The Most Expensive Basketball Shoes of All Time
words // Zac Dubasik
If there’s one thing that’s for certain in the sneaker world, it’s that prices are going up, not down. As recent as 2007, Air Jordan 3 Retros retailed for $125. This month’s “Infrared 23” Air Jordan 3 Retro? It retailed for a whopping $170, which is the current price for most non-premium retros. That’s a 36% increase in just seven years.
But while demand obviously plays a part in the rising cost of retros, current models have been consistently creeping up as well. Kevin Durant’s signature line, once championed for its affordability, was available for a mere $85 as recently as 2009, with the KD II. The KD 6 has already made the jump to $130, with the Elite version clocking in at $200.
With the launch of some of the most expensive hoops kicks ever right around the corner, we’re looking back at some of the priciest hoops kicks to ever hit shelves. Sure, there are plenty of shoes that resell for more, and some retros that have gone up, but we’ve limited this list to retail prices, and only to basketball shoes that could be worn at the game's highest level on the NBA hardwood.
Nike Foamposite One ($180)
When the Foamposite One launched in 1997 at the retail price of $180, its price seemed unthinkable. The fact that it’s taken over 15 years for shoes to start regularly hitting in that range says a lot about just how crazy that price really was.
Nike LeBron X ($180)
While originally rumored to top out at $300, that was for a deluxe version, which included a set of unwanted Nike+ components. The actual shoe itself retailed for “only” $180, and debuted Nike’s full-length Max Zoom bag. Expensive for sure, but a reliable on-court performer.
Nike KD V Elite ($180)
The KD line’s first shoe to flirt with a true premium price came by way of the Elite edition of the KD V. The shoe featured a drastic shift from the standard edition of the V, with a low cut, carbon fiber heel counter, and caged heel Zoom unit.
Air Jordan XVII ($200)
Five years would pass before a shoe would retail for more money than the Foamposite One, and the one to do it was the Air Jordan XVII. The fact that it came packaged in a metal suitcase meant that probably that whole $200 wasn’t going to the shoe’s performance.
Hyperdunk 2011 Elite ($200)
One of the first shoes to receive the Elite treatment, this performance-enhanced edition of the Hyperdunk 2011 actually improved on an already outstanding shoe. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for every Elite edition.
Nike Kobe VII Elite ($200)
Rather than improving the shoe’s performance, the extra carbon fiber found on the Elite edition of the Kobe VII mostly just made the shoe more expensive. Unlike the Hyperdunk edition, this Elite was a performance disappointment.
KD 6 Elite ($200)
The KD line hits new heights in terms of price with the upcoming Elite version of the KD 6. On the bright side, it features the same Max Zoom cushioning unit first seen on the LeBron X.
Nike Kobe 8 Elite ($200)
Injury prevented Kobe from ever wearing his then-most expensive sneaker on-court. The Elite edition of the Kobe 8 added carbon fiber to the heel, along with Kevlar to the Flywire and laces.
Nike LeBron 11 ($200)
The LeBron 11 may have cost $200, but it looked like a million bucks. Unfortunately, you could easily find better playing shoes for half the price.
Air Jordan 2012 ($223)
The deluxe edition of the Air Jordan 2012 may have been expensive, but it included two different height booties, and three interchangeable midsole options. And built in to the shoe was a large and extremely functional carbon fiber shank.
Before “Hyperposite” became a technology, used on the LeBron 11, it was its own model - which is still being made, and used, over two years after its introduction. Confused?
Nike Kobe 9 Elite ($225)
The Kobe 9 switched things up from what we’d come to expect from the Elite line, by releasing the higher-priced edition before the standard shoe, rather than for the Playoffs. Could it have been because, injury or not, Kobe wasn’t going to be seeing the 2014 Playoffs?
Of all the shoes on this list, there’s probably no higher tech than that found on the adidas_1. The shoe featured a computer that claimed to make micro adjustments to its cushioning. Based on the fact we haven’t seen it used again since, it turns out we must be able to get along just fine without the ability of computer-guided micro adjustments to a shoe’s cushioning.
Air Jordan XX8 ($250)
While hardly considered a “deal,” the Air Jordan XX8 can claim one thing that nothing else on this list can: Regardless of its price, it was the best performing hoops shoe of its time.
Nike LeBron 9 Elite ($250)
The Elite edition of the LeBron 9 may have been one of the most expensive shoes ever when it released, but it will be most remembered for something far different than its price, or generous allotment of carbon fiber. It was on LeBron’s feet when he won his first championship.
Nike LeBron X Elite ($260)
Not every Elite edition of a hoops shoe ended up performing better than the standard edition, but in the case of the LeBron X, it actually did. A symmetrical cut and additional carbon fiber made the shoe both faster and more supportive. But maybe not $80 faster and more supportive.
Nike LeBron 11 Elite ($275)
While its performance remains to be seen, on paper, the Elite edition of the LeBron 11 looks to add not much of anything for the extra $75 it’ll cost you. While previous Elite editions have added carbon fiber, the 11 Elite looks more like a takedown.
Reebok Question ($65,000)
What list about expensive basketball shoes could be complete without mentioning the $65,000 Reebok Question? Sure, you could put diamonds on the laces of any shoe and charge five figures, but Reebok actually did it. And you could technically really buy them.