip your sneakers in soap and water, it is important to know the shoe’s materials and be armed with the right techniques to keep your black basketball shoes looking good as new.
Nike.com offers some general advice when it comes to keeping your shoes squeaky clean. Listed below are Nike’s recommended steps:
“For best results, clean your Nike shoes immediately after exposing them to dirt.
- Remove excess dirt first using a soft-bristled brush (shoe brush or old toothbrush) to clean the outsole.
- Mix warm water and a small amount of laundry detergent to create a slightly soapy mixture.
- Apply a small amount of the water/detergent mixture to a sponge, soft cloth or soft brush and clean affected areas.
- Apply a small amount of warm water to another sponge or soft cloth to remove any excess detergent.
- Air dry the shoes at room temperature.
Repeat these steps to attempt to remove persistent stains. Nike doesn't recommend any alternative cleaning methods, placing your shoes in a washing machine or dryer, or using any other products on your shoes such as bleach or other chemicals.
Saddle soap can soften leather and is recommended only on leather components of shoes that aren't subjected to excessive stress. Don't use saddle soap on soccer cleats, basketball shoes, golf shoes, training shoes or any other shoes designed for activities involving lateral movement.”
The Jordan brand uses a lot of leather and suede in their retro Air Jordan releases. So, when cleaning your precious Jordans, make sure to check the shoe’s materials first since keeping these materials clean may require different steps.
Cleaning patent and standard leather may need specially formulated cleaners to preserve its look effectively. However, there are a few cleaning hacks that can deliver similar results for a fraction of the price.
Using wet wipes is an effective way of cleaning patent leather in a hurry. Simply wipe the dirt or stain and then buff with a soft and clean cloth. Petroleum jelly is another household item that is great at cleaning leather. Just apply a small amount of petroleum jelly on a clean and soft fabric then rub the area you wish to clean. After rubbing, buff the leather with a soft dry cloth to remove any excess jelly.
Suede is a little trickier to clean. You should not use water to clean basic stains since it can damage the material. Here are a few tips on how to clean shoes with black suede.
For basic stains:
- Use a suede brush. Suede is very delicate, so any type of brush just won’t do. Firstly, brush the suede in the same direction to remove any dirt and stain on the surface. Then, apply moderate pressure to areas with deeper stains in the suede.
- Apply a black suede protector. After brushing off the dirt or stain, you may consider spraying the shoes with a suede protector.
- Apply black suede dye. Cleaning black suede too often may cause its color to lighten. If this occurs, use black suede dye to bring the color back to life.
For more stubborn stains:
- Use a vinegar solution. If brushing doesn’t do the trick, try using a vinegar solution to remove the stain. Using a 2:1 ratio, mix water (two parts) and white vinegar (one part) then dampen a soft cloth with the solution. While applying gentle pressure, wipe the stain off and then let it completely dry.
- Use a rubber stone or suede eraser. Another method of dealing with stubborn stain is by using a rubber stone or suede eraser. Apply gentle pressure while rubbing and the stain should completely come off. After rubbing, brush the suede to remove any excess debris.
Keeping Your Black Basketball Shoes in “Style”
Ever since His Airness debuted the Air Jordan 1, basketball sneakers have become a streetwear staple and must-have fashion items. As a result, brands are designing shoes that blur the line between performance and style. Buyers are no longer just looking for a high-performance shoe to use on-court, they also want a pair of black basketball shoes or kicks in another popular hue that they can rock on the streets.
Wearing basketball sneakers over other types of shoes also has some benefits.
- Wearers can walk and run easily.
- Wearers are less likely to have injuries.
- Basketball sneakers are generally comfortable to wear.
- Wearing basketball sneakers reduce pressure on the legs.
So, it’s really no surprise that more and more people try to rock their sneakers whenever and wherever. Here, we’ll provide you with some tips on how to mix and match your sleek all black basketball sneakers with the rest of your wardrobe.
Why wear black?
First, we’ll provide you with reasons why wearing black is a good choice.
- You’ll never need to worry about matching your clothes if you go all black.
- Black can camouflage any stain.
- You can layer endlessly.
- It complements any skin tone.
- Wearing black makes anyone look mature.
- It matches any accessory.
- It is visually slimming.
- Black never goes out of style.
How to match your black basketball shoes with your outfit?
Next, we’ll give you some tips on how to match your high-tops with the rest of your outfit.
- Match your all black basketball shoes with an all-black outfit. Layer your clothes with coats, jumpers, hats, and the like but make sure that they are all the same black.
- Slim down your pants and wear the right fit. Make sure to match the width of your pants and sneakers. Puffy sneakers go with a straighter fit while narrow sneakers go with a slimmer or tapered fit. You can also pin roll your jeans or go with a jogger style if you want your black basketball sneakers to get all the attention.
- Contrast if you must. Don’t be afraid to contrast styles, just try to keep the textures and colors complementary. For example, brown and black are a great combination as long as you mix up the textures and shades when wearing them together.
If all the above options fail, just whip out your basketball shorts and keep those all black basketball sneakers on the hardwood. Sometimes you have to admit that some basketball shoes are only made for hooping.
Finally, don’t be scared to show off your unique style and experiment with your look. After all, rules are meant to be broken.
Black Basketball Shoes on Sale
Regardless of brand, almost all basketball shoe models have a predominantly black colorway. Because of this, it is not hard to find a pair of black basketball shoes on sale.
To get the most out of your hard earned money, buyers are advised to wait it out until your favorite pair of black basketball shoes goes on sale. Last season’s team models usually go below $50 while older signature models also reach the $70 mark if you shop at factory outlets or your local off-price department stores.
Why was the Air Jordan 1 banned?
Contrary to popular belief, the certain red and black basketball sneakers the league was referring to was the Nike Air Ship. In October 1984, Nike decided to let Michael wear the black and red Air Ship during practice and postseason games since the Air Jordan 1 wasn’t ready until November. As Air Jordan I designer Peter Moore explains, "The Air Ship was basically colored up to look like the shoe that was coming. Those shoes were probably specially made for him to wear, and they were what his Air Jordans would look like once they came. Nobody would know the difference unless they had the shoes in front of them."
What is the most expensive basketball shoe?
In 2004, Reebok collaborated with Eastbay and created a diamond-encrusted Reebok Question. These all black basketball sneakers boast 246 diamonds (25.50 carats), a leather upper, and Hexalite cushioning.
The one-of-a-kind Reebok Question went on sale for an insane price of $65,000. No information was published regarding the buyer.
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