Heat Check: A Look Back at When Nike Basketball Ruled the Sneaker Game

Via Highsnobiety

Nowadays, the sneaker community revolves around over saturated Yeezy’s, stock market apps, bulky dad shoe trends and boost technology being injected into every current silhouette possible. Before this economy took a left turn in terms of demand and style, there was once a period where Nike Basketball was on top and had control of the game in every aspect possible. In this nostalgia trip of an article, we’ll take a look at what exactly made the swoosh’s basketball brand so successful, iconic colorways/silhouettes and memorable moments in the brand’s history that made basketball sneakers what they are today (note this article covers strictly sneakers from Nike Basketball and not Nike lifestyle, running or Jordan Brand).


Technology and comfortability is always the number one priority when it comes to any basketball shoe, although Nike was still giving a stylish finish to their earlier signature models. Before primarily focusing on the technology side in the later years to come. Below are some notable silhouettes that were popular on and off the court.

LeBron 8 – Releasing back in 2010, the LeBron 8 model is a pioneer. Being one of the first basketball sneakers that notably reached a wider demographic, the casual wearer drew attention to the oversized swoosh, the visible air and different upper panels offering a variety of materials depending on the colorway. Essentially mimicking the look a hightop lifestyle shoe in a technology equipped basketball sneaker gave consumers the versatility to rock them however they liked.

Via @Complex, Nike

KD 4 – Besides Kobe’s, the KD 4 was one of a few Nike Basketball signature sneakers that was a primary lowtop model. Setting itself apart from the game, the shoe itself caught the eyes of many. Due to the fact the low collar was more appealing to casual wearers, thick cushioned midsole, the one piece base lightweight breathable upper and the synthetic strap across the sneaker was the cherry on top. Releasing for only $100 in 2011, Kevin Durant’s 4th signature sneaker displayed elements an everyday shoe would offer. Making it easily one of the best off-court shoes in this era.

Via @Champagnepapi, Flight Club

Foamposite One/Pro’s – The Foamposites is the Timberlands of the sneaker world. Very heavy, bulky and durable, these shoes played a role just as big as LeBron’s, Kobe’s or Kevin Durant’s signature shoes. Despite either Foamposite Ones or Pro’s not releasing much during the time, this created a high demand in both models. Giving sneakerheads an alternative to the ordinary LeBron or Kobe while not being too active in production (before Nike began to release played out colorways & oversaturated the market), Foamposites became a MUST HAVE & a staple piece in every sneakerheads collection.

Via @Wale, Flight Club

Kobe 8 – Without a doubt, one of the most easily dressed & simple basketball sneakers to date. The Kobe 8 attracted the likes of many, due to the fact that the model reflected the silhouette of a lifestyle shoe. Whether it was the plastic heel cup, low-top structure, 3M reflective swoosh or the translucent outsole following the infinite amount of colorways. The Kobe 8’s slick model was a perfect match for collectors, who weren’t a fan of the ordinary hightop basketball shoe.

Via @Myfabolouslife, Flight Club

LeBron X – Debuting back in summer 2012, the LeBron X was beginning to mark the end of this era. While the following year all Nike Basketball signature silhouettes were fairly popular, the Swoosh began to focus more primarily on technology & comfortability specifically for their athletes instead of a general audience. While most recognizable for the backwards swoosh branding, diamond inspired aesthetic and special on-court PE’s. LeBron’s time in Miami played an influence factor and while securing two rings, everybody wanted to wear the shoes the hottest player in the league had on. Easily making the LeBron X’s the most successful signature sneaker any athlete had out during the time.

Via ESPN, Flight Club

Colorways & Concepts

One thing that made Nike Basketball sneakers special, were their limited edition colorways and the perfectly executed concepts behind them. Whether a story was being told or an achievement was celebrated, creativity was not held back. Here we’ll take a look at a handful of these memorable examples.

All-Star Packs – The yearly All-Star pack was something to look forward to every February. Sneakerheads were given the opportunity to own the same kicks their favorite athlete would rock during the NBA All-Star game Sunday night. Focusing on a different theme every year, each shoe takes on a different concept; Offering a unique presentation that can’t be found in an ordinary shoe.

Via Nike

“What The” Sneakers – First seen on the Nike SB Dunk Low, the iconic “What The” series made a comeback with the Kobe 7. Just as what it sounds like, the concept includes numerous infamous colorways from past releases. Creating a whole new look that would simply make you say … “what the-.”

Via Nike

City/Home Inspired Colorways – Although, Nike still releases sneakers that pay homage to the athletes hometown or teams city. These concepts originated from some modes, during this era. 9/10 times, Nike would either throw on premium materials or make the release exclusive to it’s inspired city. This created hype around the colorway, sometimes reaching resell value of $500 plus.

Via Flight Club

Instagram Influence

Social media played a big factor during the time. While Instagram was still in its early stages, sneakerheads took to the app to show off their heat. Some accounts grew more than others based on content, individuals began to be influenced based on what other accounts had on their feet just because it’s what they like. Whether it was a ‘KOTD’ on-foot pic or showing off their closet, this was the beginning of social media influence. Down below, we list a few Instagram accounts that offered some of the best content during the time.