History of Low Basketball Shoes
The popularity of low-top basketball shoes is often attributed to Kobe Bryant and his groundbreaking low-top Kobe IV sneaker. While this is not necessarily wrong, this is incomplete.
Nike designer Eric Avar recalls that Bryant at that time particularly asked for the “lowest, lightest-weight basketball shoe ever.” Bryant was out to debunk a myth about the supremacy of high-top shoes in the sport that he had already been playing professionally for 12 years. The motivation for this debunking mission is rooted in his childhood.
Kobe Bryant is the son of professional basketball player Joe Bryant and his wife Pamela. When Joe retired from the NBA in the early 80s, he transferred to Italy so that he can play in the country’s basketball league. He brought with him six-year-old Kobe and the rest of his family.
The love for basketball is expected of the young Kobe. In fact, he periodically returned to the US to play in some summer basketball leagues. However, like many of his Italian peers, he was also drawn to soccer. In the years that he lived in Italy, he got familiar with the sport and saw that footballers are just as agile, aggressive, and forceful with their movements as basketball players. It became clear to him that the two disciplines exert just about the same amount of pressure on the foot. He thought that if low-top cleats work for soccer, then low-tops for basketball can work, too.
This hypothesis immediately got validated when he played in his low-top Kobe IVs effectively enough to clinch the NBA championship in a 4-1 series against the Orlando Magic. The shoe, which was met with its fair share of skepticism upon release, earned the favor of many spectators. It became so popular and sought-after that, as mentioned, it is now regarded as the model that ushered in the low-top era in basketball.
To be fair to history, it is important to note that the fourth Kobe signature shoe is not the first low-top to grace NBA courts. Prominent players like Gilbert Arenas laced up signature lows long before Kobe did. But their acts were seen only as mere sighs of rebellion. Kobe’s were intended to be and fortunately treated as loud calls for a revolution. This, of course, is largely due to his celebrity. It was 2008 when the Kobe IV was released, and Kobe Bryant was then already an NBA superstar who had been dominating the league for 12 years. In fact, the Finals win against the Orlando Magic was already his fourth championship.
"I think Kobe to a certain extent normalized it, and said 'OK, we can develop something that's going to work really well as a low specifically,' and not, 'We're going to cut down this high top,'" says veteran shoe writer Russ Bengston.
Apart from Kobe’s status, the prevailing trend in the market also helped push low top basketball sneakers to acceptability and eventual fame. The early 2000s were marked by a strong drive to lessen the weight of shoes while at the same time loading them with performance-enhancing technologies. When executed well, removing extra material from the collar is of course a logical way to decrease weight.
The aesthetic concerns that are slowly making themselves felt in a supposedly performance-driven arena also help in sealing the deal for low-top basketball shoes. Given the low cut of their collars, low top basketball sneakers make it so easy for wearers to transition from the performance-driven court to the style-conscious world of everyday fashion.
While Kobe’s participation is key in the revolution that tipped the scales in favor of the low-tops for basketball, his battlecry wouldn’t have resonated so well if it were not amplified by trends and the general market climate. In a way, Kobe Bryant battled it out just like the others before him did. He just lived and fought at the right time, so the results that he made are more apparent and lasting.
The Best Low Top Basketball Shoes by Brand
Now that low-top basketball shoes have their definite place in the NBA, many of today’s signature athletes turn to them to improve their game. In fact, the main signature collections of big names such as James Harden and Paul George are comprised entirely of low tops. Mid-top fan Kyrie Irving started an offshoot line of low-tops in 2018. High-top sneaker addict Stephen Curry suddenly switched to a low-top Curry 5 some time in the 2018 Playoffs.
With that, it is not surprising for fans to also want the most promising low tops for basketball on the market today. This section makes the search for the perfect pair a lot easier. We present here some of the most notable low-top basketball shoes from the top two brands in our portfolio: Nike and Adidas.
Nike is home to superstar players Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Paul George. The company also has in its roster the influential Kobe Bryant who continues to create ripples in the basketball shoe market even after his retirement in 2016. As if this is not enough, an overwhelming majority of the players in the NBA has Nike as their brand of choice, be it for shoes or other sports apparel.
Indeed, it should surprise anyone that Nike’s dominance in the NBA and elsewhere remains unchallenged. The company partners with the juiciest of personalities, and together they produce the most effective low-top basketball shoes. The ones discussed in the subsections that follow are just some.
Kobe Basketball Shoes
The greatest Laker in history. The Michael Jordan of his time. The best player of his generation.
Fellow players, media partners, and former team bosses never run out of good words for the amazing Kobe Bryant. He is a five-time NBA champion and the current scoring leader of the Los Angeles Lakers, the only team that he played for in the two decades that he was with the NBA.
Because the introduction of this article already talks a lot about him, we’ll go straight to presenting the low-top Kobe Bryant basketball shoes that Nike released after his retirement.
- Nike Kobe AD. Kobe Bryant continues to live with the Mamba Mentality even after hanging his low-tops for good in 2016. Having this mindset, according to him, means always getting the motivation and drive to better oneself. The Kobe A.D. stands as the symbol of the player’s post-retirement Mamba Mentality. As such, it retains the recognizable form of the best low top basketball shoes in the line, but it bears the marks of technological betterment that set it apart from them. The shoe’s breathable mesh upper sits on top of a Lunarlon cushion with a Zoom Air unit at the heel. Its outsole has a micro-tread pattern and flex grooves.
- Nike Kobe AD NXT. Kobe Bryant partnered once more with Nike Designer Eric Avar to create the immediate follow-up to the NBA legend’s post-retirement model. It retains the Lunarlon and Zoom Air tooling of the AD. It also keeps the low-top breathable mesh upper. Kobe Bryant’s AD NXT just adds a TPU-infused Flyknit shroud to provide another layer of protection and aesthetic appeal. Kobe Bryant admits that besides performance, the look of the low basketball shoes should also be given enough attention.
- Nike Kobe AD NXT 360. It was on April 13, 2016 when Kobe Bryant made his final bow after dumping 60 points on the Utah Jazz. His exit from the game and ultimately the league was accompanied by a standing ovation and cheers from the crowd. That day is now known as Mamba Day. On the same day in 2018, Nike launched the Kobe AD NXT 360. It still has the Lunarlon cushioning of the previous models but uses the all-new Nike React instead of the usual Zoom Air. The breathable mesh is aptly upgraded to a 360-degree Flyknit upper; hence the name.
LeBron James Basketball Shoes
Say the word “basketball” and “LeBron James” will surely be one of the first names to surface. Considered as the best player in the league today, if not of all time, he surely has a lot of achievements to be proud of. He is a three-time NBA champion. He won his first two championshionships as a member of the Miami Heat. He got his third with the Cleveland Cavaliers in possibly one of the greatest recoveries in the history of the NBA Finals. LeBron and the Cavs fell to the Golden State Warriors in the first three games of the 2016-2017 Finals series. However, they weathered through the fourth to sixth games and historically clinched the title by the end of the seventh.
LeBron James also has on his mantel four regular season MVP and three Finals MVP trophies. He has also made fourteen All-Star appearances, in three of which he won the All-Star MVP title. He is also the current playoffs scoring leader.
We have yet to cover even a fourth of the list of his achievements, but with all that we’ve presented, he is already comfortably established as The King. He is not usually seen on the hardwood wearing lows, but signature LeBron James basketball shoes are usually released with low-top counterparts. The following are three of the most recent releases:
- Nike LeBron 13 Low Premium. The premium version of the Nike LeBron 13 Low debuted in the Finals of the 2016-2017 Season. This one-bootie offering from Nike has a luxurious suede upper. Its midsole is cleverly equipped with Zoom at the forefoot and visible Max Air units at the heel. These low-top basketball shoes’ premium look is completed by its gum outsole.
- Nike LeBron 14 Low. At $150, many would consider the low version of the fourteenth Lebron shoe expensive. However, it is loaded with technologies that easily justify its hefty price. Its upper is made of a combination of mesh and woven fabric. This setup provides a good mix of breathability and comfortable snugness. Its Phylon midsole is enriched with four hexagonal Zoom units that provide a good deal of responsiveness and impact protection. Finally, its outsole features a digital traction pattern that supports quick aggressive cuts and multidirectional movements.
- Nike LeBron 15 Low. The low version of LeBron James’s favorite signature sneaker to date is released on the 31st of March 2018. The low-top model sold for $150 a pair. Like the high-top LeBron 15, the upper of the Low is also made of Battleknit. This material ensures ventilation, flexibility, and comfort. The midsole features the cushioning tag team of Zoom Air at the forefoot and Air Max at the heel. The outsole is covered with triangular and stretched diamond spikes. The grooves are deep on the shoe’s pliable outsole rubber.
KD Basketball Shoes
Kevin Durant was the second overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. He was picked by the Seattle Supersonics, which later on became the Oklahoma City Thunder. He stayed with the team up until he became a free agent in 2016. He eventually transferred to the Golden State Warriors in a move that has been likened to LeBron James’ transfer to the Heat from the Cavaliers a few years prior.
Shortly before his move to the Warriors, he was named the NBA’s regular season MVP. This made him such a juicy free agent that a handful of teams scrambled to sign him. Many speculate that the choice to go with the Warriors is a strategic decision that puts him at a better position to reach the Finals and ultimately become a champion.
True enough, the Warriors advanced to the Finals and eventually became champions in the first season that Kevin Durant was with them. They did it again in 2018 when they crushed LeBron James’s Cavaliers, 4-0. In both Finals appearances, Kevin Durant bagged the Bill Russell Finals MVP Award. The championship rings are surely good additions to the nine All-Star Game appearances he made in his career. In one of those he was even named the All-Star Game MVP.
Kevin Durant became a free agent again by the end of the 2017-2018 Season. While he immediately said that he is staying put, rumors about potential transfers still persisted. They only subsided when he formally signed with the Warriors in July 2018.
Details about the contract are not disclosed. How much and how long, nothing is really certain. What we know for sure is that the KD basketball shoes of the next few years will still debut on a true Warrior’s feet.
- KD 4. The fourth signature Kevin Durant basketball shoes were his partners when he convincingly secured a spot for himself in the NBA’s elite circle. He wore this pair of kicks in the 2012 NBA playoffs where he led his then team Oklahoma City Thunder to victory against the Dallas Mavericks, the Kobe Bryant-led Los Angeles Lakers, and the formidable San Antonio Spurs. These teams are worth the special mention here because they were the only ones that took turns in representing the Western Conference in the Finals for 13 years. This shoe has Zoom at the forefoot and a fuse-based upper. It has on its outsole a traction pattern that is as versatile as Kevin Durant himself. This 2012 model makes a much-deserved comeback in 2018.
- KD 9. The KD 9 features Nike’s Flyknit technology in the upper. It has the proven and tested Zoom technology in the midsole for a truly responsive ride. The shoe’s outsole features the highly effective honeycomb traction. Because Kevin Durant’s ninth signature model was released at around the same time as his transfer to the Golden State Warriors, this shoe was briefly made available at NikeID for a special type of customization that uses only Warriors colors.
- KDX. Kevin Durant is a versatile player, and his low top basketball sneakers should be able to keep up with him. The Nike KDX has a zoned Flyknit upper that provides flexibility where it’s most needed. It also has sturdier parts in areas that need more support. In the midsole, the shoe has a Zoom Air cushion that is known for the ultimate responsiveness that it delivers.
- KD 11. The KD 11 is another low-top offering from Kevin Durant and Nike designer Leo Chang. This pair of low tops for basketball has a special type of Flyknit that specifically responds to Durant’s unique on-court needs. Leo says, “The Flyknit for Kevin is different from the Flyknit for LeBron and Kobe. They each need a different fit and feel. The KD11 in particular uses yarns to create a lofted effect, which gives it plush padding and comfort. This is something we haven’t done before with Flyknit in Nike Basketball.” The midsole features a unique combination of Nike’s React and Zoom Air technologies for a highly responsive and well-cushioned ride. The outsole that extends up to the sides of the midsole, or the “cupsole” as Nike calls it, provides the much needed stability for hard cuts and swift direction changes.
Kyrie Basketball Shoes
Kyrie Irving is the first overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. He was picked by the Cleveland Cavaliers, which just came out of their first season without LeBron James.
Irving proved to be a worthy pick. He was elected as the 2012 Rookie of the Year. The following season, he already made his first All-Star appearance. He was an All-Star again in 2014. Not only that, he was also elected the All-Star Game MVP. He was elected to the All-Star roster three more times: in 2015, 2017, and 2018.
Since being drafted in 2011, Kyrie Irving made two NBA Finals appearances. The first was in 2015 and then again in 2016 when he and The King LeBron James were successful in leading the Cavaliers to their first NBA win in 52 years. In both instances, Irving and the Cavs faced the Golden State Warriors, a powerhouse team with at least five All-Stars in its roster.
Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, and the rest of the Cavs were head to head with the Golden State Warriors again in the 2017 NBA Finals. However, the Warriors came better prepared that year; and they eventually took the championship trophy back from the Cavs.
In July 2017, or barely two months after their Finals upset, Irving requested to be traded to the Boston Celtics, where he now plays as its celebrated point guard. Reports say that among many others, the reason of his departure is his desire to step out of LeBron James’s shadow. LeBron James left Cleveland for the Los Angeles Lakers in July 2018, rendering Irving’s decision one that was done a bit too hastily.
Kyrie Irving basketball shoes are mid-tops. After the Kyrie 4, however, two low-top basketball shoes that bear Kyrie’s name were released. These are the following:
- Kyrie Flytrap. The Kyrie Flytrap is an $80 shoe that marks the start of Kyrie Irving’s budget line. Many consider it the takedown of the Kyrie 4 because it has all the technologies that make the Kyrie Irving’s fourth signature shoe great. It has a forefoot Zoom Air unit that provides court feel, a curved midsole that ensures stability, and breathable mesh upper for comfort and support.
- Nike Kyrie Low 1. A few months after the successful launching of Kyrie Irving’s budget line, Nike launches a line of lows for the five-time All-Star. The Kyrie Low is the first in this series of Kyrie basketball shoes. It is an amalgamation of design elements from many previous Kyrie releases. It has a strap that is reminiscent of the one on the second Kyrie. Its outsole features a pattern that is similar to what is found on the Kyrie 3. Lastly, it has a heel counter that resembles very closely that of the first ever Kyrie basketball shoes.
Paul George Basketball Shoes
Paul George is the most recent addition to Nike’s roster of signature athletes. Being given a Nike signature is a big deal, especially that the brand has been known to only honor the most elite in the league. In fact, Paul George is only the 21st signature athlete in the brand’s illustrious history.
Being the tenth overall pick in the 2010 Draft, Paul George spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Indiana Pacers. In that period, he was named to the All-NBA Team thrice and to the NBA All-Star roster four times.
In July 2017, or just a few months after the release of his celebrated low-top Nike signature shoe, he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder. After just a season with the OKC, he became an All-Star again. He was also named once more to the All-NBA Team.
The Paul George basketball shoes are original low-tops so far. There have been two major releases, and these are the following:
- PG1. The PG1 is inspired by the design and appearance of the Nike Zoom Crusader, which is said to be Paul George’s favorite basketball sneaker. Its upper is made of mesh with fuse overlays. It has leather rear panels that provide support. For a more secure lockdown, the shoe has a strap that is held in place by Flywire. “Initially, Paul had a little sketch that he did,” Nike designer Tony Hardman says. “It wasn’t a great sketch, but it had a forefoot strap on it. We knew aesthetically that’s what he wanted.” To ensure a responsive and low-to-the-ground ride, the first Paul George signature kicks has Zoom at the forefoot.
- Nike PG2. “The thing I can do is go after the best players in our league and shut them down in the shoes. That’s the goal. That’s going to be the best way to highlight the PG2 and show all what they can do performance-wise,” Paul George says. These Nike basketball shoes have a durable light upper that provides comfort and secure containment. Its midsole has an updated Zoom Air cushion that responds to Paul’s every step. As one of the league’s best two-way players, he needs a shoe that is loaded with performance updates to bring his game to the next level. With all the goodness that it brings, the second pair of signature PG sneakers surely serves Paul George well.
While they still dominate the market today, Nike had better start making bolder and more effective moves because the German sports giant Adidas is slowly but surely closing in on them. In fact, analyses by some experts reveal that much of Adidas’s growth comes from former Nike diehards who fell in love with products that bear the mark of the Three Stripes. The brand is consistently successful with the technologies and silhouettes that they come up with. In fact, some of the Adidas basketball shoes bring the perfect blend of performance and style that wearers find it easy to transition from the court to the streets and then back to the court in them.
But the prize is never promised to them, and Adidas is so aware of this. Determined not to let their guards down, they show more aggression in the market by striking deals with rising stars like Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks and Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves. If all goes as planned, these players will soon join the James Harden, Damian Lillard, and Derrick Rose in the Adidas circle of NBA elites.
Adidas also keeps their research and product development labs busy. They tirelessly churn out innovation after innovation to quench the market’s seemingly unending thirst for new technologies that are set in aesthetically pleasing forms. Featured here are just some of the most remarkable signature low-top basketball shoes that came out of the Three Stripes’ labs and factories.
Harden Basketball Shoes
James Harden becomes one of the most celebrated NBA athletes after bagging the regular season MVP award in July 2018. He was the third overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he stayed until the beginning of the 2012-2013 season. This period proved to be fruitful for him as he was able to take home the 2012 NBA Sixth Man of the Year award and an NBA All-Rookie Second Team selection.
He was traded to the Houston Rockets in 2012, and the team proved to be an even more fertile soil for James. He got his first All-Star selection in 2013. Since then, he has been named to the All-Star roster every year. After his 2018 All-Star appearance, he had already made a total of six All-Star appearances.
The year 2013 also saw him ascend to the All-NBA Third Team. Every year after that, except in 2016, he has been named to the All-NBA First Team. 2018 has been an exceptionally good year for James Harden because aside from the MVP Award and the All-Star and All-NBA Team selections, he also becomes the NBA’s Scoring Champion.
With all that, James Harden is totally worth the hype. Adidas honors him with a signature James Harden shoe line, which started with the release of the Harden Vol 1 in late 2016. His collection is composed of low tops for basketball, and it is not so difficult to see why; he is a fan of the Black Mamba Kobe Bryant.
- Harden Vol. 1. The first pair of James Harden basketball shoes corresponds to the six-time All-Star’s explosive style of play. Each shoe features a Boost cushion in the midsole to deliver high energy returns. Depending on the colorway, the upper is made either of nylon-backed mesh or Primeknit. It has a leather overlay in the toe area for more protection. These low basketball shoes feature a unique outsole pattern that maps out key pressure points on James’s foot, making it extra responsive to the demands of his every step.
- Adidas Harden LS. After the successful run of the Harden Vol.1, Adidas brings James Harden’s shoes to the streets with the introduction of the lifestyle version of the Vol 1. Aptly called the Harden LS, this shoe boasts street-style aesthetics and casual appeal. It still has a Primeknit upper but it’s missing the leather overlay in the toe area. It still has Boost in the midsole for all-day comfort. Because of the technologies that it still bears, it does not come as a surprise if this casual kicks still perform beastly on the court. In fact, Lonzo Ball of the Los Angeles Lakers rocked these lifestyle-inspired Hardens at some point in the 2017-2018 Season.
- Adidas Harden Vol 2. The Harden Vol 2 deviates from the direction set by the first James Harden low tops for basketball. The Vol 2 uses the thickest possible Boost. To still provide responsiveness, the Boost is caged at the lateral side. It has an inner bootie that is made mostly of neoprene. The rear part of the shoe has side panels that are made of polyurethane. The forefoot is overlaid with a mesh that is reinforced by ForgeFiber, which is a special kind TPU-coated thread.
- Adidas Harden Vol. 2 LS MVP. The second lifestyle-inspired low basketball shoe from James Harden’s line still has Boost in the midsole. Its upper is made of mesh. The shoe is constructed as a slip-on that is reinforced with straps.
- Adidas Harden B/E 2. The B/E 2 was supposed to be an overseas-only model until James Harden was proclaimed the NBA regular season MVP in July 2018. To celebrate this incredible milestone in the player’s career, Adidas released an MVP pack that brought the B/E 2 to the United States. These low top basketball sneakers have Bounce in the midsole. The model’s upper is made of a knit material that has seamless film overlays. The shoe also sports a sock-like construction for a comfortably snug fit.
Dame Basketball Shoes
After being picked sixth overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, Damian Lillard went on to become the 2013 Rookie of the Year. This win also resulted in him being elected to the year’s All-Rookie First Team.
In 2014, Damian was able to secure his first All-Star selection. In the same year, he was also named for the first time to the All-NBA Third team. In 2015, Damian was named once again to the All-Star roster.
At the end of the 2015-2016 Season, Damian was again named to the All-NBA team, this time as part of the elite circle’s Second Team. After a seemingly uneventful 2017, Damian came back to the limelight in 2018 with All-Star and All-NBA First Team selections.
The more recent releases from Dame’s signature line are mid-tops. The line, however, started with low basketball shoes that made an indelible mark on the three-time All-Star’s game.
- Adidas D Lillard. The 2013 Rookie of the Year needs a shoe that supports his unique jumping ability. The first Damian Lillard basketball shoes are up to the challenge. They have TechFit inner booties for a comfortably snug fit. They also have herringbone on the outsole and full-length Adiprene+ in the midsole for impact protection.
- Adidas D Lillard 2. A worthy follow-up to the much celebrated D Lillard 1, Damian Lillard’s second signature shoes tell the story of his rise to stardom in Oakland City. They feature a flexible Jacquard upper and reliable Bounce cushioning. They also have continental rubber outsoles that have a stable grip on any type of floor.
Are there low top basketball sneakers from Nike and Adidas that are not signature releases?
Of course! If you are a Nike fan, good low-top options would be the low versions of the Max Infuriates and the Hyperdunks. If your loyalty is with the Three Stripes, you might want to try out the Crazylight Boost 2018 and the low versions of the Crazy Explosives.
Aside from Nike and Adidas, what other brands produce low-top basketball shoes?
Under Armour is one good brand to consider if you are looking for great low tops for basketball. They have a signature line for Stephen Curry that produces a low-top version for every original high-top release. The fifth pair of Stephen Curry basketball shoes are originally released as low-tops.
Another good one to explore is the Jordan brand, which of course is home to Michael Jordan’s famous line. While the original Air Jordan releases are high-tops, each almost always has a low-top counterpart. They also have a line for Chris Paul that has actually produced a good number of original low tops for basketball.
If you are for something that is new to the ear, Anta might be the brand for you. This China-based performance shoe manufacturer creates signature basketball shoes for Klay Thompson. While Klay’s shoes are originally released as high-tops, the brand also develops low-top versions of them.
How do I keep my low basketball shoes clean?
While cleaning a soiled shoe (or anything for that matter) is such a time-consuming task, it doesn’t really have to be difficult. Just follow these steps:
- Dilute about a teaspoon of light detergent in a bowl of cool water.
- Dip a clean piece of cloth into this solution.
- Use the moistened cloth to rub away the dirt on the sneaker; increase pressure as necessary.
- Use an old toothbrush with soft bristles to get rid of the more stubborn stains.
- Once the stains are removed, pat the shoe dry using a clean washcloth.
- Leave your newly washed shoe in the open air to dry.
How do I get my hand on the best low top basketball shoes for sale?
Sellers usually start to offer low-top basketball shoes at discounted rates when the newer models are set to be released. At such times, the main motivation is to clear the shelves of older models so the newer and more expensive ones can be accommodated for display. If you are not that conscious about being up to date with what you wear, then this is the best time to take your wallet out and get some low basketball shoes for yourself.
15 best low basketball shoes
- Air Jordan 11 IE Low
- Adidas D Lillard 2
- Adidas Harden Vol. 1
- Adidas Harden Vol 3
- Adidas Crazy Explosive Low
- Nike Zoom Kobe 5
- Adidas Harden Vol. 2
- Adidas Crazy Explosive 2017 Primeknit Low
- Nike KD 6
- Adidas Harden LS
- Adidas Harden Vol. 1 Primeknit
- Adidas Pro Bounce 2018 Low
- Nike Kobe 11 Elite Low
- Nike Kyrie Flytrap
- Nike Zoom Evidence II
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