My name is Luke, I’ve been playing basketball for more than 20 years. This is my review of the best basketball shoes to get for 2021.

Over the past years, the question I get most often is, “What is the best basketball shoe to get my game up?” or “What shoe will make me a better player?”

While there is not a single answer to this question, there are a couple of philosophies I keep in what I call ‘The Quest for the Best Performing Shoe.’

One thing to keep in mind is that every basketball player is different, different in their foot, different in the way they play the game. This is what makes finding the best basketball shoes difficult since a certain kind of play wants a certain kind of shoe.

With research getting more intense for consumer products, it’s hard to keep up with what is actually dope and what is wack. I wanted to find the best quality shoes for every kind of person, so that you can find the best performing shoe for the way you play.

Let’s get started!

Quick Summary

Who Should Get This?

Since there are so many different kinds of ballers who each play basketball in their own way. Each shoe is the best at what it was designed for, meant to bring the most out of a certain kind of player.

As it says “best” in the title, these shoes are for serious ballers, the kind of baller with a game every week and practice every morning and afternoon. So these shoes will be seeing a lot of court time. Burning rubber running fast-breaks and suicides, you’re going to get some miles out of these shoes.

I would suggest that you get yourself a back-up pair of shoes for practice so you won’t run these shoes into the ground. We have an article on the Best Basketball Shoes Under $100, which contains some quality shoes that would make ideal back-ups. Having a deep shoe rotation is important for ballers that grind on the dailey.

Best Basketball Shoes for 2021: Top Picks

Below is my list of the best basketball shoes, hand-picked and ranked by categories.

1. Best Overall Performing Basketball Shoe: Air Jordan XXXIII

Figuring out the best overall shoe on the market was not easy, since every shoe on this list can claim the top spot. I picked this shoe due to the fact that anyone can play in this shoe and get the most out of it.

  • Versions: [Men’s] [pre-school]
  • Released: 2018
  • Manufacturer: Jordan | Nike
  • Signature: Michael Jordan

The Air Jordan XXXIIIs (33s) are in a class of their own. This is the summit of basketball shoes if I have any say. There is no one thing that makes this shoe great, the entire shoe, top and bottom, inside and out, left and right is pure craftsmanship.

As a symbol of the greatness of Michael Jordan, this shoe does not let down. The materials are world-class, the balance and support is unrivaled, and the look is D O P E. I have never seen a more game perfect shoe, that can benefit every player out there.

What I like:

  • Has that distinct Air Jordan “Jays” style that will get you a lot of compliments.
  • Carries an important legacy to the game of basketball, as a homage to the basketball king of the 90s Michael Jordan.
  • Amazing balance and cushion, definitely a scorer’s shoe.
  • The traction is second to none.
  • High-end materials used all over this shoe.
  • The fly-knit body provides for an amazing lock-down.
  • Shoe molds to your foot once broken in, couldn’t ask for any more comfortable during a game.

What I don’t like:

  • Nope.

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2. Best Overall Runner-up: Kyrie 4 by Nike

There are a lot of contenders for the spot of the best for the best. I felt it appropriate to give you another shoe to consider as the best shoe on the market today.

If there is such a thing as a performance-enhancing shoe, it’s the Kyrie 4. I don’t believe there is any better quality in textiles or rubber sole compounds invented yet. Nike put everything they know into shoemaking and molded into this beauty of a shoe.

While everything on this shoe is at it’s best, I wanted to highlight how well they are geared to scoring. The Kyrie 4s blend together a perfect combination of balance, cushion, and support to benefit footwork and your jumpshot.

Besides scoring, the Kyrie 4s enable your speed with great traction and a light weight build. You’ll be able to run to your spot and take the jumper with ease.

These shoes do require a dedicated break in, the rubber sole needs to be whett by a court before it grips properly. Then the boot is unforgiving till it’s gotten used to your foot. Once it’s all broken in, it will feel better than the best shoe you’ve ever had.

What I like:

  • It’s a cool looking shoe, maximum swager and very loud.
  • Once broken in, these shoes will fuse to your foot’s mind.
  • Exceptional materials used all over.
  • Straight up, this shoe does everything perfectly. Traction, support, lock-in, everything.
  • Very breathable shoe.

What I don’t like:

  • If you skip break-in, your feel is going to suffer.
  • Materials may be too light for true bigs.
  • Not as good outdoors compared to indoors.

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3. Best Basketball Shoe for Point Guards (PG): Curry 2 by Under Armour

Point guards typically want a lighter shoe that helps facilitate their ball handling skills and smaller frame.

The Holy Grail of Under Armour shoes, the Curry 2s have to be the most sought after shoe of the signature collection.

It has been the peak of Under Armour’s research and technology, the company caught lightning with this pair, and no one in the industry has been able to re-create a shoe with so much quality.

From the league’s most prolific 3-point shooter of all time, the Curry 2s give you the best shooting support on the market. The springy cushion for Under Armour’s “Charged” technology is no joke. A point guard can really unload their whole bag of moves with these kicks on.

Whatever you do, break these shoes in. They’ll come stiff out of the box.

What I like:

  • Balance and support give you a lot of security while mixing up your handles.
  • No shoe makes you just shot feel as good.
  • Under Armour “Charged” cushion technology in the sole.
  • Cushion helps you blast off for jump shots and runs, great impact protection.
  • Extra light, feels like nothing is on your foot.
  • A M A Z I N G traction.
  • Very breathable shoe.
  • Superbe lock-down, laces go up high for extra ankle protection.
  • Does not inhibit movement at the ankles, lateral movement stays sharp and explosive.

What I don’t like:

  • Not a great outdoor shoe.
  • Take as a decent break in cycle to feel right.

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4. Best Basketball Shoe for Shooting Guards (SG): Harden Vol. 2 by Adidas

Shooting guards benefit from improved cushion and impact protection when taking jump shots. They will also want good lateral support for explosive cuts and changes in direction, to be able to shake their defender when off the ball.

  • Versions: [pre-school]
  • Released: 2018
  • Manufacturer: Adidas
  • Signature: James Harden

The follow up to James Harden’s premiere shoe, vol. 2 is an all-star of its own. Adidas brought out a brand new kind of lacing system for the Rocket’s scoring phenom. The beard struck gold with this shoe design. A shoe that would be a godsend to any scoring guard. Either at the one or the two.

The cushion on the Harden Vol. 2s is the real reason to write home about. Responsiveness, impact resistance, and picture perfect balance make this an easy shoe to play in.

Pair that with the lightweight nature of the knit boot and the amazing support, you will be exploding into cuts and to the bucket before your match-up can even blink.

What I like:

  • The spectacular cushion that is forgiving on the feet and legs, play a whole afternoon and feel fine after in these shoes.
  • Terrific balance and support make scoring effortless.
  • Brand-new lacing system will make any size foot feel at home.
  • Lightweight and breathable makes for a very comfortable shoe.
  • The whole shoe is designed to facilitate your scoring.

What I don’t like:

  • Traction does NOT hold up on dusty, unclean courts.
  • Best to keep these shoes away from outdoor courts.

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5. Best Basketball Shoe for Small Forwards (SF): Air Jordan Retro XIII

There are many kinds of small forwards, and ways to play the position. It is the most hybrid of all positions on the court. So an SF needs the speed of a guard shoe and the durability/toughness of a big man shoe.

When the design team set off to design these shoes they wanted to set out game give these shoes playing qualities that would be deserving of MJs legacy. The Retro XIIs are an absolute beast of a pair.

A lot of care and quality materials went into the sole of these shoes and a lot of love into the soul. Playing in these shoes can very easily ruin the comfort of other kicks you try on. Since everything feels great in these shoes.

I would suggest this shoe to any kind of player, but especially hybrid style players. The Retro XIIIs has the durability and support bigs are looking for.

While being balanced and light enough for guards. The real star on this shoe is its traction, which every player can appreciate.

What I like:

  • The best traction you could ask from a pair of shoes.
  • Comes in some amazing colorways, each as dope as the last.
  • Once broken in, will be the most comfortable pair of shoes you own.
  • Carbon-fiber implemented into the midsole allowing for a more responsive bounce when jumping, and impact protection when landing.
  • Could possibly well be the best shoe ever made.
  • Carries an important legacy to the game of basketball, as a homage to the basketball king of the 90s Michael Jordan.
  • High-end materials used all over this shoe.
  • Clearly a lot of thought went into the design process went into this shoe, its a winner and a critically acclaimed success.

What I don’t like:

  • Can get hot, especially in the leather version.

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6. Best Basketball Shoe for Power Forwards (PF): LeBron XIII by Nike

At the power forward position, the shoe needs to be durable enough to take the power of its player and the damage from an opponent. Since most PF will find themselves fighting for rebounds, they will be in close proximity to their opponent while battling for position under the basket.

  • Versions: [low grade-school]
  • Released: 2016
  • Manufacturer: Nike
  • Signature: LeBron James

Before LeBron, finding good signature basketball shoes for big men was near impossible. LeBron’s signature line was built for players similar to the King himself.

Big powerful beasts of men that can move mountains with their feet firmly set in the ground. Basketball is played a little bit differently at the 4 and 5 positions. Match-ups tend to get more physical in the paint.

The impact protection on this shoe is through the roof, landing will be much more forgiving on your knees and ankles. The support on this boot is as good as it gets.

A nice and thick high-quality material is used all throughout this boot dubbed Hyperposite, it will keep you safe from impacts and being landed on.

What I like:

  • Tough one-piece boot that fits snug to the foot.
  • World-Class cushion, controls impact like a dream, very forgiving on the knees.
  • Built for big players, can take a beating like no other.
  • Great support up and down the ankle.
  • Driving power out of these shoes feels great.
  • Offers the most foot security and support I’ve ever seen.
  • A heavy-duty shoe that will contain and focus your power.

What I don’t like:

  • Breaking these things in will be a journey.
  • Avoid the low-top version of this shoe, just not the same amount of support in the original.
  • The shoe can run narrow.

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7. Best Basketball Shoe for Centers (C): LeBron XIV by Nike

Centers require shoes that can handle the maximum power a basketball player can dish out. The position of giants requires shoes that are the epitome of tough while providing strong ankle support.

  • Versions: [grade-school]
  • Released: 2017
  • Manufacturer: Nike
  • Signature: LeBron James

The successful successor to the LeBron XIIIs (13s), Nike took everything that was great with the XIIIs and made it tougher and stronger.

This shoe has received much criticism for bulking up and being slower. Yes, this is a heavier shoe, exactly what you want at the Center position.

You will find plenty of support and cushion from these kicks. Take these shoes to the paint and bring your match-up to school. These shoes are built for aggressive powerful play and plenty of action. As a big man, these shoes will feel perfect on your feet.

Just like most big man shoes, take the time to break them in properly. Since the material was meant to take a beating it should take some convincing to get to mold to your foot.

What I like:

  • Big shoe for big feet, best shoe for flat-footed friends that need a wider boot.
  • Great lock-down from the strap in the middle of the boot.
  • High quality and tough material used all around, this shoe can handle a lot of power.
  • Great traction and support to help you back down on offense.
  • Built tough for bumping and bruising down low.

What I don’t like:

  • Sole is a dust eater, so bring something to wipe it down.
  • Take some time to break in.

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8. Best Basketball Shoe on Outdoor Courts for Guards: Dame 5 by Adidas

Outdoor courts require shoes with denser tougher soles. Guards need to be extra aware of their traction while flying around an outdoor court since the stick is much different at treated indoor hardwood.

This shoe could have very well taken the best shoe at either the point guard or shooting guard spot on this list.

The reason the Dame 5 is here on this list is that the other two guard shoes wouldn’t hold up on an outdoor court. The sole on these kicks are deep and stiff, no other guard shoe at the high-end will perform as well as the Dame 5 on concrete.

Just like the other guard shoes we’ve titled as “best.” You can expect great attributes that will sustain peak level scoring.

Amazing balance, support, and lock down will have you dancing on fools. Low-top and lightweight will have you flying up and down the court with ease.

What I like:

  • Support and lock-down are on point.
  • Still provides ideal ankle support as a low-top shoe.
  • The lightweight boot will keep you on your toes, flying at full speed.
  • Terrific traction that will hold up to an outdoor court better than anything else on the market.
  • Little to no break-in needed, feels great right out of the box.
  • Could take the spot for best budget shoe, very affordable price point.

What I don’t like:

  • Shoe can slip on dusty courts.

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9. Best Basketball Shoe on Outdoor Courts for Bigs: Kobe Proto 1 by Nike

If big man shoes are susceptible to breakage, it’s doubly true when dealing with an outdoor court. The wear and tear can eat up the wrong shoe in a couple of months.

  • Released: 2018
  • Manufacturer: Nike
  • Signature: Kobe Bryant

The Kobe Proto 1s are a monster unit of a shoe. Perfect in the feet of big men who drive power from the earth. The low ride and minimal cushion keep your weight low for an amazing court feel.

With firm security offered all around this shoe and a nice dense body, you would not want to take anything else when you’re battling down low.

The thick leather in these kicks will get better with age, especially on an outdoor court. The soles are dense with deep grooves, to bite into an outdoor court and give you exemplary traction.

If your match-up is not wearing a pair of Kobre Proto 1s, I can guarantee you have an advantage under the basket.

What I like:

  • The weight and low-ride keep you close to the ground, exactly what you want when battling for position down low.
  • High-quality leathered body gives you all the protection you can ask for when you have your opponents stepping on your feet.
  • Nike Zoom cushion gives great impact protection when landing.
  • The best court feel you could ask in a shoe.
  • Fresh enough for a Saturday night out.
  • Once broken in, these shoes will fit as if they were tailor made to your soul.

What I don’t like:

  • Expect this shoe to get hot.
  • Will take some diligence breaking in.

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10. Best Budget Basketball Shoe: D Lillard 2 by Adidas

It’s always important to have a reliable, cost-effective shoe in rotation. One that is ready to pick up the slack in the case your main shoe breaks. A budget shoe should never mean a cheap shoe, since there are many reliable quality choices under 100$.

  • Versions: [grade-school]
  • Released: 2017
  • Manufacturer: Adidas
  • Signature: Damien Lillard

The balance and cushion from the sole make this deadly weapon on the feet of a scorer. What makes this shoe really stand out is the ankle and full foot support they provide.

The way the shoe is able to pull itself through your heel and towards the front end of your foot, while keeping a low-cut is phenomenal. You’ll benefit from a full range of ankle movement from a low-top, while still feeling as secure as a high-top shoe.

I would not suggest these shoes for big men. Guards, you will feel especially at home in the D Lillard 2s. This shoe will bring out the best of your offensive skill set, while still keeping you locked in on defense.

It’s lightweight with good indoor traction, but don’t expect a great performance out-doors.

What I like:

  • Adidas Bounce, cushion, and benchmark balance make this a dangerous weapon for shooters.
  • A low-top with perfect ankle support, meaning you’ll be cutting and changing direction at full speed, making these shoes even more deadly for scorers.
  • As good as traction gets (in-doors).
  • Premium material quality, similar to the textiles seen in high-end Jordans.
  • Just like the Crazy Explosive, the competitive price point on these spectacular kicks gives you all the reason to add to your shoe rotation.
  • Looks hold up as a great casual shoe.

What I don’t like:

  • Extremely susceptible to dust, bring something to wipe these kicks down if you expect a dusty court.

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11. Best Sleeper Basketball Shoe: Crazy Explosive by Adidas

Basketball shoe culture today has kicks looking wild as ever. Big colors, patterns, and textiles have us sneaker heads looking like we’re from the future. Sometimes a basic looking dad shoe is dope, when you wanna stomp on fools while dressed like your middle-school gym history teacher.

Adidas has this habit of making some amazing game ready shoes in a quiet way. While these kicks may come off as un-expressive in the oh-so-loud basketball culture we are in, you going to be straight slaying opponents all season long in these dad shoes.

Looks aside, these kicks could be very well the best performance shoes out of 2016. Top-marks in all categories: traction ; support ; comfort ; lock-down ; ventilation ; materials ; cushion. If it helps you during game time, the Crazy Explosive will have it.

Any player can find value out of these Adidas work horses. For guards that want something lighter, I would suggest the primeknit regular version. Bigs will need extra protection from the regular models.

What I like:

  • The affordability of this amazing shoe makes it a no brainer, add this shoe to your rotation as a high-quality backup.
  • Amazing sole, with responsive Boost cushioning, feel great when sprinting down the lane.
  • As far as in-door shoes go, this is top 3 easy.
  • Unconventional lock-down works with mesh body to give tight lockdown.
  • As comfortable as you can expect from a shoe, primeknit hugs snug to your foot.
  • The best ventilated shoe at this quality and playability.
  • The ankle support could be an industry benchmark.

What I don’t like:

  • Sole is built for in-door courts, would expect a lot of wear from out-door courts.
  • Sleeper shoe that doesn’t look like much.
  • Lock-down is very tight and can make the shoe difficult to put on.

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Best Basketball Shoes in 2021: What to Consider

A shoe of quality is solely defined by its in-game performance, and no matter what kind of player you are certain qualities hold true.


As explosive and high flying basketball is, it all starts at the ground. Or at your feet specifically. The grip on your soul to the court is a big factor in your performance during the game.

Traction dictates the level of your explosiveness, quickness in cuts, and your acceleration to your top speed. As well as your stability in your stance, which is where your power comes from when holding your position down low. So basically, no traction means no speed, agility, or power.


The more intense a game is, the more explosive and physical it can get. Think of a nuclear reaction reaching meltdown. All of that energy needs to be contained. The same goes for you and your shoes. Support comes at the ankle and the whole foot, in general, is a must for big men, where getting stepped on is a guarantee.


Games are intense, they require your body to output a lot of power and energy, much of which will come from and through your feet, which are in your shoes. A game ready pair of kicks need to be tough enough to withstand war.

Yes, some basketball shoes look nice, dripping in swag, but never forget that basketball shoes are a weapon, a tool. Any shoe made of sub-par materials wouldn’t last half a season on the feet of serious ballers.


You need to focus while you’re in the game, while your shoes are an important tool during the game, they also need to be an afterthought. So that you can focus on your jumper, or on defense.

Your mind needs to be locked into the game and your awareness at max. Uncomfortable shoes are a quick way to lose your focus, so breaking in your shoes is a must.


Lockdown is a mix of both support and comfort. Specifically, lock-down is how the shoe is able to cling onto your foot. Certain lacing systems allow for different levels of lock-down, but the best shoe just seems to always get it right.

Needless to say, if your shoes are not locked into your feet properly, you are not going to get any performance out of yourself or the shoe.

Useful Tips and Resources

Break-in is a MUST

The most important thing to do with these shoes is to properly break them in. Most high-performance shoes are designed to form around your foot to some extent, they will not feel game-ready directly out of the box.

So you’re going to need a couple of practices to get them accustomed to your foot. Some shoes can take up to a week of break-in, which can be a hassle, but by the end of it, it will be well worth the work.

I would not suggest taking any short cuts into breaking in a pair of high-end kicks. You will want to go through the process diligently so that the shoe forms correctly at its peak comfortability and performance.

However, I cannot stress enough how bad it will be for you if you were to try to play in a high-end pair of shoes right out of the box. You will have a bad time, and be a liability to your teammates.

Sizing up Adidas

Some Adidas shoes are known to be a little bigger than your true fit. In the case you do order an Adidas pair, I suggest you order the pair in a size smaller, or be ready to wear an extra pair of socks during game time.

Buying Basketball Shoes as Women

Not a lot of basketball shoes are manufactured with the idea of a “women’s shoe.” The thing is shoes are actually gender-neutral, feet are just feet of-course.

In order to get the proper sizing for women, you just need some quick maths. That the women’s shoe size and subtract 2. So a size 8 for women is a size 6 for men.

Final Words

When you’re in the market for the best basketball shoes that fit, do what you can to be self-aware of the kind of player you are. There are many different ways to play basketball, so you’ll need to find the shoe that is in line with your game. Whether you’re a captain, role-player, or a starter, you need the necessary tools to keep your game locked in.

Last update: Jan. 23, 2021