The NBA basketball court has always been a place that made history, from making or breaking the careers of athletes worldwide to creating some of the most sought-after merchandise in the auction world. Of course, every sneaker company out there wants to see its sneakers gracing the feet of an All-Star NBA player, and many of them have created historic moments with their collaboration. That’s all good and well, but there have also been some crazy sneakers that have come out of the world of NBA history. For good or bad reasons, here are the 18 craziest sneakers in NBA history.
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18. The Shaq Shoe Phone
Everybody loves Shaquille O’Neal, a businessman, entrepreneur, and basketball player who made history. Although he is known for his incredible stature and giant shoes, he is also known for being the biggest sweetheart, often bringing comedy to the locker rooms of his favourite games.
During the 2005 All-Star game, he shared a locker room with some of the world’s most famous NBA players, including Allen Iverson. During this game, he wore white and red sneakers with a working phone embedded in the outsole.
The shoes had an antenna protruding from the toes. In addition, the outsole had yellow dots that could have doubled as the working phone’s buttons. Still, Shaq made history when he passed the sneaker phone to Iverson in the locker room, to which Iverson, in shock, replied that it actually worked.
While these sneakers might not be worth millions at auction today, the comedic genius of Shaq and his playful nature in the locker rooms made history. It goes down as one of the craziest sneakers in NBA history.
17. Air Jordan 11 “Concord”
These sneakers broke the internet because they marked the moment Michael Jordan came out of retirement in 1995 with the simple statement, “I’m back. They sold out almost immediately when they hit stores again. The Air Jordan 11 became one of the most valuable sneakers on the resale market for the next decade until they were finally released as a retro version in 2011.
While all of this is crazy on its own, what happened in 2011 puts it on this list. Not only did people line up to buy the sneakers the second they were launched, but they were also trampled in the craze to get their hands on these sneakers. At least three people were arrested during the debacle, while shopping malls had their doors ripped off their hinges so that people could get inside.
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16. The Pandas Friend sneakers
Ron Artest, also known as Metta World Peace and Metta Standiford-Artest, moved to play for China from the NBA, playing with the Lakers and the Knicks. According to the basketball player, he had sacrificed his individuality to be a part of those teams. He decided he wanted to “get his rhythm back”, which he shared on The Dan Patrick Show.
In 2014, Metta changed his name again, this time to The Pandas Friend, in honour of his move to the Chinese Basketball Association with the Sichuan Blue Whales. But we are here to talk about crazy sneakers.
The basketball player had custom sneakers made with a plush panda on them, as the tongue and the toy were removable. “The top part of the shoe has a panda on it…it is removable. I will be throwing it to a friend in the crowd. The person who catches it will be the Panda’s Friend of the Day,” the international player told Boardroom. Again, these are some of the craziest sneakers of all time.
15. Nike LeBron 15
LeBron James, also known as King James, hit a really significant on-court milestone, having scored 30,000 points in his career as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. To commemorate the occasion, Nike teamed up with The Shoe Surgeon to create a pair of lavish, one-of-a-kind sneakers for the King himself.
The sneakers are referred to as being The Shoe Surgeon’s most challenging project to date, having made the upper with genuine crocodile skin that is coated in 24 karat gold, gold plated heel clips and lace tips, and even has 238 diamonds set into the branded “WORLD” and “CHAMPIONS” aglets, as well as a complementary 18 karat Franco chain/pendant combo in the shape of LeBron’s lion head logo.
The sneakers are valued at upwards of $100,000, and that’s not even considering what someone might pay for them at auction.
14. PJ Tucker’s Epic Collection
This one is a little bit of a copout because PJ Tucker has a collection of over 5000 pairs of sneakers, which is crazy just on its own. He is a professional basketball player and has one of the most extensive and valuable sneaker collections in the world. Unfortunately, he had to buy a loft to store all his sneakers because his collection had outgrown his mansion.
He owns some crazy pairs of sneakers, like a pair of “Back to the Future” Nike Mags, a couple of Stewie Griffin LeBron 6s, and a pair of custom Air Force 1s that has replaced the Nike Swoosh with diamonds estimated at $250,000, but the craziness doesn’t stop there.
Tucker’s craziest pair of sneakers is a pair of Dwyane Wade Li-Ning Way of Wade 4 sneakers. Not just any pair, but a custom pair encrusted with hundreds of white diamonds and blue sapphires, all set in 18-karat white gold, and even has a solid gold hang tag.
Valued at $4 million at auction, all the proceeds from the purchase went to raise money for Soles4Souls. This charity organisation gifts shoes and sneakers to underprivileged children in 127 countries. Tell me that isn’t one of the craziest sneakers of all time.
13. Adidas Kobe 2
These sneakers debuted in 2001 and don’t look like a luxury pair of high-performance sneakers you would see on the basketball court, let alone on the feet of an athlete like Kobe Bryant. Notoriously known as the ugliest sneakers in NBA history when they first emerged, you could see headlines like “Is it a sneaker? Is it a toaster?” you can’t blame people for being confused.
These bizarre-looking low-top sneakers were designed after high-performance sports cars. But, unfortunately, they were only released in a few monotone colourways. Moreover, the entirely leather sneakers looked too big and ill-fitting, and the leather creased and puckered with every movement.
While Kobe wore them for a few games, he quickly rejected the sneaker design, telling The Corp podcast, “That’s what taught me that I need to lead the design charge.” Kobe reportedly paid his way out of his contract with Adidas shortly after, a payout estimated at $8 million.
12. APL Concept 1
In 2010, the luxury performance footwear brand Athletic Propulsions Lab (APL) designed a pair of sneakers that would “change the NBA game forever”, creating a pair of sneakers that used luxury technology to improve performance on the court.
The sneakers used “Load N’ Launch technology”, which could increase players’ vertical jump by as much as three inches.
The sneakers were promptly banned, becoming the first brand to have a shoe banned by the NBA for performance reasons, citing “an undue competitive advantage,” according to the APL About Us page. However, the brand quickly turned its ban into a marketing ploy, making its sneakers famous for their performance advantage.
11. Montrezl Harrell’s Reebok Questions
These sneakers had everyone laughing on the court, including Montrezl Harrell’s teammates. While the Lakers forward were known for wearing interesting pairs of Reebok Questions on the court, these sneakers stole the show.
Starting from the bottom, the sneakers are relatively normal, with blue outsoles, white midsoles, and uppers, and then you get to…the rest. The sneakers have feathers or fur lining them and have been called the Abominable Snowman sneakers. Still, many people think it’s more akin to a bantam chicken.
In a hilarious and now famous moment, his teammate Anthony Davis suggested that the cameras get a closeup on the sneakers, launching the moment into NBA history forever.
10. Nike HyperAdapt BB
Jayson Tatum was the first NBA player to hit the courts in the HyperAdapt BB, Nike’s first auto-lacing performance basketball sneakers that can tighten and loosen, all with the touch of a button (or rather a screen).
The sneakers first came to the world in 2019 and use an app to tighten the laces and change the LED buttons on the midsole.
While this was a technological marvel in and of itself, the sneakers were further improved with the Nike Adapt BB 2.0, which has all the features of the previous model but can also completely customise the fit of the sneakers to the contours of the foot of the wearer.
The HyperAdapt BB deserves its spot at number 10 as one of the craziest sneakers of all time.
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9. James Harden & Trolli Edible Sneakers
As an avid lover of the Trolli sweet brand, it made sense for basketball player James Harden to become the spokesperson for the brand. After that, it made sense for the Trolli brand to work with Adidas and James Harden to make life-sized gummy sneakers modelled after Harden’s signature Volume 2s.
This collaboration took the world by storm in 2018, as there were only three pairs of the 6-pound life-size gummy sneakers ever made, which three lucky winners got the chance to win by participating in a charity event for 3TheHardenWay, Inc.
The sneakers, albeit gummy and not wearable but at least edible, are worth $2,677 a pair. Talk about expensive sweets… These deserve a spot on this Craziest Sneakers of All Time list.
8. KAT Nike Hyperdunk Friday the 13th sneakers
In 2017, Karl-Anthony Towns wore a pair of custom Nikes on the court that were modelled after everyone’s favourite horror movie antagonist, Jason Vorhees, from none other than Friday the 13th.
Not many basketball players have work horror-movie-themed sneakers on the court, making these a crazy first.
The sneakers are a perfect custom, from the black and fog colourway to the red spattered across the whole sneaker, the image of Jason on the collar, and the Nike Swoosh goes back to become Jason’s signature machete. These kicks are the perfect pair for any horror-movie-loving sneakerheads.
7. Nike Kyrie 4 “Confetti”
Kyrie Irving’s collaboration with Nike has always created some exciting sneakers, and the Confetti colourway of the Kyrie 4 is no exception.
Objectively speaking, there isn’t anything too crazy about these sneakers; they are great and blend all the favourite elements of the previous model, but they emphasise the pronounced outsole with an alternating colour palette and a series of Kyrie’s famous quotes and sayings embroidered all over the upper.
What had everyone talking about with these crazy sneakers was an almost hidden detail, which features the Eye of Providence. This symbol is notoriously associated with the Illuminati, which unnerved people. As a result, many avid fans of the sneaker range opted out of this one because the Illuminati-esque details made them uncomfortable.
6. Nike PG 2.5
These sneakers are equally crazy and famous for who wore them and what happened while the basketball player was wearing them on the court. Avid Nike PG wearer Zion Williamson was playing a game between Duke and North Carolina in 2019 when his sneaker suddenly exploded on the court.
There are clips all over the internet of this insane moment, where Williamson slides a little bit on the court before his left sneaker completely explodes off his foot, left in tatters. While the way he fell could have caused career-ending injuries, thankfully, the player was unharmed, but the same could not be said for his sneakers.
Despite being ruined, the sneakers are estimated to cost about $250,000 at auction, purely because Zion Williamson was wearing them and because of the events that transpired on the court that day.
5. Yeezy BSKTBL QNTM (Basketball Quantum)
In 2015, Kanye West (Ye) designed the best basketball shoe the league had ever seen. However, it took over 300 tests and concept sneakers before he finally created the perfect basketball sneaker in 2018, the Yeezy BSKTBL QNTM.
The only problem with these sneakers was that the material used in their creation, on both the upper and around the heel, were so reflective that they became one of the few sneakers to be banned on the courts by the NBA.
The sneakers are still being distributed today; they just can’t be worn on the court. Now isn’t that a crazy sneaker story!
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4. Big Baller Brand Sneakers
American actor and businessman LaVar Ball created the Big Baller Brand when his sons LiAngelo, Lonzo, and LaMelo Ball started rising to fame in the NBA world, creating signature sneakers for his three children and marketing them for the masses.
LiAngelo Ball’s signature BBB sneaker was the G3, Lonzo had his signature ZO2s, and LaMelo had his signature MB 1s. Unfortunately, fans would have to wait months for their orders because of manufacturing issues. Soon complaints came through about the sneakers being poor quality, customer service complaints, and the business hasn’t been the same since then.
Lonzo Ball had a rough time when his signature white and purple ZO2 sneakers started falling apart on the court while playing his first Summer League game against the Los Angeles Clippers, which should have been a sign.
3. Nike Zoom Kobe 4 Prelude
At the 2022 playoffs against the Golden State Warriors, Ja Morant was seen wearing a pair of stunning purple Nike Zoom Kobe 4 Prelude sneakers. The only problem was that there was something slightly off when fans looked closely at the sneakers.
When looking closely at the sneakers, comparing them to the versions worn by previous players on the court, a few details started to pop out. The tongue, midsole and heel all had points that looked slightly off. Since then, a rumour has been floating around that the player was wearing fake sneakers on the court.
No conclusion came from fans wondering if the rumours were true. Still, a few days after the event, there were news headlines that Nike was suing one of the biggest sneaker sale and resale sites, StockX, for selling fake sneakers. It might be a coincidence, but many fans think that the player was duped with some knockoff sneakers.
2. Air Jordan 11 “Space Jam”
For obvious reasons, nearly every pair of sneakers ever worn by Michael Jordan at any point in his life sells for a ton of money at auction. For example, the iconic Air Jordan 11 “Space Jam” sneakers were named after the 1996 movie of the same name because he wore the sneakers in the final basketball game of the film.
Michael Jordan has often given away his sneakers to crew members on film sets, and the people behind the scenes at NBA games, and the same happened with these iconic sneakers.
You might be wondering why this pair is on our craziest sneakers in NBA History list. The crazy part about these sneakers is that they showed up on an episode of the American Television series Pawn Stars, where they were authenticated and were estimated to be valued at upwards of $1 million. That is truly crazy.
1. Original Nike Air Ship Sneakers
Respected as a vital part of the origin of the Air Jordan line, the Nike Air Ship has a unique legacy. The Nike Air Ship sneakers that we are talking about, in particular, are Michael Jordan’s earliest known regular-season Nikes and are thought to be the most valuable pair of Jordans.
The sneakers were worn in his first few NBA games and are signed by the legend himself. The sneakers are at auction at Sotheby’s and are estimated at a whopping $1 million to $1,5 million. That definitely qualifies as the craziest pair of sneakers in NBA history.
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