The NBA Finals are finally upon us. In the past, the Finals have proven to be fertile ground for creating legendary sneaker moments—moments that can forever associate a sneaker with spectacular plays, career landmarks and championships won. It's the place where a pair of Reeboks can make a certain point guard laying on his back remembered forever, or where a black and varsity red colorway can become "Flu Games."
Air Jordan XX8 "PE"
While the 2013 NBA Finals may be best remembered for being LeBron's second of two consecutive titles, that series win may have never even happened if it weren't for possibly the biggest shot of Ray Allen's career. While that shot alone didn't win the series, or even win the game, it prevented the Spurs from what looked to be a series clinching Game 6 win and allowed the Heat and LeBron a chance at a Game 7, which they convincingly won.
Reebok Answer IV
Not only is the Answer 4 one of Allen Iverson’s most celebrated signature models with Reebok, it’s also the shoe AI wore during his lone NBA Finals appearance in the 2000-01 season. The shoe that one of the most electrifying players in NBA history wore on his ride to the Finals gains even more significance when you factor in the infamous step over Tyronn Lue.
Nike Air Flight One
A young Penny Hardaway wore the Flight One on his way to the NBA Finals, but that's not the only moment of note for this sneaker. During those same Playoffs, it also became one of the only shoes ever worn on court by Michael Jordan that wasn’t his own. Even though the Orlando Magic got swept that year, the Air Flight One is undoubtedly an important shoe for the history of the Finals.
Nike Zoom Kobe 4
By the time the 2009 Finals happened, the Kobe 4 was already important to basketball for reintroducing the low-top as a popular option. But being worn by Kobe en-route to his fourth championship took the silhouette to to an even higher level. It was also the first shoe from Nike to receive special graphic editions (featuring his stats from that NBA season) specifically for the Finals.
Larry Bird. Magic Johnson. Isaiah Thomas. Kevin McHale. Bernard King. Basically, if you were a superstar in the NBA in the '80s and your name wasn’t Michael Jordan, you were probably wearing the Weapon at one time or another. The Weapon saw more than its share of time on court in the Playoffs, including on the feet of Larry Bird on his way to 1986 Finals MVP honors. Ditto for Magic Johnson in 1987.
Air Jordan 6 ‘Black/Infrared’
Long before Kanye made the 6 Retro a staple of his wardrobe, it became the first Air Jordan worn by Michael Jordan to win NBA Championships starting back in 1991. What else needs to be said?
Nike Lebron 9 Elite
LeBron James silenced his haters (well, some of them, anyway) when he finally won an NBA Championship in 2012. On his feet for his first title was the souped-up playoff edition of the Nike LeBron 9 with reinforced carbon fiber paneling, a Zoom and Max Air cushioning combo, and plenty of style with metallic gold accents.
Air Jordan 14 “Last Shot”
The Air Jordan 14 was only worn by Michael Jordan on court for a brief time (three games, to be exact), but the significance of what Michael did in them—hitting his last game-winning shot as a Chicago Bull (that also happened to be a Championship-winning shot), still makes it one of the most important shoes not only in playoffs history, but of MJ’s entire career.
Air Jordan 12 “Flu Game”
Although the black and white Air Jordan 12 got the “Playoff” nickname, the black and red version is actually the more important Playoff shoe thanks to the “Flu Game.” The fabled NBA Finals Game 5 where Michael scored 38 points while sick with a severe case of the flu will go down as one of the most legendary games in NBA history. So while the “Playoff” Air Jordan 12 is great, the “Flu Games” will always be more iconic.
Air Jordan XI
The Chicago Bulls, led by Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, had a historic 72 wins during their 1995-95 season. That time period also happened to be one of the greatest years ever for basketball footwear. For example, the Air Jordan 11 worn by MJ, the Air More Uptempo worn by Scottie, and the Air Shake NDESTRUKT worn by The Worm were the trio’s models of choice for the 1996 Playoffs run on the way to the first of their three titles together. But there's no arguing that the black and red Air Jordan 11 has stood the test of time.