nike air force 1

With a good portion of the 2013 NBA Playoffs remaining, it's far too early to say which player will rise to the top as the star of the postseason.

Riley Jones is a journalism student from Charlottesville, VA. With an unshakable affinity for basketball and all things ’90s, he can be found on Twitter here.

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The 10 Best Sneakers Worn for the NBA Playoffs (So Far)

Tony Parker in the Nike Zoom Flight 2K3

2003
Sneaker: Nike Zoom Flight 2K3
Players Associated: Tony Parker, Jason Kidd

Significant Moment: Spurs win NBA Title

The Nets’ final years in New Jersey were some of the roughest in recent memory, posting a 12-70 regular season record in 2010. But just a decade ago they were one of the biggest contenders in the Eastern Conference, taking a trip to the NBA Finals in 2003. Led by Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin, the Nets faced off against the San Antonio Spurs but were unable to match the versatility of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan.  Although Duncan ended up winning the MVP honors, Parker took home the first of many Championship rings. Posting seven 20+ point performances throughout the Playoffs, Parker’s player exclusive Nike Zoom Flight 2K3 is one of the memorable sneakers of the 2003 postseason. Jason Kidd also wore the Zoom Flight 2K3. The dueling point guards set the pace of the Finals, while their shoes stamped a distinct look.

Rasheed Wallace in the Nike Air Force 1

2004
Sneaker: Nike Air Force 1
Players Associated: Rasheed Wallace

Significant Moment: Sheed puts up a double-double with 26 points and 13 rebounds in Game 4 of the Finals

In 2004, the Detroit Pistons shut down the Lakers with a decisive 4-1 win in the NBA Finals. Richard Hamilton took over much of the scoring for the Pistons while Chauncey Billups won the MVP honors, but you simply can’t overlook the impact that Rasheed Wallace had in the series.  Sheed had a double-double with 26 points and 13 rebounds in Game 4 and averaged 13 points per game in the playoffs. Wearing the Nike Air Force 1 designed by Bruce Kilgore, Wallace added a throwback appeal to the hardwood. While it can be disputed that the Air Force 1 isn’t a suitable performance model in today’s market, it’s tough to argue with the kind of numbers Sheed was posting while rocking the 1982 classics.

While Kobe might have rocked Jordan IIIs and Reebok Questions in his "free agent" sneaker season, let's not forget that Wallace is the pioneer of retro performance footwear.
Tim Duncan in the adidas D-Cool

2005
Sneaker: adidas D-Cool
Players Associated: Tim Duncan

Significant Moment: Spurs win NBA Title, Tim Duncan wins MVP

In ’05, the two previous NBA champs met in a thrilling seven game battle. In the end, San Antonio was led by MVP Tim Duncan as they muscled their way to the title. Duncan was a scoring and rebounding machine, picking up this third Finals MVP Award. In his early days, Duncan endorsed the Swoosh, but signed with the Three Stripes in 2004. The adidas D-Cool featured a supportive Torsion system, adiPrene cushioning, and a straight forward style. In a year where a utilitarian team led by a utilitarian big man took the title, a utilitarian shoe is remembered.

Dwyane Wade in the Converse Wade 1

2006
Sneaker: Converse Wade 1
Players Associated: Dwyane Wade

Significant Moment: Wade goes for 42 points and 13 boards in Game 3 of the Finals to push the Heat back into the series

2006 featured the first Finals appearances for both the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks. Thanks to some outstanding showings from Dwyane Wade, the Heat rallied to a 4-2 win after losing the first two games of the series. Wade led Miami in scoring for all six games of the Finals, including 42 points in Game 3 and 43 in Game 5. During this period, Wade’s relationship with Converse was just getting underway, and he wore the Converse Wade 1 in a special Finals colorway.

LeBron James in the Nike Zoom Soldier

2007
Sneaker: Nike Zoom Soldier
Players Associated: LeBron James

Significant Moment: LeBron James gets swept in first trip to the NBA Finals

King James’ first NBA Finals appearance was with the Cleveland Cavaliers as they were swept 4-0 by the Spurs. Despite the loss, the impact of LeBron’s first showing in the Finals was crucial, as he got a chance to play on the biggest stage of all. Switching over from the Nike Zoom LeBron III he wore during the season, LeBron strapped up in the first rendition of the Nike Zoom Soldier for the Finals. The model was equally impactful, as it made way for a second line of signature LeBron sneakers. The Zoom Soldier features Zoom Air cushioning and two lockdown straps to provide a snug, supportive fit.

Paul Pierce in the Nike Air Max P2 IV

2008
Sneaker: Nike Air Max P2 IV
Players Associated: Paul Pierce

Significant Moment: Pierce's back-to-back three pointers to give the Celtics the advantage in Game 1 of the Finals

Matched against the Lakers in the 2008 Finals, the Boston Celtics took home their first NBA Championship since 1986. Paul Pierce was awarded with the MVP honors, leading his squad in scoring and assists on many occasions. Pierce averaged a solid 19.7 points per game, and his footwear proved to be just as difficult to lock down as the man himself. The Nike Air Max P2 IV, like the rest of Paul’s Nike signature line, was only available in kid’s sizes. There’s no clear explanation as to why Nike and Pierce chose not to release the sneakers in adult sizes.

Kobe Bryant in the Nike Zoom Kobe IV

2009
Sneaker: Nike Zoom Kove IV
Players Associated: Kobe Bryant

Significant Moment: Bryant posts 40 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists in Game 1 of the Finals

Facing off against the Dwight Howard-led Orlando Magic, Kobe pushed the Lakers to a decisive 4-1 win in the 2009 Finals. Bryant averaged 30.2 points per game in the postseason and won the Finals MVP. He also led LA in scoring in each game of the Finals, with a high of 40 points in Game 1. After wearing the Nike Zoom Kobe IV throughout the regular season, Nike honored Bryant with a special Finals colorway. This was the first Kobe model to push a low-profile look, inspired by the Mamba’s love for soccer and the way the game’s cleats were designed.

Kobe Bryant in the Nike Zoom Kobe V

2010
Sneaker: Nike Zoom Kove V
Players Associated: Kobe Bryant

Significant Moment: Bryant grabs 15 boards in the deciding Game 7 and the Lakers win the NBA Title

2010 brought repeat title wins for the Lakers and repeat MVP honors for Bryant. After a stellar seven game series against the Celtics, the Lakers won their sixteenth NBA Championship in franchise history. Bryant won his second MVP Award laced in the Nike Zoom Kobe V. Much like Kobe’s real-life performance, the Zoom Kobe V picked up where the previous year’s model left off. A lower cut and sturdy Flywire overlays made this the quickest, lightest Kobe signature model to date.

LeBron James in the Nike LeBron 8 PS

2011
Sneaker: Nike LeBron 8 V3
Players Associated: LeBron James

Significant Moment: James scores just 8 points in Game 4 of the Finals

The Dallas Mavericks won the 2011 NBA Championship, but let’s be honest: a majority of fans were tuned in to see if LeBron would capture his first title. That said, there’s no downplaying the greatness of 2011’s Mavericks, as Dirk Nowitzki powered Dallas in a 4-2 series win. For LeBron, it was his second taste of the Finals and a bitter sweet moment—his lackluster play raised questions about his ability to finish. King James wore the playoff-specific Nike LeBron 8 V3. Built with a Hyperfuse upper, heel Max Air, and forefoot Zoom Air, the Nike LeBron 8 V3 was designed to be lighter, quicker, and more durable than the Nike LeBron 8 V1 and Nike LeBron V2.

All eyes, naturally, were on the King's feet.
LeBron James in the Nike LeBron 9 Elite

2012
Sneaker: Nike LeBron 9 Elite
Players Associated: LeBron James

Significant Moment: Heat win NBA Finals, LeBron James wins MVP

The King is finally crowned. In 2012, the Heat pushed the Durant-led Thunder to the side with a 4-1 win in the Finals. LeBron was the clear MVP, leading Miami in scoring and nearly every other statistical category for each of the five games. This was the first time Nike rolled out an Elite version of their top-tier basketball shoes, and the timing couldn’t have been better for James. Equipped with durable Carbon Fiber overlays and Kevlar enforcements, the Nike LeBron 9 Elite was ready for war on the postseason hardwood.

Riley Jones is a journalism student from Charlottesville, VA. With an unshakable affinity for basketball and all things ’90s, he can be found on Twitter here.

RELATED: The Single Defining Shoe of Each NCAA Tournament from the Past 20 Years
RELATED:
The 10 Best Sneakers Worn for the NBA Playoffs (So Far)