The Definitive Ranking of the Best Signature Sneaker Lines

  • 10. Scottie Pippen

    Before he had his own signature line, Scottie Pippen was a featured Nike athlete, being the sidekick to Michael Jordan and helping guide the Bulls to six championships.There are just a few players in the game who ever began their careers with their own signature shoe. Sometimes, actually, most of the time, a player develops into a star and when that moment comes to fruition your are blessed with your own shoe. An iconic favorite and most memorable Pippen branded shoe is the Air Pippen 1.

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  • Nike Kobe 9 Elite
    9. Kobe Bryant

    After some prodding after his breakup with adidas. Kobe Bryant finally joined the Nike family and his first signature shoe was the Nike Zoom Kobe I. Being his first, the shoe has some notable moments. His 81-point game came in these shoes (which one year later a limited run of 81 pairs were released). Good luck finding a pair under $2K.

    Another great moment in these shoes came in the 2006 NCAA Tournament when my younger brother made the cover of Sports Illustrated wearing a pair of the Black/White/Yellow Zoom Kobe 1s, matching his Wichita State Shockers uniform. It was great seeing that cover in the cafeteria on the Nike campus.

    The Kobe III-VII shoes were adapted more to Kobe’s quickness and were for the most part all low-tops. There were some limited edition colors along the way, but nothing Earth shattering. Then came the Kobe 9. There was something different about the shoe and even with Kobe coming off of two injuries, he now has a shoe that I would wear anywhere! The Flywire technology, carbon fiber, and the taller profile are all winners in my book.

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  • Reebok Question
    8. Allen Iverson

    There is just too much heat in the top seven to push Allen Iverson any further than the No. 8 spot. I feel that if AI had signed with Nike who knows what shoes and where he could have ended up in our top 10 as a Nike athlete.

    Reebok came out of the gates flying when they brought to the world the Question. I can remember trying to find a pair of the suede-toed Questions during his rookie year to no avail. I ended up having to pick up a pair of the general release vinyl toes in white and red. A few years later in the 1999-2000 year, some Reebok-sponsored college teams wore the suede-toed Iversons. Michigan State comes to mind as a team that wore them, along with Utah. The Reebok Answer I the following year, with its DMX technology and matching colorway with the 76ers new logo, was a great match.

    Other Sleepers in the line are the Answer IX and the Answer IV.

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  • Nike Air Tech Challenge III 3/4
    7. Andre Agassi

    The Bad Boy, who once was the Hugh Hefner of tennis with his bad boy looks and rock star status, was a total 180 of what John McEnroe was for Nike Tennis.

    Favorites from this line were the Nike Air Tech Challenge III 3/4 and the Nike Air Tech Challenge II, which was a smash with the matching top and shorts and it’s flashy “Hot Lava” color combo. The Nike Air Flare and the Nike Air Challenge LWP are shoes which pushed the envelope technology-wise. Along with an all-time favorite in the Nike Air Resistance II, Nike had tons of shoes that were represented by many non-tennis players. Legions of fans and sneakerheads loved rocking these shoes because the hype was real even back in the 1990s.

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  • 6. LeBron James

    Everyone thought adidas had the LeBron James deal in the bag. It was like it was done, signed, sealed, delivered. He’s a three stripes guy! But Nike came out of nowhere and signed LeBron to a $90 million deal and the rest, as they say, is history. LeBron’s first shoe didn’t feel like a LeBron shoe. The characteristics of the shoe felt as if it was a shoe in the pipeline and once LeBron was signed that was the shoe that was given to “THE KING!” But as time went on he made the line his own.

    The LeBron II-12 all fit LeBron’s physical stature. From the LeBron VII — with AJ XI patent leather on the toe box and full-length Air for maximum cushioning — to the LeBron 11, every one of his shoes shows a heightening of the bar from performance to technology.

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  • Nike Air Griffey Max 1
    5. Ken Griffey Jr.

    I never thought growing up that there would ever be a baseball player who wore a cool shoe! It all started with an Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card that created a stir in the baseball industry. Nike took notice before Junior donned the Griffey Max 1 in the Freshwater colorway. Every time I see this shoe I get goosebumps. I can also recall some other classics in the line, like the Griffey Game Day II and the Griffey Max 2.

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  • Nike Air Trainer Max

    Sneaker News

    4. Bo Jackson

    Watching Bo Jackson play in 1985 and “going over the top” against Alabama had me chanting “War Eagle” from my couch in the Bronx. Bo took Nike to the next level with three huge classics with the Air Trainer 1, Air Trainer SC, and the Air Trainer SC High. Those are three of the top 25 all-time classics…from a football player and baseball player. The shoe that destroyed it on so many levels was the Trainer Max 91 in any colorway. It’s still a classic shoe that you can wear anywhere, from the straps to the OG colorways.

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  • Nike Air Force Max


    3. Charles Barkley

    He didn’t want to be a role model, but so many future NBA players wore his shoes during their college days. The most infamous quintet was the “Fab Five,” who wore the Air Force Max in all black with black socks. Chris Webber acknowledged to me at the Basketball Hall of Fame four years ago that the Air Force Max — the Barkleys with the strap in the mid-foot — were his favorite shoes, along with the Huaraches, of all time. Amazing that a non-signature shoe worn by Charles was renamed The Barkley with the Strap.

    Classics in this line are the Air Max CB 34 and the Air Max CB 94.

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  • 2. Penny Hardaway

    An amazing player who put Memphis hoops on the map, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway was a star who was destined for greatness in the NBA. From the Air Max Penny I, II, III, and the Air Flight One, the Foamposite One was the game changer in the entire Penny line.

    An interesting story in the Penny signature series was how the first blue Foamposites worn by Mike Bibby and now Memphis coach Josh Pastner in the National Championship Game in 1997 came about. I drove out to Indianapolis for the Final Four and it was a great road trip with my two younger brothers in tow. There was an employee holding a blue shoe in front of a sneaker store, something that made the three of us run as fast as we could to see what this “THING” was. It was April and I asked if the shoe was for sale? He said yes! I asked what they were called and how much and they said it’s the Penny shoe coming out in the fall and Nike wanted to see how they would sell. They started explaining the technology in the shoe and my two younger brothers asked me if they could have them?

    Being on a college student’s budget, I asked how much. They were $180 before tax and the store had 18 pairs up to a size 13. I asked how many pairs have been sold? The number was two pairs by two guys from Arizona.

    I’m a 13; my two brothers were a 9. I bought two pairs in a size 9 and they were holding it down ever since that moment.

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  • Michael Jordan

    Nike Basketball

    1. Michael Jordan

    It should come as no surprise that the man that changed an entire industry is featured at No. 1. From the now popular Air Jordan I to the iconic Air Jordan XI in high or low, Michael Jordan’s shoe line can have a top 100 list all to itself. It’s tough to go up against the greatest basketball player to ever play the game. I love the XI, and many of the player editions worn by the original Jordan Team members like Ray Allen, Vin Baker, Derek Anderson, and Eddie Jones. You can’t go wrong with any of these amazing silhouettes: the Air Jordan III, IV, V, VI, VII, X, XI, XII, XIII or XIV.

    I remember buying my first pair of Air Jordans at a mall in Yonkers, New York. As I walked in, there were three colorways: all-white and grey, black and red, and the white red and black with the matching top and shorts. I was never able to find the Flight pants that are pictured on the Air Jordan I hang tag, but I was hooked and to this day, I thank Nike and Air Jordan for giving me a lifestyle that I still enjoy. If it wasn’t for the Air Jordan I and Michael’s mother telling to sign with Nike and not Converse, the sneaker culture might not be what it is today. Thanks Mama Jordan!

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  • Scottie Pippen
  • Nike Kobe 9 Elite
  • Reebok Question
  • Nike Air Tech Challenge III 3/4
  • LeBron James
  • Nike Air Griffey Max 1
  • Nike Air Trainer Max
  • Nike Air Force Max
  • Penny Hardaway
  • Michael Jordan

When creating a top 10 sneaker signature line list, there will be some lines that end up on the outside looking in. Over the past 50 years we’ve had athletes who have taken the sneaker game to new heights. If this were a top 100 list, everyone would be happy.

Some shoes that didn’t make the top 10, unfortunately, are Grant Hill‘s Fila line. If only he had played a few more years injury-free. Nike‘s Kay Yow line is an inspirational lineup but probably not good enough to be on this list. How about Rasheed Wallace putting his signature on a classic that was created in the early ’80s in the Air Force 1? Tracy McGrady‘s adidas line was on fire and was a must-cop for about three years. Jason Kidd wore some classic shoes like the Zoom 95 and his own Zoom Flight 5, but even though both of those shoes were worthy of the unofficial “Sneaker Hall of Fame,” Kidd couldn’t keep it up. Another player who falls into that category has to be Gary Payton and his Glove line, iconic shoes which re-released last year. Shaquille O’Neal‘s Reebok signature line started off strong with his first two shoes but as is the case with many big men in the NBA, his line fizzled out into obscurity and he was forced to wear Starter shoes and then his own Shaq brand before he retired. Deion Sanders‘ Nike signature line was a great mix and gelled well with his persona and two-star sport status. In the end, though, Primetime couldn’t quite crack this top 10.

You will also see no skateboard signature shoes here.

In the end, if you make it onto this list, it’s because you pumped out classic after classic for years and years and years. Here is The Definitive Ranking of the Best Signature Sneaker Lines.

Follow Miguel on Twitter at @thenational

image via Nike