Over the years, Nike has collaborated with an impressive 21 different basketball stars, many of whose signature lines continue to release new sneakers, colorways, and even clothing lines. Below is a quick guide to the first wave of Nike signature lines, beginning with the legendary Air Jordan 1 in 1985 all the way up to the criminally forgotten WNBA collaborations at the end of the 90s.
1985 – Michael Jordan
The release of the Nike Air Jordan 1 was the iconic first release of the Air Jordan line, Nike’s collaboration with Michael Jordan. A classic line for a classic player, there are few people around the world who won’t recognize a pair of Jordans.
1991 – David Robinson
Nike Air Command Force was the beginning of Nike’s second collaboration with a basketball star, this time with David Robinson. One of the few basketball signature shoes that doesn’t actually feature the player’s name, this classic shoe was finally re-released in 2014.
1993 – Charles Barkley
The Nike Air Force Max CB was the first official signature collaboration with Charles Barkley, but the star had already been an unofficial collaborator on the Air Force 180 and the Air Force Max. The shoe’s straps make it a fairly dated shoe, but in all other ways this release is actually quite similar to the Air Force Max.
1995 – Anfernee Hardaway
The Nike Air Max Penny 1 is possibly one of the most iconic Nike releases of all time. Penny Hardaway was such a famed player at the time it was impossible for Nike not to give him a signature line. Still an iconic silhouette, these shoes are just as functional as they are stylish.
1996 – Sheryl Swoopes
The first Nike collaboration with a female basketball player, the Nike Air Swoopes would go on to become Nike’s most successful signature line for women. Several of the Swoopes releases have been incredibly popular, and are arguably one of the most iconic shoes for female players.
1996 – Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd wore the Zoom Flight ‘95 all throughout the 1995 season, and so it’s fitting that, the following year, he would have his name on the next iteration of Nike’s zoom-cushioned shoes. The Zoom Flight V is most easily recognized by the giant blue “bug eye” orbs popping out from the midsole.
1996 – Scottie Pippen
The Nike Pippen 1 was released as an Air Max shoe, but later iterations of the Pippen line would replace the Air Max sole with a full-length Zoom Air. Pippen had been unofficially involved with earlier Air Max models, but this release was his first official signature design.
1997 – Alonzo Mourning
The Nike Air Alonzo was a good idea, but didn’t quite make it as a fully functional sports shoe. Though it was never officially released to the nationwide retail market, Greg Oden famously wore these shoes in 2013 while playing with the Heat.
1998 – Kevin Garnett
The Nike Air Garnett was the first release in Kevin Garnett’s signature line. Fans of Garnett’s later (and much more successful) releases with Nike would be surprised at how simple and understated this first release was. Though Garnett has been one of the most successful Nike collaborators, as of 2019, this shoe has still not seen a second release.
1998 – Gary Payton
Known as “The Glove,” the Nike Air Zoom Flight “The Glove” is a shrouded shoe that perfectly embodies the nickname. Payton has released several shoes with Nike, but this classic hooded silhouette is by far the most iconic.
1998 – Tim Duncan
The Nike Total Foamposite Max is the first signature release from Tim Duncan. This wildly popular shoe was initially dropped in an all-silver colorway that remains one of the most recognizable Nike shoes ever released.
1998 – Lisa Leslie
At long last, the WNBA saw a second Nike collaboration with the release of Lisa Leslie’s Nike Total Air 9. This shoe was a bit of a commercial flop, but that has more to do with marketing than with the shoe itself, which is still arguably one of the most sleek and durable women’s shoes Nike has ever released.
1999 – Cynthia Cooper
The Nike Air C14, the signature release of WNBA star Cynthia Cooper, was a much more commercially successful hit than the WNBA collaboration the year before. The Nike Air C14 actually looks a bit like Kevin Garnett’s early models, but with a lighter colorway and more advanced Air technology in the heel.
1999 – Dawn Staley
The Nike Air Zoom S5 is another criminally forgotten women’s shoe. Incredibly popular at the time, the shoe was ultimately overshadowed by later women’s releases that weren’t affiliated with WNBA stars.