The NBA playoffs are in full swing and the smell of sweeps are in the air. With LeBron James out of the Finals for the first time in nearly a decade, the Raptors are trying to make history. As competition heats up with Kevin Durant and other superstars bringing out some fire kicks we’ve never seen before, we’ve rounded up some of the best sneakers to ever touch the hardwood in NBA playoffs history.
1 Michael Jordan, Air Jordan XII “Flu Game”
Who else can drop 38 points in the NBA Finals while fighting flu-like symptoms? “His Airness,” Michael Jordan, did just that in Game 5 of the 1997 finals. En route to his fifth ring, in the midst of his second three-peat, Jordan had nothing more to prove. He may have looked bewildered in the first quarter, but he managed to drop 17 points in the second before hitting a huge three in the closing minute of the game. But still, he fought through sickness before collapsing in Scottie Pippen’s arms as the final buzzer sounded. A photo of the two embracing as they left the hardwood is etched in sports history. In this epic show of heart, Jordan rocked the Air Jordan XII Black/Red which would later be aptly nicknamed the Flu Games.
2 Allen Iverson, Reebok Answer 4
A.I. knew what he was doing. During the 2001 finals, Allen Iverson, the man who once had his mother braid his hair on the sidelines, pulled off one the meanest crossovers in history. He crossed his defender, Tyronn Lue, with a between the legs dribble, and clean step back jumper. As if that wasn’t enough, Lue tripped and fell, and a 6’0” Iverson stepped over him in the most exaggerated way possible. Iverson ushered in and swagged out that scrappy era of basketball, and it allowed him to thrive. Other than being covered in tattoos and swallowed up in tall white tees, the trendsetter’s signature Reebok line also popped off during his NBA run. Released in a ton of colors, and equipped with a zipper, the Answer 4 was just like its namesake— flashy and versatile.
3 Scottie Pippen, Nike Air More Uptempo
Like the captain of any other championship team, MJ needed his lineup to be stacked with talent. Enter Scottie Pippen. Oft considered one of the best small forwards to ever play, he held his own alongside Jordan. He emerged from the shadows when Jordan left the bench for the dugout—Pippen led the Bulls in points in the 1993-94 season. And after Jordan’s return, Pippen had come into his own as the duo wrangled in another three rings. Folks began to take notice of his kicks game when he began to rock Nike’s hottest silhouettes during the Swoosh’s Basketball-designed sneakers heyday. Even though Pippen had his own signature sneakers, he would often rock the Air More Uptempo’s. A nod to the flashy sportswear of the time, the sneakers read “AIR” in giant letters along the upper. He was even outfitted with a USA-themed pair for the 1996 Olympics, The kicks were popular then and have since seen a resurgence in recent years with skate scene giant Supreme recently unveiling its own iteration.
4 Mike Bibby, Air Jordan XII “Sacramento”
Cherry Hill’s own Mike Bibby is known for two things: being part of one of the best 1-2 punches in NBA history, and his impressive PE collection. PE’s— or Player Exclusives— are special colorways of sneakers given to athletes to match their uniforms. Bibby— a PE gawd thanks to his Nike connect— always came through with some on-court heat. Sneakerheads first caught on to Bibby’s sneaker game in college where he won a National Championship while wearing the notoriously slippery Foamposites. Fast forward to the NBA, and Bibby had a slew of PE that were draped in purple to match his Sacramento Kings uniforms. But often times he’d humble himself, like the time he wore a pair of general release Black/Chrome XVII. Or, he’d stunt like he did in the first round of Western Conference playoffs when he rocked a 1-of-1 pair of Black and Purple XIIs. We’re not even gonna ask how he balled in lowtops.
5 Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, Nike Air Flight One
These were so good even Jordan stopped rocking the coveted 11s to sport the Air Flight One. Back when Nike Basketball was on one, the brand churned out signature and inline kicks like it was nothing. Hardaway opted for the Air Flight One during the 1994-95 season and the playoffs, with his number stitched in the heel. Anfernee would only reach the finals this one time, and the departure of Shaquille O’Neal, alongside the emergence of a young Kobe Bean Bryant, surely didn’t help things. But Penny is the namesake of the Foamposite, a staple in NYC and the DMV. Just ask Wale.
6 Kobe Bryant, Nike Zoom Kobe VII Supreme “Playoffs” PE
The name we all scream as we toss something in the garbage can. The man whose ego matches up to his talent. Kobe’s one of the best basketball players to ever wear a jersey, so you already know that he’s had a few stellar moments in the playoffs while rocking his own signature sneaker line. The last time we’d see Kobe in the post season would be during the 2011-12 season and he’d been eliminated during the Western conference semifinals. He was able to show off some heat with the Kobe VII Supreme “Playoffs” PE with an all yellow upper. And the purple pair he rocked during the Denver series were fire, too. We can’t knock him for getting eliminated so soon. Remember, this is when Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell “Broadie” Westbrook were on their own mini-super team out in Oklahoma.
7 LeBron James, Nike Zoom LeBron 3
It was 2006 and Bron Bron had finally made it to the playoffs. It was his third year in the league and he was ready to overcome all the talk about him being overrated. He and the rest of the Cavs were able to roll pass the Washington Wizards but just couldn’t make it past the Detroit Pistons. However, he still proved he had what it takes to lead a team to the past the regular season. Still maturing, a scrawny James, full of energy but lacking experience, just didn’t have the supporting cast to push forward. But he battled while rocking one of his hottest signature sneakers yet, the Nike Zoom LeBron 3: a perfect mesh of Nike’s then-new Zoom technology with the sturdiness to keep the 6’8” small forward on his feet.
8 Jerry West, Converse Chuck Taylor Low
Before new technology took over the basketball world, the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star was the go to sneaker. And one of the greatest to ever don the iconic shoe is Jerry West, the man whose silhouette was used to create the NBA logo. Back in 1969, before the 3-point shot was even invented, West wore the sneakers in the nail-biting game 7 against the Boston Celtics. West and the Lakers would lose the game, despite his infamous “Mr. Clutch” nickname. The Chuck Taylor lives on today as one of the few kicks that refuses to ever go out of style.