Remembering the Sneaker Careers of the NBA's Draft Class of 1996

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, we look back on one of the best drafts in league history.

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There’s no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to the NBA Draft. True, some players have games that inherently translate better to the NBA than others, but the fact of the matter is that there have been #1 picks that became busts, and second rounders that have made the Hall of Fame.

Most classes drafts fall somewhere in the middle when it comes to quality–a handful of busts, some rotation players, and maybe a few All-Stars. But the NBA Draft Class of 1996 was truly exceptional and is widely considered to be one of the best ever. It’s already seen one player nominated to the Hall of Fame (Allen Iverson), with others sure to follow once they’ve sat out the requisite four seasons.

On top of the great players it produced, it also was responsible for some of the biggest sneakers of the era, with multiple players earning signature lines and basketball culture flourished. In honor of the '96 Draft's 20th anniversary, we're taking a look back at careers of each player featured in the class photo above.

Hover over the icons to learn more about the players and their sneakers.

#1: Allen iverson

Photo by KIMBERLY BARTH/AFP/Getty Images

When it comes to NBA legends that never won an NBA Championship, few have had the impact, both on and off the court, as Allen Iverson. It started on day one.

Following two years at Georgetown, which included him winning Big East Rookie of the Year and a Big East championship, Iverson was selected first in the historically defining rookie class of 1996. After famously wearing the Air Jordan 11 in college, he signed with Reebok, who produced his most iconic signature model, the Question, for his rookie season.

His off-court style provided just as many memorable moments. Whether it was his braids, chains, or attitude towards practice, Iverson impacted the game over and over. You can analyze the numbers and find plenty of shortcomings. And sure, a title could have been the finishing touch on his superstar career, but he changed the culture and left his mark on the era even without it.

Iverson would go on to claim 17 signature models (three Questions and 14 Answers) with Reebok, an NBA MVP trophy, 11 All-Star appearances, four scoring titles, and countless other accolades. That success may never have translated into a ring, but his step-over of Tyronn Lue in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals remains one of the most memorable moments in Playoff history.

Since retiring, Iverson has been back in the spotlight for both positive and negative reasons. It was revealed in 2015 that he may be set to lose a $32 million Reebok trust fund per terms of a divorce agreement. It may not be a total loss however, as his ex-wife has reportedly agreed to give Iverson half of the money when it becomes available in 2030. Thankfully, 2016 got off on a much more positive note, with the announcement of Iverson’s pending induction to the Hall of Fame, and a year-long 20th anniversary celebration of his signature Question.

#2: Marcus Camby

Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

For a draft that contained so much offensive firepower, it’s a bit ironic that the number two pick was chosen for his defensive abilities.

Marcus Camby proved himself to be a force on defense during his three seasons at UMass where he wasted no time breaking shot-blocking records, recording 105 blocks during his freshman year. He’d later set an NCAA Tournament record with 43 rejections in 11 games.

However, it’s what happened behind the scenes that Camby is most remembered for when it comes to his college career. An NCAA investigation revealed that Camby had received remuneration in the form of cash, jewelry, cars, and prostitutes while still a scholastic athlete. This ultimately cost UMass their 1996 tournament appearance and resulted in the school having to return over $150,000 in revenue (which was later reimbursed by Camby).

During his NBA days, Camby embraced his Nike deal, and could often be found in popular sneakers of the era like the Air Max Uptempo 3, Air Flight Turbulence, Flightposite, and MZ3. He later signed to AND1, and could be found in player exclusive versions of sneakers like the Chosen 1.

Throughout his 17-year career, Camby amassed a series of defensive-based accolades, including leading the league in blocks four times, being named to the All-Defensive First team twice, and earning Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2007.

#4: Stephon Marbury

Photo by Andy Hayt/NBAE via Getty Images

Today, you might know Stephon Marbury as the guy that sold affordable sneakers in the mid-‘00s. Or you might know him as the guy that sells knock-off, light-up sneakers for cheap in China. Or you might even know him as the guy that accused Michael Jordan of “robbing the hood.” There was one point in time, though, when he was one of the most hyped players in the NBA.

By the time Marbury played a single season of college ball at Georgia Tech, he was already a known commodity among hardcore basketball fans thanks to his New York City roots and highly publicized run at Lincoln High School. He was selected fourth in the draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, then immediately traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Ray Allen’s draft rights (who was drafted next), along with a future pick.

It didn’t take long for Marbury to become closely tied to the sneaker world. After signing to AND1, Marbury promptly received his first signature model in time for his rookie season. In many ways, he was the quintessential AND1 athlete, embracing style over substance. He could fill stat sheets, and made a couple All-Star Teams, but never enjoyed much team success while in the NBA.

Following years with AND1, which included multiple signature models, and a brief stint wearing Nike, Marbury made his biggest splash when he introduced the budget-priced Starbury line at the now defunct Steve and Barry’s in late 2006. The sneakers and matching clothing, topped out at $15, and were an immediate hit. It was briefly lived, however, when the line was discontinued just two years later when Steve and Barry’s went out of business.

Marbury’s career came to an unceremonious end in 2009 with the Boston Celtics. It picked back up a year later in China’s CBA, where he’s enjoyed the greatest team success of his professional career, winning championships with the Beijing Ducks in 2012, 2014 and 2015, which, ironically, has provided a springboard for the return of his Starbury line, which is currently taking pre-orders and expected to drop July 4th.

#5: Ray Allen

Photo by Jonathan Daniel /Allsport

Although he’s never officially called it quits, the book appears to be closed on Ray Allen’s career. And what a career it was.

Allen was selected fifth overall out of UConn, where he set a record for most three-pointers in a single season with 115 makes during his junior, and final, season. He had an immediate impact on the Bucks, averaging 13.4 points as a rookie, with a .430 shooting percentage. Allen would spend over five seasons in Milwaukee, reaching as far as the Eastern Conference Finals, but ultimately losing in seven games to fellow class-of-’96-alum Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers.

Allen was traded the following season to the Seattle SuperSonics where he continued to rack up the individual stats for three and a half seasons.

Following the 2007 season, Allen was traded to the Boston Celtics, forming what became known as the “big three” with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The trio led the Celtics to the NBA Finals in their first season together, where they went on to beat the Los Angeles in six games.

Throughout these years, Allen has established himself as a major player in the sneaker world as well. Not only did he have his name on plenty of PEs as a member of Team Jordan, he became closely associated with the Foamposite Pro thanks to his role as starring role Jesus Shuttlesworth in the film He Got Game with Denzel Washington.

When it comes to individual accomplishments, Allen’s achieved the all-time record for three-pointers made, hitting 2,973 over the course of his career, along with his 10 All-Star selections, the three point title, and a 3-Point Contest victory. His crowning accomplishment, however, may boil down to a single shot, in his second-to-last season, as a member of the Miami Heat.

Down by three with 5.1 seconds left on the game clock, Allen hit a game-tying three pointer to cap off a 10-point comeback, allowing the Heat to win in overtime. The win pushed the series to a seventh game, which Miami won, earning both Allen, and his teammate LeBron James, a second NBA Championship ring. In commemoration of this title, Jordan Brand treated Allen to an exclusive gold Air Jordan 11 “Two Rings” PE.

#6: Antoine Walker

Photo by RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images

Thanks to his infamous shimmy celebration move, and declaration that the reason he took so many 3-pointers was “because there are no 4s,” Antoine Walker became a bit of a laughing stock over the course of his career. The fact that he also became one of the sad-but-true faces of millionaire athletes going broke didn’t help things either. It became easy to forget what a force Walker was coming off is his NCAA title at the University of Kentucky.

The Boston Celtics selected Walker, a Chicago native, with the number-six pick of draft, following his sophomore season at UK. Although this is thought of as a dark era among Celtics fans (hence the lottery pick), Walker made the most of his rookie season by nearly averaging a double-double, leading the team in both scoring (17.5) and rebounds (9.0). The following season, he made his first of three career All-Star appearances.

During the early years of his NBA career, Walker became one of the faces of adidas’ basketball, highlighted by his signature AW8 model, and Employer #8 ad campaign.

Walker was traded multiple times throughout the middle of his career, including a return to the Celtics, before eventually finding a home in Miami. While it was beginning to appear that his NCAA title might be the pinnacle of his career, Walker put in meaningful minutes and actually contributed to the Miami Heat’s pre-LeBron title in 2006.

Walker’s later career was filled with more trades, financial instability, and failed attempts at D-League comebacks. But few players in the sport have been able claim both NCAA and NBA titles, along with their own signature sneaker line.

#7: Lorenzen Wright

Photo by Andy Hayt/NBAE via Getty Images

Lorenzen Wright went missing in July of 2010, having last been seen at his ex-wife’s home. A 911 call was made from Wright’s phone in the hours following his disappearance in which gunshots were heard. His body was found 10 days later in a wooded area outside Memphis. To this day, despite great speculation, the murder remains a mystery.

Prior to this tragedy, Wright spent much of his playing career—​at all levels of the game—​in Memphis. There, he attended Booker T. Washington High School before playing for the University of Memphis and, eventually, five seasons with the Grizzlies.

Wright was beloved in the Memphis community, and known to spend freely on friends and family. While that may imply a strong sneaker game, it’s not something for which he’s remembered. Wright did wear various Nikes of the day, most notably being spotted in the Air Max Uptempo 3 early in his career.

Despite having unremarkable numbers, Lorenzen Wright, the 6-foot-11 big man from Memphis, managed to have a successful NBA career. Unfortunately, it’s a career that’s been overshadowed by a still-unsolved tragedy.

#8: Kerry Kittles

Photo by Al Bello /Allsport

Kerry Kittles’ NBA career may not have been the most memorable, but his college career made him a Villanova legend.

Thanks in large part to sticking around all four years, Kittles still owns multiple Villanova records, including most points and most steals. He was also a member of their 1994 NIT Championship run and has since had his #30 jersey retired by the team.

Following college, Kittles was drafted by the New Jersey Nets, where he spent the majority of his time in the NBA, before being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for his final season. He may have never had superstar numbers, but his lifetime averages of 14.1 points, 2.6 assists, and 3.9 rebounds made him a respectable rotation player who contributed to the Nets 2002 Finals run.

Kittles career peaked in college, and it’s probably also fair to say his sneaker game peaked prior to the NBA, as well—especially considering he was more known for his trademark high socks than his shoes. While he spent most of his career in forgettable Nike models, he famously wore the Air Max 96 runner for Slam’s historic rookie photoshoot. Today, Kittles serves as an assistant coach at Princeton.

#9: Samaki Walker

Photo by Brad Mangin/NBAE via Getty Images

When it came to draft night in 1996, no one did it bigger than Samaki Walker. His oversized white suit and bowler hat made his celebratory outfit one of the most memorable in lottery history. His career? Not so much. Safe to say Walker's draft look was a lot more memorable than his time with the NBA. 

Walker was selected ninth by the Dallas Mavericks (one of six teams he’d play for), where he spent the first three years of his career. His greatest achievement came as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers as a member of their 2002 NBA Championship squad. He may have only averaged six minutes per game in their four-game Final sweep of the New Jersey Nets, but Walker did start in 63 regular season games, putting up one of the best statistical seasons of his career.

While Walker's sense of fashion may have implied a strong sneaker game, that would be an incorrect assumption. Following his appearance in a pair of FILA Grant Hill 2s in early photoshoots, he spent most of his career in various AND1 models.

#10: Erick Dampier

Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Erick Dampier never won a title. He never made an All-Star Game. He only averaged 7.4 points over the course of his career. Yet, the big man from Mississippi State still managed to earn a whopping $97 million over the course of his 16-years in the league.

Fresh off of leading the Bulldogs to an NCAA Final Four appearance, the Indiana Pacers selected Dampier 16th in the ’96 Draft. He was traded a year later to the Warriors, where he’d spend his next seven seasons as Golden State’s starting center.

The oversized red jacket Dampier wore on draft night does down as one of the more memorable moments of his career, which is more than can be said about his on-court sneakers. A Nike endorsee, Dampier wore team shoes like the Huarache 2K5 and various Shox models.

#11: Todd Fuller

Photo by Elsa Hasch /Allsport

Considering the success of many of his draftmates, Todd Fuller had a rather disappointing career for an 11th draft pick. During his five years in the NBA, Fuller never averaged more than 4.1 points per season. When you add in a career average of only 3.0 rebounds per game, it’s pretty easy to place the “lottery bust” label next to his name.

Fuller grew up in North Carolina where he played high school ball at Charlotte Christian before attending college at NC State. He played all four years in college and graduated with honors, while putting up impressive 20.9-point and 9.9-rebound averages during his senior season. This led to the belief from the Golden State Warriors that he’d have a successful NBA career.

Following three seasons with the Warriors, Fuller bounced to the Jazz, Hornets, and Heat, before ending his NBA career and spending the next four seasons with a variety of teams overseas. Fuller’s sneaker career was as unremarkable as his playing may have implied. Highlights include Nike’s Air Maestro 3, and other team models from the ‘90s era.

Fuller’s NBA career may not have panned out but, unlike many players, he actually had his college degree in applied mathematics to fall back on. He’s since become a licensed high school math teacher, as well as launched math competitions at both the high school and collegiate levels.

 

#12: Vitaly Potapenko

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

With the 12th pick of the 1996 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers chose Ukranian-born Vitaly Potapenko from Dayton, Ohio’s Wright State University.

Potapenko, a 6-foot-10 center, had a forgettable 11 years in the league, averaging just 6.5 points and 4.5 rebounds for his career. His actual game mirroring his sneaker game, the big man was often seen in the now-forgotten Reebok Triple Deuce in the early days of this career before switching to Nike later on.

Following stints coaching with multiple D-League teams and a one-year run with the Pacers, Potapenko returned to Cleveland in 2013. He now serves as the Cavs assistant director of player development.

#13: Kobe Bryant

Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Any way you measure it—be it signature sneaker lines, championships won, points scored, or shots missed—​Kobe Bryant undoubtedly goes down as one of the biggest steals in draft history. Some fine players were picked before him, as well as some complete busts, but the class of 1996 is what it is because of Bryant. Debate and revisionist history cloud Kobe’s draft night, but the Hornet’s number 13 pick quickly became a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. The rest is history.

Being the first guard ever selected straight from high school, he was then seen as a gamble. But his brilliance soon became apparent to everyone, including adidas, who gave Bryant his first sneaker deal and signature sneaker, the KB8, shortly thereafter.

Bryant would go on to have five signature sneakers with adidas (excluding the never-released The Kobe 3) before entering the most heralded sneaker free agency in NBA history. His services were courted by multiple brands during the 2002-03 season, resulting in player exclusive sneakers that are still sought-after today. The eventual choice of Nike proved to be the right one and resulted in industry-altering designs. Bryant’s sneaker influence is so strong that his line will even continue on post retirement.

All of Bryant’s marketing success was made possible thanks to one thing. Despite a charge of sexual assault and recurring issues with teammates, Bryant was a winner with killer instinct. He averaged 25 points per game during his 20-year career, earning one MVP award and five championships in the process. Add to that 18 All-Star Games, two scoring titles, a Dunk Contest win, a record-setting 81-point game, and 60 points in the final game of his career. Not too bad for the guy drafted right after Vitaly Potapenko.

#14: Peja Stojaković

Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Stojaković , a Serbian, was drafted by the Sacramento Kings, where he spent the first eight seasons of his career. As one of the league’s premier European-born players, he averaged 17 points per game during his 15 years.

When you think of Air Jordan PEs, names like Mike Bibby and fellow-class-of-’96-alum Ray Allen may come to mind. Peja Stojaković? Not so much. Yet the 14th pick of the draft had just that—​his own exclusive version of the Air Jordan 19 SE.

Stojaković may have briefly flirted with Jordan Brand, but the majority of his career was spent with Reebok in his earlier days, and adidas in the end.

Career highlights for Stojaković include three All-Star appearances, two 3-Point Shootout championships, and a late-career NBA title with the Dallas Mavericks. His playing days are behind him now, but he’s still active with the sport in his current role with the Kings where he serves as GM for the team’s D-League affiliate.

#15: Steve Nash

Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

In a class that also included Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant, it may come as a surprise that the player that won the most NBA MVP awards out of all of them was Steve Nash.

After playing high school ball in Victoria, British Columbia, Nash wasn’t even recruited coming into college. He eventually found a home at Santa Clara University, where he’d go on to play all four seasons, and developed a reputation for his slick ball handling and passing, as well as his three-point shooting. Thanks to that reputation, he was selected 15th in ’96 by the Phoenix Suns.

Nash’s first stint with the Suns was brief, and he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in 1998. It was his time there where Nash established himself as one of the top point guards in the league, pairing up with Dirk Nowitzki. As the accolades and All-Star selections began to pile up, so did Nash’s value. He would eventually return to the Suns as a free agent, where he reached his greatest success.

This second run with the Suns, which began in 2004, allowed Nash to team up with Amar’e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion to become one of the league’s most entertaining teams.

Bryant may have been the player to legitimize low-top basketball sneakers to the masses, but Nash wore a variety of Nike Basketball shoes with lower cuts over the course of his career, including the Jet Flight, while Bryant was still with adidas. He even received a close-but-not-quite signature model, the low-cut Zoom MVP, in 2009. The most memorable version of the sneaker was known as the “Trash Talk” edition, which was constructed of stitched-together manufacturing waste. He'd later sign a sneaker deal with Chinese brand Luyou, however he continued to wear Nike on-court

The final days of Nash’s career, as a member of the Lakers, may be forgettable and injury ridden, but they don’t take anything away from the fact that he holds claim to one of the most successful careers of the entire Class of ’96.

#18: John Wallace

Photo by Andy Lyons /Allsport

Once upon a time, there was a fashion label named Karl Kani. You may recognize the name from having spotted it next to the Makaveli gear at Marshalls. While the brand actually came out before many of its contemporaries and competitors, it never reached the level of influence of a brand like FUBU—despite a brief flirtation with the sports marketing world.

Karl Kani tapped the number 18 pick of the '96 NBA draft, John Wallace, to lead their Karl Kani Sport line, which, yes, included signature sneakers. Wallace, fresh off leading the Syracuse Orangemen to the NCAA Finals, was drafted by the New York Knicks, giving the brand visibility in an ideal market.

Wallace never found much success in the NBA, bouncing to five different teams (including two separate stints with the Knicks), only averaging double digit points once in seven seasons.

As for Karl Kani, the brand can take solace in the fact that while they may have never reached FUBU’s level of popularity, neither brand could produce a sneaker that anyone actually wanted to wear.

#19: Walter McCarty

Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

As a college teammate of Antoine Walker, Walter McCarty helped lead the Kentucky Wildcats to an NCAA Championship in 1996. He was next drafted by the New York Knicks with the 19th pick of the '96 draft and then traded to the Boston Celtics by the middle of his rookie year where he’d spend the majority of his career.

McCarty’s on-court career days have been forgettable, but he was known to hit the court in heat, including the Nike Signature Player, and Zoom Flight 96, before jumping to adidas late in his career. He also made an appearance as “Mance” in the classic sneakerhead film, He Got Game.

Despite career averages of 5.2 points, 1.1 assists, and 1.9 boards, McCarty managed to stretch his career out a full 10 seasons, making over $15 million in the process.

Following his playing career, McCarty returned to the state of Kentuckythis time to Louisville—​as a coach. He’s currently a member of the Celtics coaching staff.

#20: Zydrunas Ilgauskas

Photo by Craig Jones /Allsport

Zydrunas Ilgauskas began his pro career in his native Lithuania, where he played three seasons for the Atletas Kaunas, before being drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 20th pick of the 1996 Draft. Foot and ankle injuries hampered the early days of his career, causing him to miss all but five games of his second season and the entirety of his third.

The acquisition of LeBron James helped Ilgauskas’ career flourish, and he served as the team’s starting center for much of their run. During that time, when he wasn’t wearing forgettable team shoes from Nike Basketball, he could often be found supporting James’ Soldier line.

Better known as “Big Z” to Cleveland Cavaliers fans, Ilgauskas​ was a trusted sidekick and friend to James during his first run with the Cavs. He even came along for the ride to South Beach.

Although Ilgauskas signed to the Heat following James’ departure to Miami, he never got a ring and retired following Miami’s Finals loss to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. He’s since had his #11 jersey retired by the Cavs and served in their front office.

#22: Roy Rogers

Photo by Brian Bahr /Allsport

Like any given draft, 1996's featured legendary players with epic careers and some great players who just came up short. It also had its share of underachievers who managed to stick around for years regardless of lackluster production. Roy Rogers falls into a much less desirable category: the busts.

Rogers played for four different teams during his three-season NBA run and scored 652 points in his entire career. Those weren’t the kind of numbers earning him heat when it came to sneakers, but he was seen in Nike’s Air Way Up, which was a popular team model of the era.

After his disappointing NBA career, Rogers spent a few years overseas before eventually getting back in the league as a coach when he joined the Brooklyn Nets staff in 2013. He signed on to the Houston Rockets as an assistant just this summer

#26: Jerome Williams

Photo by Stephen Dunn / Staff

The 26th pick of the 1996 NBA Draft originally belonged to the San Antonio Spurs, however it was dealt to the Detroit Pistons in a trade involving Dennis Rodman. And with that pick, the Pistons chose Georgetown’s Jerome Williams.

Widely known by his nickname “The Junkyard Dog,” Williams  had a reputation for his work ethic that didn’t necessarily show in the box scores where he averaged just 6.6 points per game during his career.

In college, Williams was mostly spotted in shoes like the Nike Air Way Up and Zoom Flight 95 High. His NBA days featured a series of forgettable Reebok models.

Williams has kept busy off the court, appearing in films such as Disney’s Full-Court Miracle as “NBA Star.” He’s also used his talents to help bring basketball to underdeveloped and needy countries across the world through the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program.

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