In the NBA, the stars always find a way to emerge and prove just why they are the best. Year in and year out, players like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant find a way to outdo themselves, securing their legendary status by unleashing heroic performances that few could ever dream of matching.
This past year was no different. Despite spurts of uneven play due to the lockout, James, Bryant and others managed to leave fans with a full supply of memorable individual efforts throughout 2012. There were triple-doubles, 50-plus point games, and even one 30 rebound night. One of the great things about all this star power is the incredible variety of sneakers fans get to see each player wear, and the different combinations of styles, colors, and features are enough to keep even the most well-schooled sneakerhead interested. Let’s take a look at the sneakers worn for the best 25 individual performances from the NBA this past year.
No. 25 – Anthony Morrow x PEAK Prospect
Stats: 42 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists
Game: 2/3/12 vs. Timberwolves
Not usually considered one of the NBA’s elite players, Anthony Morrow sure played like one last February in a loss to the Timberwolves. The Nets’ shooting guard poured in a career-best 42 points, going 8-for-11 from three point land. To that point in the season, Morrow’s scoring output was the third-highest in the league for a single game, trailing only Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant. How does someone like Morrow keep the balance necessary to be that good from beyond the arc? It’s gotta be his PEAK Prospects. While almost no information exists about the specs of this Chinese-made shoe, they obviously work; they currently boast a roster of 20 active NBA players.
No. 24 – Ben Gordon x Nike Zoom Kobe VI iD
Stats: 45 points, 8 assists, 2 steals
Game: 3/21/12 @ Nuggets
Ben Gordon is not good enough to have his own signature shoe, so we can forgive him if in a game last March he decided to where Nike Kobe VIs in a game against the Nuggets. Gordon sure looked like Kobe on the floor, though, as he tied an NBA record for three pointers made without missing (nine) and scored a total of 45 points. The lightweight support provided by the three-layer Flywire technology undoubtedly helped Gordon elevate up and over the Nuggets’ defenders who attempted (in vain) to challenge his shots. Maybe after this performance, the former UConn star will finally be able to get his own shoe.
No. 23 – Monta Ellis x Air Jordan XI Concord
Stats: 48 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
Game: 2/7/12 vs. Thunder
A classic “shoot first” point guard, Monta Ellis put on a show last February in a game against the Thunder, as the then-Warriors point guard poured in 48 points while managing to dish out just 2 assists. Wearing Air Jordan XI Concords—arguably the most popular sneaker ever—Ellis scored at a Jordan-like pace. The classic Concord herringbone design kept him slashing through the crowds of Oklahoma City defenders as he did his best to keep his inept Warriors team in the game, but this superhuman effort would ultimately not be enough to stave off defeat.
No. 22 – Russell Westbrook x Nike Zoom Hyperfuse 2011 Russell Westbrook PE
Stats: 40 points, 4 rebounds, 9 assists
Game: 2/19/12 vs. Nuggets
Despite Kevin Durant grabbing more headlines on this night for his own performance, Russell Westbrook lit up against the Nuggets on February 19, 2012. Slashing to the hoop in his Player Edition Nike Zoom Hyperfuses, Westbrook put up 40 points and handed out 9 assists in the Thunder’s overtime victory. As an undersized guard, Westbrook depends upon the ability to elevate and maneuver around bigger players; the lightweight Flywire technology in the Hyperfuse allows him to do just that, and is one of the reasons Westbrook will find himself on the All-Star team for years to come.
No. 21 – James Harden x Nike Zoom Hyperdunk 2011 Low PE
Stats: 40 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals
Game: 4/18/12 @ Suns
James Harden is more than just a man with a humongous beard. Last season, he was a sparkplug off of Oklahoma City’s bench, scoring seemingly at will en route to winning the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award. He proved just how talented he is in a game against Phoenix, where in his Nike Zoom Hyperdunk PEs he eviscerated the Suns to the tune of 40 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals. The slashing Harden made use of the stability provided by the shoe’s Flywire construction, driving to the hoop and earning a steady stream of free throws as a result.
No. 20 – Andrew Bynum x Nike Zoom Hyperfuse 2011
Stats: 16 points, 30 rebounds
Game: 4/11/12 @ Spurs
Normally, when Kobe Bryant doesn’t play, the Lakers struggle. When Kobe couldn’t go one night last season, though, Andrew Bynum responded with one of the great performances of the year. Staying light on his feet thanks to the Flywire technology in his Nike Hyperfuses, Bynum ripped down an astounding 30 rebounds against the Spurs and helped his team earn a tough win. It was only the second 30-plus rebound game in the NBA in the last 12 years. He also chipped in 16 points, further showing that when healthy Bynum is a force to be reckoned with.
No. 19 – Tony Parker x Nike Lunar Hypergamer Tony Parker PE
Stats: 42 points, 3 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
Game: 2/4/12 vs. Thunder
While he may not get as much press as his more heralded teammate Tim Duncan, Tony Parker has been a great NBA player for a long time. In a 107-96 victory over the Thunder last season Parker not only poured in 42 points, but in handing out nine assists moved into first place all-time for the Spurs in that category. His Nike Lunar Hypergamers mix the soft-landing Lunarlon cushioning system with the durability of a Hyperfuse upper, which have allowed the French-born point guard to stay healthy and active for 12 seasons and counting.
No. 18 – Kobe Bryant x Nike Zoom Kobe VIII “Christmas”
Stats: 34 points, 5 rebounds
Game: 12/25/12 vs. Knicks
Playing in his 15th Christmas Day game, Kobe Bryant was not going let his struggling Lakers squad lose at home. He rallied his team in the 4th quarter against the Knicks, scoring eight of their first 10 points and getting them a much-needed win. If the grind of his 16th NBA season is wearing on Kobe, his Nike Kobe VIIIs certainly aren’t to blame; at just 9.6 ounces, they are the lightest version of his signature shoe ever made and ensure the Lakers star’s legs stay fresh for all 82 games. If his performance so far this season is any indication, it looks like they’re working.
No. 17 – Carmelo Anthony x Jordan Melo M9
Stats: 45 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists
Game: 12/11/12 @ Nets
There’s a rivalry budding in New York, and the Knicks and Nets have already engaged in several entertaining games in the young 2012 season. Sporting his new Jordan Melo M9s, Carmelo Anthony has been the star so far, and just a couple weeks ago delivered a huge victory for the Knicks with a clutch 45 point, 5 rebound performance in Brooklyn. Anthony looks as athletic as he ever has in his career, and his shoes deserve a huge assist; the weight was cut down by 1.7 ounces from last year’s model, allowing Melo to elevate at the rim like never before.
No. 16 – Joakim Noah x Le Coq sportif Joakim Noah Pro Model 2.0
Stats: 30 points, 23 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks
Game: 12/7/12 @ Pistons
It’s not every day that a French company gets in on the NBA shoe game, but that’s exactly what le coq sportif has done with Chicago Bulls star Joakim Noah. The center’s mid-cut signature shoe features a mesh liner for optimal ventilation as he mixes it up with the NBA’s toughest big men, and was inspired by the tennis shoes his father (former pro Yannick Noah) wore when he won the 1983 French Open. Joakim certainly needed to stay cool a few weeks ago in Detroit, setting career highs in both points (30) and rebounds (23) as he led the Bulls to a furious comeback win over the Pistons.
No. 15 – Zach Randolph x Nike Air Max Hyperguard Up PE
Stats: 38 points, 22 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 blocks
Game: 12/4/12 vs. Suns
The man affectionately known as Z-Bo has emerged as a star in Memphis, and in the process has earned his own exclusive shoe: the Nike Air Max Hyperguard Up. It is a unique blend of several different Nike technologies, fusing together Air Max cushioning, Hyperfuse construction, and a herringbone outsole. This multi-dimensional shoe is much like the multi-dimensional Randolph, who can stroke it from the outside or fake out defenders with his slick post moves. A few weeks ago, Randolph posted one of the most impressive stat lines of the season when he dropped 38 points, 22 rebounds and 3 blocks on the Phoenix Suns.
No. 14 – Chris Paul x Jordan CP3.V
Stats: 34 points, 5 rebounds, 11 assists, 3 steals
Game: 2/1/12 @ Jazz
As one of the most explosive players in the game today, Chris Paul needs a shoe that allows the agile point guard to change directions quickly and blow by defenders. He gets all that and more from his Jordan CP3.V, which utilizes an Achilles pad to keep him comfortable and a heel counter to keep his heel and knee aligned when he changes position and accelerates. This shifty ability was on full display last February, when Paul led the Clippers with 34 points and 11 assists to give his new team their first win in Utah since 2003.
No. 13 – Carmelo Anthony x Jordan Melo M8
Stats: 43 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists
Game: 4/8/12 vs. Bulls
Nike signed Carmelo Anthony to the Jordan label right out of college, and Anthony’s clutch performances have proven that to be a wise choice. Last season he put on an amazing display against the Chicago Bulls, draining a three pointer to tie the game in regulation and then another three to win it in overtime. Melo’s signature shoe helped him on his way to a 43 point night, as the Fly Through technology allowed him to naturally plant his feet and change direction in shaking defenders and getting to the rim.
No. 12 – LeBron James x Nike LeBron X
Stats: 26 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists, 2 blocks, 3 steals
Game: 12/4/12 @ Wizards
When all is said and done, LeBron James will go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game. Likewise, his signature Nike LeBron sneakers may someday be considered on the same level as Jordans. This season, his LeBron X model has propelled him to new heights, as the reigning MVP has once again been in fine form, with his best performance coming in a 26-13-11 triple-double against the Wizards. Utilizing the shoe’s Nike+ technology to track balance, stability, jumps, and steps, LeBron can now identify at any time what parts of his game he needs to be working on. That’s bad news for the rest of the NBA.
No. 11 – Rajon Rondo x Nike Air Foamposite
Stats: 16 points, 13 rebounds, 14 assists, 3 blocks, 3 steals
Game: 12/7/12 @ Sixers
Rajon Rondo is a throwback kind of player, the type who on any given night will mix it up with guys on the other team, hit the floor for loose balls, and play through pain. It’s fitting, then, that for 2012 he is going with the Nike Air Foamposites that Penny Hardaway made famous 15 years ago. The lightweight design is the perfect complement to Rondo’s speed-oriented game, and the paid huge dividends a few short weeks ago in a game against Philadelphia. The Celtics’ point guard was a one man wrecking crew, scoring 16 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and handing out 14 assists in addition to three steals and three blocks.
No. 10 – Dwyane Wade x Jordan Fly Wade 2 EV
Stats: 41 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals
Game: 5/24/12 @ Pacers
The Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade may have ceded the title of “star” to LeBron James, but that doesn’t mean he can’t carry the team on any given night. In last year’s playoffs he did just that, closing out the Indiana Pacers with a vintage 41 point, 10 rebound performance. For the same playoffs, he debuted a new edition of his signature Jordan Fly Wade 2s, making a switch from Hyperfuse to Flywire on the upper part of the shoe. This change kept Wade lighter on his feet and allowed the injury-prone veteran to put up huge numbers throughout the playoffs.
No. 9 – James Harden x Nike Lunar Hypergamer Low PE
Stats: 37 points, 6 rebounds, 12 assists, 4 steals, 1 block
Game: 10/31/12 @ Pistons
After being traded to the Rockets just before the 2012 season, James Harden was finally given an opportunity to be the star of his own team. In his very first game, he delivered. Sporting Nike Lunar Hypergamers in his preferred low cut, Harden announced his arrival with a 37 point, 12 assists, 5 rebound effort against the Pistons. The soft Lunarlon cushioning of Harden’s shoes ensured that Houston’s new star was going to be only dishing out punishment on his many powerful drives to the hoop, and that Detroit’s players either had to get out of the way or suffer the consequences.
No. 8 – Dwight Howard x adiPower Howard
Stats: 45 points, 23 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, 2 blocks
Game: 1/12/12 @ Warriors
Few big men in the NBA can dominate a game quite like Dwight Howard. When he wears his signature Adidas adiPower Howard, as he did when he dropped 45 points and 23 rebounds on the Warriors last January, he blends the shoe’s SprintSkin upper (for flexibility and strength) with its Z-Torsion sole (for traction) to create an absolutely unstoppable mix in the paint. On this night Howard broke a nearly 50-year-old NBA record previously held by Wilt Chamberlain, as he attempted a staggering 39 free throws over the course of the game. His 40-20 stat line also was the first time someone had reached that level since Shaq did it in 2003.
No. 7 – Deron Williams x Nike Zoom Hyperdunk 2011 Low PE
Stats: 57 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Game: 3/4/12 @ Bobcats
Even though his team was horrendous at best, Deron Williams was on his game for the then-New Jersey Nets last season. Unafraid in his Nike Hyperdunk Lows, D-Will made sure that the only ankles being broken were those of defenders who hoped to keep up with him, and he showed off just how dominant a player he can be last March. He scored the most points in a game by any NBA player all season, dropping a Nets franchise-record 57 points on the woeful Charlotte Bobcats. Not bad for a guy who was getting double-teamed every possession.
No. 6 – Kobe Bryant x Nike Zoom Kobe VII
Stats: 42 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals 1 block
Game: 1/14/12 vs. Clippers
Last season’s lockout forced teams into a compressed schedule, and typically a fourth game in five nights meant a night off for most established veterans. Kobe Bryant is not one of those players. Instead of just relaxing on the bench, Kobe unleashed his fourth 40-plus point effort in as many games as the Lakers fell to their fellow Staples Center tenants, the Clippers. His signature Nike Zoom Kobes had him flying all over the court, getting to the basket with the speed and hops of a much younger player. The Zoom Air cushioning and Flywire construction helped to keep Bryant’s legs remarkably fresh despite the horrific schedule, and No. 24 put together yet another MVP-caliber season.
No. 5 – Jeremy Lin x Nike Zoom Hyperdunk 2011
Stats: 38 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals
Game: 2/10/12 vs. Lakers
Linsanity was in full effect by the time Jeremy Lin took the court at Madison Square Garden against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. The upstart from Harvard responded to the pressure of a national TV audience and going heads up against one of the greatest players ever by pouring in a career high 38 points and dishing out 7 assists. Lin’s shoe of choice was the Nike Hyperdunk, whose flywire technology kept the budding star light on his feet and clear of Lakers’ defenders.
No. 4 – Kevin Love x 361 Degrees Kevin Love 1
Stats: 51 points, 14 rebounds
Game: 3/23/12 @ Thunder
Kevin Love is an evolutionary big man, a guy who is a tremendous rebounder but who also likes to venture out to the three point line to show off his long-distance stroke. No more apparent was that than last March, when the Timberwolves’ star dropped 51 points to go along with 14 rebounds on the Oklahoma City Thunder. While you’d think a star like Love would be on Team Nike, he actually wears a Chinese brand called 361 degrees; his signature “Kevin Love 1” shoe is extra breathable along the tongue and sole to make sure that the burly big man stays cool as he ranges all over the court.
No. 3 – Kevin Durant x Nike Zoom KD IV
Stats: 51 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals
Game: 2/19/12 vs. Nuggets
Kevin Durant is one of the brightest young stars in the NBA; he’s won the scoring title the last three years in a row, was the runner-up for MVP last season, and led his Oklahoma City Thunder to the NBA Finals. During a game last February against the Nuggets, KD showed just how good a scorer he can be as he notched 51 points in delivering a victory. Wearing his signature Nike KD IVs, Durant made significant use his shoe’s Adaptive Fit technology, which allowed him to effortlessly move all over the court en route to six three pointers and 16 points at the rim.
No. 2 – Rajon Rondo x Nike Zoom Hyperfuse 2011 Rajon Rondo PE
Stats: 44 points, 8 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals
Game: 5/30/12 @ Heat
The Boston Celtics’ Rajon Rondo is known for being able to turn it on in the playoffs, and he produced one of the great all-time performances with his effort in a Game 2 loss to Miami in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals. Rondo’s slashing drives and quick steals make him a perfect match for the Nike Hyperfuse, a lightweight shoe whose credo is to “stay quick or stay home.” The one piece upper design keeps Rondo’s feet comfortable, and the extra-breathable material makes sure that no matter how hot he gets on the court, his feet stay cool.
No. 1 – LeBron James x Nike LeBron IX Elite PS
Stats: 45 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists
Game: 6/7/12 @ Celtics
In the pantheon of clutch playoff performances, LeBron James going on the road in the face of immense criticism for an elimination game and single-handedly eviscerating the Celtics has to be one of the greatest ever. Wearing his signature Nike LeBron IXs, James absolutely destroyed the Celtics on 19-of-26 shooting as he rained in shots from every conceivable spot on the floor. These playoffs were viewed as a referendum on James’ entire career, and Nike even made a special playoff edition of the shoe to emphasize the importance. They specifically tailored a multi-faceted shoe to match LeBron’s versatility, matching the stability of Flywire with the lightweight breathability of Hyperfuse. The result? LeBron’s first ring and the single best performance of 2012.