We’re feeling nostalgic this fine Thursday; so we got to thinking about the best debut colorways of NBA lottery picks. Since 1990, which premier NBA draft prospect has dropped the most John Blaze debut signature sneaker? In honor of tonight’s NBA Draft and our ongoing partnership with The Colorways we’re gonna hit y’all with a lil’ draft-inspired ranking of the 10 best debut colorways of NBA lottery picks! To qualify, these hoopers needed to be taken within the first 15 picks of the first round of their respective drafts, and gained wide spread notoriety.
The Colorways is festival that highlights the vibrancy of streetwear culture and the sneaker community as a whole. Their objective is to promote dialogue, entertain and spark new ideas. We’re all about sharing sneaker knowledge and initiating conversation here at Sneaker History, so The Colorways festival is something we can most def stand behind! If you’re in the Portland Area July 4-7 then be sure to come through! Learn more about the event, HERE.
Peep our top-10 below!
10. Kobe Bryant; 1996 Draft Round 1: Pick 13
First Signature Shoe/Colorway: 1998 adidas KB8 ‘black/purple’
The Colorways is all about teaching the youth about sneaker history, so to those who are thinking “Kobe wore Nike”… Kobe wore adidas first. In his second season as a pro, Kobe Bryant was blessed with his first signature shoe, the KB8. From an aesthetic perspective the KB8 featured some of the best line work to ever grace a basketball shoe. Bryant’s first signature shoe continues to retro to this day under the name of Crazy 8 (since adidas can’t use Kobe’s likeness anymore). The first colorway seen above in black/purple/gold had just enough Lakers flavor to satisfy Los Angelenos, but was subtle enough to be rocked by anyone. Strong start to the list, huh?
9. Scottie Pippen; 1987 Draft Round 1: Pick 5
First Signature Shoe/Colorway: 1997 Nike Pippen 1 ‘Bulls’
Pip’s name is more commonly associated with the Air More Uptempo, and the Nike Pippen 2 gets the lion’s share of the love when it comes to the Scottie Pippen signature series; but the Pippen 1 is one of the most underrated Nike Basketball shoes of the ’90s. The Pippen 1 featured beautiful flowing lines [like the adidas KB8] and sturdy construction on top of a full-length Air Max bag (fun fact: Pippen didn’t love the Air Max setup so he wore a modified pair with Zoom Air tooling (like in the image below)). You can never go wrong with a Bulls themed colorway, and the Pippen 1 absolutely killed the black/white/red look out of the gate. Well done, Scottie.
8. James Harden; 2009 Draft Round 1: Pick 3
First Signature Shoe/Colorway: 2016 adidas Harden Vol. 1 ‘Imma Be A Star’
adidas’s signing of James Harden gave the brand a shot of life in the basketball department. The Harden Vol. 1 crushed it at retail and was a go-to shoe for ballers on every level. The Vol. 1’s debut colorway, dubbed ‘Imma Be A Star’, came dressed in a black/gold scheme with semi-translucent tooling. Understated at a glance, the Vol. 1 married traditional materials with new tech (like BOOST) for a look that worked both on and off the court. Having the Harden name behind the Vol. 1 helped sales, but great fit and looks kept them on the hardwood.
7. Stephen Curry; 2009 Draft Round 1: Pick 7
First Signature Shoe/Colorway: 2015 Under Armour Curry 1 ‘Home’
The Curry line is Under Armour; without Steph the brand would have no super star to spearhead their basketball division. Marriage between Steph and UA has been sweet since day one, and the Curry 1 was a great debut signature shoe. They were light, responsive and supportive, but most importantly, they gave consumers options.
In a category dominated by Nike and adidas, the Curry 1 proved that UA not only belonged in the basketball realm, but that they came to compete. Stylistically, the Curry 1 looks a lot like the Nike Hyperdunk so we had to dock some points there. But Steph’s first signature shoe made such a disruption in the basketball world that we had to show it a ton of love. Oh, and the ‘Home’ colorway was absolute fire – simple and clean.
6. Tracy McGrady; 1997 Draft Round 1: Pick 9
First Signature Shoe/Colorway: 2002 adidas T-Mac 1 ‘Orlando’
Tracy McGrady ruled the early 2000s. With Kobe Bryant no longer with the brand, adidas promoted the young bull McGrady as their new face of adidas hoops. The T-Mac needs little introduction as its one of adidas Basketball’s most recognizable silhouettes. Everything about the shoe was perfect, from court feel to looks. Designers looked to modernize the classic shell-toe, so they took that concept and extended it through the vamp.
As a result, the T-Mac 1 appeared sleek and futuristic (with the added help of a minimalistic upper). The ‘Away’ T-Mac 1 ushered in one of the most beloved signature series all of basketball, and looked so good that retros continue to drop. There’s no denying the staying power of T-Mac’s first signature colorway.
5. Kyrie Irving; 2011 Draft Round 1: Pick 1
First Signature Shoe/Colorway: 2014 Nike Kyrie 1 ‘Dream’
Kyrie’s first colorway was a lot like him… fun and fresh. The ‘Dream’ colorway featured a level of depth and complexity unseen by any other shoe on our list. The reason why it doesn’t rank higher on our list is because it’s ultimately kinda forgettable. With that said, it surely is the best debut colorway by Nike Basketball in the last 15 years. The KD 1 was ‘meh’, the PG 1 was boring and the Giannis Greek Freak 1 is super boring.
Since we’re working with The Colorways, on a list about COLORWAYS, we had to give brownie points to the shoe with the most risky debut color scheme. We’re hoping that in another 15 years the Kyrie 1 ‘Dream’ will be fondly remembered as the shoes that kicked off the most successful Nike signature line of the 2010s.
4. LeBron James; 2003 Draft Round 1: Pick 1
First Signature Shoe/Colorway: 2003 Nike AZG ‘First Game’
Now we’re in the nitty gritty of our ranking… The Air Zoom Generation ‘First Game’ kicked off the legendary career of one LeBron James, and were on-foot during the LeBron dunk. The ‘First Games’ were the most limited of the Air Zoom Generations, and that lack of availability hurts the ‘First Games’ a little in our eyes. Everyone should’ve been able to get their hands on such an important shoe, but by 2003 the basketball sneaker game had changed dramatically.
Gone were the days of signature athletes rocking 1-3 different looks of their kicks; and LeBron lead the shift towards colorways upon colorways being released over the course of a season. Modern signature athletes commonly have 10+ releases of their annual shoes and that all started with the AZG ‘First Games’. We haven’t even really touched on the fact that the shoes are dummy clean; Nike and LeBron for sure started off red hot early into his career!
3. Penny Hardaway; 1993 Draft Round 1: Pick 3
First Signature Shoe/Colorway: 1995 Nike Air Penny 1 ‘Orlando’
Eric Avar’s Air Penny 1 captured the imaginations of ’90s Babies across the country. Penny was the fresh new face of the NBA and anyone with a hoop and a dream wanted to play just like him. The Air Penny 1 ‘Orlando’ released at a transitional time in sports & footwear history. Michael Jordan had suddenly retired and Nike Basketball really needed a flashy, exciting, fresh face, someone with personality and flare, charm and grace (yes, they had the likes of Scottie and David Robinson and others, but they [the athletes] didn’t have marketable personalities like Penny).
Hardaway and his Penny 1 delivered in every area we just mentioned; resulting, in a signature line that enjoys success today. The black/white/royal ‘Orlando’ Penny paired expert color blocking with fresh design; and kids everywhere loved, and continue to love, how different the Air Penny 1 looks. The Air Penny 1 is truly the best debut colorway on a pair of Nike basketball shoes since 1989.
2. Allen Iverson; 1996 Draft Round 1: Pick 1
First Signature Shoe/Colorway: 1996 Reebok Question ‘Red Toe’
LeBron James wanted to be Allen Iverson, not Michael Jordan. That fact alone should speak volumes as to why the the Question 1 ‘Red Toe’ is so beloved. Allen Iverson was simultaneously a cultural icon and a basketball pioneer, so everyone wanted a pair of his sneakers.
Like the Curry 1, the Reebok Question gave consumers options when shopping for signature basketball kicks. And man, consumers chose the ‘Red Toe’, and the Question as a whole, over and over and over again. The Question 1 was elegant, intriguing and tuff all at the same time. The ‘Red Toes’ performed great and looked great too. Using red on the toe, HexLite and branding only created a color contrast that never ages. AI was huge, the Question 1 was huge… everything was big time, baby!
1. Shaquille O’Neil; 1992 Draft Round 1: Pick 1
First Signature Shoe/Colorway: 1992 Reebok Shaq Attaq ‘Orlando’
Shaq’s larger than life personality lands him at the top of our 10-top list sponsored by The Colorways. Why? Hear us out.
- The Shaq Attaq in its iconic white/black/blue colorway was the first, mega successful, signature shoe since MJ’s Jordan 1.
- Shaq himself was, and probably still is, the biggest personality the NBA has ever seen. He was funny, charismatic, and dominated on-court. His flash in games made him impossible to ignore – when Shaquille O’Neil played, people watched.
- The absurd likability of O’Neil created the ideal blue print of modern endorsees. Once Shaq blew up every brand sought to find the next Shaq (and Shaq Attaq).
- The first colorway of the Shaq Attaq is forever tied to O’Neil, and that connection makes them the definitive shoe of a trans-generational player.
- The Shaq Attaq remains a staple for Reebok and non-Nike basketball shoes (Nike Basketball has been so dominant in the signature game that we can basically compare them with the field).