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

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The 10 Best Nike Air Max Basketball Shoes

Nike Air Zoom Generation

No. 1 - Nike Air Zoom Generation

Year of Release: 2003
Key Tech: Sphere Lining, Heel Max Air, Forefoot Zoom Air, Heel Stability Counter

From the jump, it was cleat that LeBron’s Nike signature line was all about performance tech and innovative designs.  The Air Zoom Generation featured Max Air cushioning in the heel and forefoot Zoom Air, a setup which would be revisited in later LeBron models.

Sphere technology, utilized on Nike’s apparel for its moisture wicking properties, was implemented in the sockliner for a dry and comfortable on-court feel. This is notable for being the first time Sphere tech was used on a sneaker. Supported by a full-length carbon fiber plate and topped with full-grain leather, the Air Zoom Generation was both functional and luxurious. With a relatively low profile, the model was catered towards guards and small forwards.

The Tinker Hatfield-designed model is rumored to be re-releasing later this year for its tenth anniversary, to stick with Sneaker Report for updates!Nike Zoom LeBron II

No. 2 - Nike Zoom LeBron II

Year of Release: 2004
Key Tech: Heel and Forefoot Zoom Air, Xytel Midfoot Shank, Removable Velcro Ankle Strap, Pebax Shell

For LeBron’s second season and signature shoe, Nike retooled the cushioning by adding Zoom Air to the heel as well as the forefoot. At 19, James was one of the most explosive players in the game, and the responsiveness of Zoom Air perfectly suited his style of play. The Zoom Air was enclosed by a durable Pebax shell, providing stability for bigger players. A durable Xytel midfoot shank provided extended stability, while the upper was constructed with leather and tough ballistic mesh.

If these durable components weren’t enough to convince you that the LeBron II was ready for the courts, a removable ankle strap added lockdown support if needed. For smaller players, the model was also releaed in a low top version.Nike Zoom LeBron III

No. 3 - Nike Zoom LeBron III

Year of Release:  2005
Key Tech:
Heel and Forefoot Zoom Air, Pebax Support Shell, Carbon Fiber Shank

The Zoom LeBron III was the first model in James’ signature line that didn’t alter its tech much from the previous iteration. Heel and forefoot Zoom Air return to cushion the ride, which are enclosed by a supportive Pebax shell. A carbon fiber shank replaced the Xytel plate, while the upper was constructed with unstitched straps for free movement of the foot.

Simple yet efficient, the Zoom LeBron III featured a leather upper with eyelets that are more akin to a hiking boot than a basketball sneaker.Nike Zoom LeBron IV

No. 4 - Nike Zoom LeBron IV

Year of Release: 2006
Key Tech:
Foamposite Construction, Full-Length Zoom Air Sockliner, No-Midsole Design

As LeBron’s career began to progress, one thing became apparent: this was a guy with a big man’s size and stature who played more like a speedy guard. James had clearly taken a liking to Zoom Air cushioning, but he needed an upper to match his game.

Enter Foamposite, the durable, shell-like upper construction made popular by the Air Foamposite One. Inside the tough upper was a mesh inner bootie with elastic bands, offering flexibility without affecting the Foamposite’s shape. Instead of Zoom Air inserts, the Zoom LeBron IV upped the ante with a full-length Zoom Air sockliner, providing new levels of responsiveness in the LeBron sig line.

The package was completed with a tri-sectioned designed, eliminating the traditional midsole and allowing the Foamposite upper to transition smoothly to the translucent rubber outsole. With its rugged construction, the Zoom LeBron IV was ideal for forwards and centers.Nike Zoom LeBron V

No. 5 - Nike Zoom LeBron V

Year of Release: 2007
Key Tech: Phyposite Endoskeleton, Full-Length Zoom Air with Double-Stacked Zoom in Heel, Midfoot Strap

From Foamposite to Phyposite. The Zoom LeBron IV utilized Foamposite on the outer shell of its upper, while the Zoom LeBron V switches to a Phyposite “bucket”, which is similar to the Pebax construction seen in the Zoom LeBron III. Combining Phylon and Foamposite, Phyposite provides a lightweight lockdown feel while maintaining durability.

The cushioning was once again adjusted in the Zoom LeBron V, this time adding double-stacked Zoom Air to the heel, while standard Zoom remained in the forefoot. A removable midfoot strap adds yet another layer of support, which was the major concept behind the Zoom LeBron V’s tech.Nike Zoom LeBron 6

No. 6 - Nike Zoom LeBron VI

Year of Release: 2008
Key Tech:
Full-Length Zoom Air with Double Stacked Zoom Air in Heel, Dynamic Fit Inner Bootie, Carbon Fiber Heel Counter

The Nike Zoom LeBron VI stood out as being the lightest rendition of the signature line since the original Air Zoom Generation. Zoom Air cushioning makes yet another appearance, with extra bounce provided by the double-stacked units in the heel.

The Zoom LeBron VI featured a Dynamic Fit inner bootie for a snug, contoured on-court fit. Meanwhile, the rugged, almost boot-like aesthetics of the Zoom LeBron V were once again at play, this time designed with a sleeker lateral view. Capping things off, the midsole featured a cup-sole design and was supported by a carbon fiber heel counter for added stability.Nike Air Max LeBron VII

No. 7 - Nike Air Max LeBron VII

Year of Release: 2009
Key Tech:
Flywire, Visible Max Air 360 Unit

In 2009, Nike Basketball designer Jason Petrie took over the reigns of the LeBron line and revamped the entire model. Starting with the cushioning, this was the first LeBron model that didn’t feature Zoom Air. Instead, cushion was provided by a full-length, 360-degree visible Air Max unit. This change in cushioning allowed for LeBron’s powerful game to shine through as it provided strong multidirectional stability.

The other major change in the LeBron VII was the introduction of Flywire in its upper construction. The lightweight cables provided a thin layer of support, helping to shed some of the unnecessary bulk from LeBron’s previous signature models. This was also the first LeBron model to be followed up with a postseason-specific version, as seen in the following slide.Nike LeBron 7 PS

No. 8 - Nike LeBron VII P.S.

Year of Release: 2010
Key Tech: Heel and Forefoot Zoom Air, Flywire

The Nike LeBron VII PS was the first playoff-specific shoe in the LeBron signature line. Essentially, it was a slight revamp of the Air Max LeBron VII. The most noticeable change was swapping the previously used full-length Air Max for heel and forefoot Zoom Air units.

The LeBron VII P.S. also featured a slightly lower profile than its inspiration, but carried over the Flywire and synthetic upper construction.Nike LeBron 8

No. 9 - Nike Air Max LeBron VIII

Year of Release: 2010
Key Tech: Visible Max Air 360 Unit, Flywire Overlays

While the tech used in the LeBron VIII V1 wasn’t a major jump from the VII, it was by no means the same shoe. The LeBron VIII once again embraced James’ quick, yet powerful and rugged on-court style.

A high profile provided plenty of ankle support, while its natural leather uppers were supported by Flywire overlays. But Nike didn’t stop there; even the supportive Flywire had added support on the LeBron VIII. A plastic frame was placed over the Flywire cables for zonal support, while the a seamless mesh inner-sleeve added breathability.

The basketball-specific Max Air 360 unit returned, providing impact protection and cushion during powerful landings.Nike LeBron 8 v2

No. 10 - Nike Air Max LeBron 8 V2

Year of Release: 2010
Key Tech: Visible Max Air 360 Unit, Flywire Overlays

At first glance, it’s appears that not much has changed from the Nike Air Max LeBron VIII V1 to V2, which most players would agree is a good thing. The major difference in the model was the construction of its upper, utilizing mesh to result in a lighter and quicker model, perfect for LeBron around its December release as the NBA season began to heat up.Nike LeBron 8 PS

No. 11 - Nike LeBron 8 PS

Year of Release: 2011
Key Tech:
Hyperfuse, Heel Max Air 180 Unit, Forefoot Zoom Air

Harder, better, faster, stronger. The LeBron 8 PS was all about lacing James in a sturdy and durable model for the 2011 postseason. The full-length Air Max 360 cushioning from the LeBron VIII and V2 was eliminated in favor of responsive forefoot Zoom Air and a heel Max Air 180 unit.

Meanwhile, the upper was revamped with a heavy duty Hyperfuse upper, allowing for optimum breathability during the most important stretch of the year.Nike LeBron 9

No. 12 - Nike LeBron 9

Year of Release: 2011
Key Tech: Flywire and Hyperfuse Construction, Heel Max Air 180 Unit, Forefoot Zoom Air, Nike Pro Combat Lining

For the LeBron 9, technologies from previous models were combined, resulting in the most advanced LeBron sneaker yet. The upper was constructed with a Hyperfuse and Flywire pairing, which matched the lightweight durability and breathability of Hyperfuse with the Flywire’s supportive, lockdown structure. Flywire was also integrated into the lacing system in the form of a midfoot harness and support wings.

The forefoot Zoom Air/heel Max Air 180 tag-team cushioning was once again in play, providing LeBron with the kind of speed and power his game requires. Inside the shoe, Nike’s Pro Combat compression material is used for a soft yet snug fit.

The LeBron 9 is also notable for being the first LeBron signature model available for customization on Nike ID.Nike LeBron 9 Elite

No. 13 - Nike LeBron 9 PS Elite

Year of Release: 2012
Key Tech: Kevlar-Reinforced Flywire and Hyperfuse Construction, Heel Max Air 180 Unit, Forefoot Zoom Air, Nike Pro Combat Lining, Stretch-Resistant Kevlar Laces, Carbon Fiber Overlays

As far as tech goes, the Nike LeBron 9 PS Elite didn’t feature any drastic jumps from the standard LeBron 9. Instead, it’s upgraded with durable components, like Kevlar-reinforced Flywire and stretch-resistant Kevlar laces. A carbon fiber overlay has also been implemented in the Elite model for added durability and support, keeping the foot in place during quick movements.

This was the third playoff-ready LeBron signature, but the first to bare the “Elite” title, and James would go on to win his first NBA Championship while wearing this model.Nike LeBron X

No. 14 - Nike LeBron X

Year of Release: 2012
Key Tech:  Full-length Visible Zoom Air Cushioning, Hyperfuse Construction, Exposed Flywire Support Cables, Nike+ Basketball

If it’s not apparent by now, LeBron’s signature line has been loaded with new tech, ideas, and innovations.  The LeBron X breaks the mold yet again with the debut of full-length, visible Zoom Air for a whole new level of low-profile cushioning and responsiveness. The upper is constructed of mainly Hyperfuse this time around, with the Flywire cables now exposed and more prominent for an adaptive, lockdown fit.

Nike+ Basketball technology, which made its debut on the Hyperdunk 2012, was added to the LeBron X for activity tracking.Nike LeBron X PS Elite

No. 15 - Nike LeBron X PS Elite

Year of Release: 2013
Key Tech: Full-length Visible Zoom Air Cushioning, Hyperfuse Construction, Kevlar-Reinforced Flywire, Carbon Fiber Overlays, Nike+ Basketball

After taking home his first NBA Championship in 2012 while wearing the Nike LeBron 9 Elite, Nike Basketball maintained the Elite concept for LeBron’s 2013 playoff shoe.

The Hyperfuse, Flywire, and visible Zoom Air technologies from the LeBron X were still in place, but with an updated postseason tweak. Kevlar aramid fibers were once again utilized to reinforce the Flywire cables and laces, helping to resist stretching and last longer during the battles of the playoffs. Lightweight carbon fiber overlays are used throughout the Hyperfuse upper for stability and added durability.

Pick up a pair today for $260.

RELATED: The Complete Tech History of Chris Paul Signature Sneakers
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 The 10 Best Nike Air Max Basketball Shoes