words // Zack Schlemmer
The 2012 Summer Olympics in London officially begin today with the opening ceremonies, so what would be more appropriate for a sneaker site than a list of the best basketball shoes worn during Olympic play? Nothing! While we all acknowledge that there are many incredible athletes in a wide range of sports, we also know that all the coolest shoes come from the basketball court. The following is a top ten list of the best basketball shoes worn on the feet of the players that led our Olympic teams to Gold Medals (no shoes from the 2004 Bronze Medal team are included!).
#10: Nike Air Hyperdunk (2008)
Considering that most of our last Olympic team wore these (as well as many on the rosters of other countries), they had to make it into the list. The original Hyperdunk from 2008 will go down as one of the all-time classic Nike basketball shoes whether the USA team wore them or not. Throw in the infamous Coach K. adidas-blocking pose in the official team photo, and the Hyperdunk becomes even a little more legendary.
Kobe PE Hyperdunk
#9. Reebok Preacher (Shaquille O'Neal, 1996)
Shaquille O'Neal helped lead the 1996 USA team to the Gold in Atlanta while wearing the beastly Preacher from Reebok. One of the last Reebok models for Shaq, the Preacher was big and bad with lots of visible Hexalite. Whether all of that Hexalite did anything is debatable, but it did look cool while he dominated the international paint.
#8. Nike Air Ballistic Force (David Robinson and John Stockton, 1992)
Ironically, both the tallest and shortest player on the Dream Team wore the same shoes. That shoe was the Ballistic Force, which saw its best colorway during the 1992 Olympics. The Ballistic Force was a standard FORCE shoe from 1992 in bland, mostly-white team colorways, but Nike did a special USA version with excellent color blocking of white and navy with gold accents. A lot of shoe nerds (or maybe just me) wished these would have came back with the recent USA retro pack.
#7. Nike Zoom Flight '96 (Penny Hardaway, 1996)
Instead of opting for his Flight Ones, Penny got a customized #6 version of the classic Zoom Flight for the 1996 Olympics. Again, a lot of us would have liked to see these released with the recent USA retro pack. There's always 2016...
#6. Air Jordan VI (Ray Allen and Vin Baker, 2000)
Especially with the recent retro, everybody knows what these are. When the world saw Ray and Vin wearing these in the 2000 Olympics, many sneakerheads were quickly in search of their own pair.
#5. Flightposite II (Kevin Garnett, 2000)
Known as the Flightposite II or Flightposite KG, it's one of the best models from Nike Basketball in the year 2000. The white and blue gradient colorway KG wore for the Olympics was already great enough, but then he broke out a golden pair for the Gold Medal game.
#4. Nike Shox BB4 (Vince Carter, 2000)
The shoe alone would be farther down, or maybe not make the list at all, but it's what Vince Carter did in the shoes that make them legendary. In possibly the most famous dunk of all time, VC lept OVER 7'2" French Center Frederic Weiss while wearing this shoe. And that's why they're #4.
Like KG, Vince also had a special golden pair for the Gold Medal game.
#3. Nike Air Force 180 (Charles Barkely, 1992)
It was hard not to put this shoe even higher on the list, but the next two shoes narrowly edge it out. Barkley's Air Force 180 is one of the best basketball shoes of the early 90's and the Olympic colorway is the best of them all. With Nike's biggest visible Air unit to date and mid-foot strap, the Air Force 180 was primed and ready for the all-time greatest basketball team's leading scorer.
#2. Nike Air More Uptempo (Scottie Pippen, 1996)
As if the Air More Uptempo wasn't bold enough with full length Air Max and giant "AIR" lettering plastered on the shoe, Nike made it even more noticeable with the color blocking for Scottie Pippen's Olympic pair. Much to our delight, Nike blessed us with a retro this summer, complete with Scottie's #8 on the heels. It may be the overall most memorable Olympic shoe as far as design, but it's not quite the best...
#1. Air Jordan VII (Michael Jordan, 1992)
As you may have guessed from the start, the number one spot goes to the Olympic Air Jordan VII. It would be hard not to put the shoe worn by the greatest player on the greatest team of all time at #1. Michael's Air Jordan VII got the Olympic treatment with a white, navy, red, silver and gold colorway. It would be the only silver the Dream Team would see that summer.
Some more great shoes worn in the Olympics that didn't quite make the cut.
Magic Johnson -- Converse, 1992
Scottie Pippen -- Nike Air Flight Lite II, 1992
Larry Johnson -- Converse Destroyer, 1994 at World Basketball Championships
Reggie Miller -- Nike Air Pound, 1994
Gary Payton -- Nike Air Much Uptempo, 1996
Grant Hill -- FILA GH2, 1996
LeBron James -- Nike Zoom LeBron VI, 2008
Kevin Durant -- The Soon-to-Be Classic Nike Zoom KD4, 2012