When NBA Live first debuted in 1995, sneaker design was likely a secondary concern. "Secondary" would be generous, actually. On a designers' list of priorities, a good-looking, detailed sneaker couldn't have been too high up. After all, when one was working on a 16-bit system like the Super Nintendo, what more could sneakers be than a few, colored pixels? 

By the time NBA 2K made its way to the Sega Dreamcast in 1999, design capabilities had improved considerably. The 128-bit hardware could run circles around earlier consoles. At the time, reviews of the game praised the innovative graphics, touting "the sweet goodness of motion captured honey," and saying it was "the most dazzling and realistic-looking basketball game ever." However, while 2K's "1,500 motion-captured animations and more than 400 individually modeled players" were a step in the right direction, the sneakers remained unremarkable. Aside from color, nearly every shoe was designed with a uniform-looking, unbranded approach.

If the game's cover athlete, Allen Iverson, was wearing Answers or Questions, then the resemblance was faint. Rather, his on-foot apparel looked something closer to the blocky, alien adidas Kobe Two. Up close, tongues and toe boxes could be seen, but there was a distinct limit to this nuance. And technical shortcoming not only prevented you from seeing, for example, the black speckles on the cool grey midsole of a Jordan Oreo IV. There also just weren't any Jordans to be seen. 

In 2015, the game has changed. Licensing obstacles that previously prevented the inclusion of your favorite player's favorite sneaker have since been overcome, with the tipping point for the feature arriving in the early '10s. 2K's partnership with Nike paved the way for the franchise's Shoe Creator mode, as well as the inclusion of iconic, highly-detailed footwear. In NBA 2K16, sneakerheads can expect to see several hundred shoes from brands like Nike, adidas, Under Armour, Reebok, and more

2K Games isn't alone in this market, either. Over the years, its chief competitor, EA Sportshas stepped up its game to cater to all aspects of basketball culture. In their latest game, NBA Live 16, they've utilized state-of-the-art scanning technology to capture every angle and crease in today's signature shoes. Whether it's the studded heel counter of the Nike Kyrie 1, or those speckled soles on the Jordan IV, sneaker connoisseurs won't come away disappointed when they glimpse the offerings in EA's latest release. 

But don't take it from us. We spoke with NBA Live 16 designer Ryan Santos, and 2K Games senior producer Rob Jones, who both gave us the inside scoop on how these competing companies have been able to capture the essence of footwear's rich visual history.