#SoleWatch Power Rankings: The Best of the Season

The NBA's top sneakerheads from the 2016-17 season.

nba sole watch power rankings 2016 2017 lead
Complex Original
nba sole watch power rankings 2016 2017 lead

If one thing was apparent during this season of NBA #SoleWatch, it was the resurgence of the signature sneaker. Nike Basketball particularly put forth a strong effort for its established trio of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant, along with newcomer Paul George. No longer part of that group is Kobe Bryant, whose line was carried forward by Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan. Similarly, Russell Westbrook filled in for Michael Jordan as the Air Jordan 31 lead, and had one of the greatest individual seasons of all-time while doing so.

Though signature athletes shined, sneaker "freelancers" continued to keep the rankings interesting as well. Even after being dealt mid-season, P.J. Tucker brought his usual brand of unpredictability to the court. He was joined by Houston Rockets forward Montrezl Harrell, Miami Heat forward James Johnson, and new sneaker free agent Iman Shumpert of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

NBA #SoleWatch Power Rankings 2016 2017 Season

Brand balance in this season's rankings is pretty much on par with last year. While Adidas is putting out quality product, its athletes aren't wearing enough different colorways to really be factors in our weekly breakdowns. That's probably the right call for Adidas, which needs its players wearing the shoes that fans can actually go out and purchase. The brand could still use a wildcard like Nick Young has been in the past—after two pairs last year, no Yeezy Boosts were worn in games this season.

Now that the regular season has concluded and playoff basketball is here, we're running down the final Power Rankings of 2016-17. The list is based on a final tally of regular season player appearances from individual Power Rankings posts throughout the season, which were determined by variety, the element of surprise, and keeping the rotation fresh. A few familiar faces make expected appearances, but there are a a handful that you may have not seen coming. See this season's biggest NBA sneakerheads below.

10. iman shumpert
NBA #SoleWatch Power Rankings 2016 2017 Season: Iman Shumpert

Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
Peak Ranking: 1
2015-16 Final Rank: Not Ranked
Season Stats: 7.5PPG / 2.9 RPG / 1.4 APG
Sneaker Highlights: Air Jordan 10 Retro "Double Nickel" | Air Jordan 11 Retro "72-10" | Air Jordan 13 Retro "Black Cat"​ |​ Air Jordan 20 Retro "Stealth" | ​Nike Air Bakin | Nike Air Foamposite One "Copper" | Nike Air Penny 2 "Sole Collector" |​ Nike Air Zoom Generation "First Game" | Teyana Taylor x Reebok Question

After severing ties with his longtime partners at Adidas last summer, Shumpert showed out in his first season of sneaker free agency. His lineup typically consisted of Nike and Jordan retros, highlighted by the on-court debut of teammate LeBron James' Air Zoom Generation re-release in January. Before that, he made a little sneaker history when he played in wife Teyana Taylor's Reebok Question collaboration. Perhaps Shump will land with a brand next season, but being free to wear what he wants suits him well.

9. russell westbrook
NBA #SoleWatch Power Rankings 2016 2017 Season: Russell Westbrook

Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
Peak Ranking: 1
2015-16 Final Rank: 7
Season Stats: 31.6 PPG / 10.7 RPG / 10.4 APG
Sneaker Highlights: Air Jordan 31 Black/Orange-Grey PE |​ Air Jordan 31 "Desert Camo" PE |​ Air Jordan 31 White/Blue Pattern PE |​ Air Jordan 31 Orange/White-Photo Blue PE | Air Jordan 31 White/Black-Orange PEAir Jordan 31 White/Orange PE | Air Jordan 31 "Why Not?" PE

During a season for the ages, Westbrook did everything his way. He became the first player since the 1961-62 season to average a triple-double, doing so while wearing a modified version of the Air Jordan 31 equipped with the previous model's tooling. Westbrook played in OKC-inspired Player Exclusives, including a "Why Not?" colorway celebrating his historic campaign.

8. jimmy butler
NBA #SoleWatch Power Rankings 2016 2017 Season: Jimmy Butler

Team: Chicago Bulls
Peak Ranking: 2
2015-16 Final Rank: 22
Season Stats: 23.9 PPG / 6.2 RPG / 5.5 APG
Sneaker Highlights: Air Jordan 13 Retro "True Red" |​ Air Jordan 29 Low Red PE | Air Jordan 31 Black/Red PE |​ Air Jordan 31 Black/White-Red PE |​ Air Jordan 31 "Bred" PE |​ Air Jordan 31 Red/Black PE |​ Air Jordan 31 Red/White PE | Air Jordan 31 White/Red Black PE |​ Air Jordan 31 White/Red-Black PE

While the Air Jordan flagship is represented across the league these days, it'll always look best in traditional Bulls colorways. This season, Butler did the Air Jordan 31 justice, wearing styles one could easily imagine on Jordan's feet during his heyday. He also mixed in a few classic retros, including the debut of the "True Red" Air Jordan 13 on Christmas.

7. james johnson
NBA #SoleWatch Power Rankings 2016 2017 Season: James Johnson

Team: Miami Heat
Peak Ranking: 3
2015-16 Final Rank: 26
Season Stats: 12.8 PPG / 4.9 RPG / 3.6 APG
Sneaker Highlights: Air Jordan 6 Retro "Slam Dunk" | Air Jordan 9 Retro "OG" | Air Jordan 11 Retro "Space Jam" | Air Jordan 11 Retro Low "Cherry" | Nike Air Zoom Flight 95 "Jason Kidd" |​ Nike Zoom Kobe 1 "Black Mamba" | Nike Zoom Kobe 5 Prelude

During his best season as a pro, James Johnson returned to the #SoleWatch elite with his usual lineup of throwback Nikes and Air Jordans. His best moment was bringing back the OG "Black Mamba" Nike Zoom Kobe 1 in November. Next season, Johnson should play a bigger role wherever he lands, which could result in an even stronger sneaker campaign.

6. paul george
NBA #SoleWatch Power Rankings 2016 2017 Season: Paul George

Team: Indiana Pacers
Peak Ranking: 1
2015-16 Final Rank: Not Ranked
Season Stats: 23.7 PPG / 6.6 RPG / 3.3 APG
Sneaker Highlights: Nike PG1 "2K" | Nike PG1 "Flip the Switch" |​ Nike PG1 "Hickory" PE |​ Nike PG1 "Summer"Nike PG1 Black/Yellow-Grey PE | Nike PG1 Navy/Yellow PE |​ Nike PG1 Navy/Yellow-Red PE | Nike PG1 White/Navy-Yellow PE | Nike PG1 White/Navy-Yellow PE

After setback due to injury, George finally joined the ranks of the NBA's signature sneaker athletes this season. Nike officially unveiled the PG1 in January and it didn't take long for sneakerheads to take a liking to the model. Throughout the second half of the season George laced up the absolute best player exclusive colorways and probably would have ranked higher on this list had the shoe launched earlier.

5. demar derozan
NBA #SoleWatch Power Rankings 2016 2017 Season: DeMar DeRozan

Team: Toronto Raptors
Peak Ranking: 2
2015-16 Final Rank: 14
Season Stats: 27.3 PPG / 5.2 RPG / 3.9 APG
Sneaker Highlights: Nike Kobe 1 FTB |​ Nike Kobe 6 Prelude | Nike Kobe 7 FTB | Nike Kobe 8 "All-Star" |​ Nike Kobe 8 Red PE | Nike Kobe 9 Elite "BHM" |​ Nike Kobe 9 Elite "Christmas" |​ Nike Kobe 9 Elite FTB |​ Nike Kobe 10 Elite "Rose Gold" |​ Nike Kobe 11 Black/Gold "Mamba Day" iD | Nike Kobe 11 White/Black-Gold "Mamba Day" iD |​ Nike Kobe 11 White/Black-Red PE | Nike Kobe A.D. Black/White-Red PE | Nike Kobe A.D. "Compton" PE | Nike Kobe A.D. Red/Black PE | Nike Kobe A.D. Red/Grey PE

With Kobe Bryant retired from the league, DeRozan was unofficially given the task of carrying his signature line forward on the hardwood. DeRozan, a known Kobe fanatic and wearer of his Nikes since high school, was the lead for Bryant's first post-retirement model—the Kobe A.D. Toward the end of the season, Nike issued DeRozan a Compton-inspired PE colorway of the Kobe A.D., which also made its way to retail. As usual, he also mixed in a few older pairs, going all the way back to the Kobe 1.

4. montrezl harrell
NBA #SoleWatch Power Rankings 2016 2017 Season: Montrezl Harrell

Team: Houston Rockets
Peak Ranking: 1
2015-16 Final Rank: Not Ranked
Season Stats: 9.1 PPG / 3.8 RPG / 1.1 APG
Sneaker Highlights: Air Jordan 5 Retro "Toro" |​ Air Jordan 8 Retro "Playoffs" |​ Air Jordan 9 Retro "OG" |​ Air Jordan 10 Retro Custom |​ Air Jordan 13 Retro "He Got Game" |​ Air Jordan 13 Retro "Wheat" |​ Air Jordan 14 Retro "Graphite" | Air Jordan 2009 "S23" | Nike Air More Uptempo "Gum"Nike KD 4 "Galaxy" |​ Nike KD 4 "Gold Medal" | Nike KD 6 "BHM" |​ Nike KD 7 "Global Game" | Nike Kobe 1 "All-Star" |​ Nike Kobe 5 Prelude |​ Nike Kyrie 1 "Dream" | Nike LeBron 8 "China" |​ Nike LeBron 9 "Christmas" |​ Nike LeBron 9 "Freegums"

The wildcard of this year's group, Harrell is the owner of one of the NBA's most unpredictable sneaker collections. While he'll occasionally play in current performance models, retro Jordans and older Nike Basketball sneakers are typically his shoes of choice. The only thing standing between Harrell and a shot at the top spot next season is a consistent role on the team—he often missed weeks in the rankings due to minute reduction or being benched.

3. Kyrie Irving
NBA #SoleWatch Power Rankings 2016 2017 Season: Kyrie Irving

Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
Peak Ranking: 1
2015-16 Final Rank: 3
Season Stats: 25.2 PPG / 3.2 RPG / 5.8 APG
Sneaker Highlights: Nike Kyrie 2 Black/White PE |​ Nike Kyrie 2 "Doernbecher" |​ Nike Kyrie 2 "Game 7" |​ Nike Kyrie 2 "Hardwood Classics" PE |​ Nike Kyrie 2 "Mismatch" PE |​ Nike Kyrie 2 "What The" |​ Nike Kyrie 3 "Christmas" PE |​ Nike Kyrie 3 "Cool Grey" |​ Nike Kyrie 3 "Duke" |​ Nike Kyrie 3 "Hyper Cobalt" |​ Nike Kyrie 3 "MLK Day" PE |​ Nike Kyrie 3 "Samurai" |​ Nike Kyrie 3 "Warning" |​ Nike Kyrie 3 Maroon/Grey PE | Nike Kyrie 3 Navy/Yellow PE |​ Nike Kyrie 3 Red/Grey-Black PE |​ Nike Kyrie 3 White/Black-Blue PE |​ Nike Kyrie 3 White/Black-Red PE |​ Nike Kyrie 3 Wine/Yellow-White PE |​ Nike Kyrie 3 Yellow/Wine-White PE

Consistent with last year's ranking, Irving finishes in the third spot. He started the season in new colorways of the Nike Kyrie 2 before finishing out in the Kyrie 3 post-Christmas. Irving impressed by regularly switching up his colorways, which was frustrating to some consumers who were upset that more interesting flavors haven't been made available to purchase.

2. p.j. tucker
NBA #SoleWatch Power Rankings 2016 2017 Season: P.J. Tucker

Team: Toronto Raptors
Peak Ranking: 1
2015-16 Final Rank: 1
Season Stats: 6.7 PPG / 5.8 RPG / 1.2 APG
Sneaker Highlights: Air Jordan 1 Retro "Shattered Backboard" 2.0 |​ Air Jordan 3 Retro "Cool Grey" |​ Air Jordan 4 Retro "Black Cat" |​ Kaws x Air Jordan 4 Retro |​ Air Jordan 5 Retro "Bin23" |​ Air Jordan 5 Retro Shawn Marion PE | ​Air Jordan 7 Retro "Flint" | Air Jordan 9 Retro Oregon State PE |​ Air Jordan 10 Retro "OVO" |​ Air Jordan 12 Retro "Blue Suede" |​ Air Jordan 12 Retro "Flu Game" |​ Air Jordan 12 Retro "OVO" |​ Air Jordan 14 Retro Oregon Ducks PE |​ SoleFly x Air Jordan 16 Retro "Art Basel" |​ Nike KD 4 "BHM" |​ Nike Kobe 4 Prelude |​ Nike Kobe 4 "Purple Haze" PE | Nike Kobe 6 "BHM" |​ Nike Kobe 6 "Chaos" | Nike Kobe 6 "Rice"

While Tucker finishes in the runner-up spot this season, he's still unquestionably the NBA's most interesting sneakerhead. Though more players are embracing the "sneakerhead" approach to choosing game shoes, nobody comes close to lacing up pairs as rare or valuable as Tucker's. With his free agency looming, it'll be interesting to see where Tucker lands next season and how his destination will influence his sneaker choices.

1. lebron james
NBA #SoleWatch Power Rankings 2016 2017 Season: LeBron James

Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
Peak Ranking: 1
2015-16 Final Rank: 2
Season Stats: 26.4 PPG / 8.6 RPG / 8.7 APG
Sneaker Highlights: Nike LeBron 10 White/Red PE |​ Nike LeBron 13 Elite Black/Gold-White PE |​ Nike LeBron 13 Elite Wine/Gold PE |​ Nike LeBron 13 Low Red/Black-Grey |​ Nike LeBron 14 "Chase Down" |​ Nike LeBron 14 "Out of Nowhere" | Nike LeBron 14 "Red Brick Road" |​ Nike LeBron 14 "White Camo" PE |​ Nike LeBron 14 Orange/Blue "HWC" PE |​ Nike LeBron 14 "MLK Day" PE |​ Nike LeBron 14 Black/Red PE |​ Nike LeBron 14 Grey/Navy-Yellow PE |​ Nike LeBron 14 Grey/Red PE |​ Nike LeBron 14 Navy/Silver PE |​ Nike LeBron 14 Navy/Yellow PE |​ Nike LeBron 14 "Red Camo" PE |​ Nike LeBron 14 "Red Carpet" PE | Nike LeBron 14 White/Navy-University Blue PE |​ Nike LeBron 14 White/Wine-Yellow PE |​ Nike LeBron Soldier 10 "Camo" |​ Nike LeBron Soldier 10 Grey/Yellow PE | Nike LeBron Soldier 10 Blue/Orange "HWC" PE |​ Nike LeBron Soldier 10 White/Orange "HWC" PE |​ Nike LeBron Soldier 10 "The Land" PE |​ Nike LeBron Soldier 10 "Red Camo" PE |​ Nike LeBron Soldier 10 "Speckled" PE

A model of consistency, James pulled away from the field this season by regularly freshening up his rotation with new models and colorways. After starting the season in the championship-winning Nike LeBron Soldier 10, he debuted his new signature sneaker, the LeBron 14, on Christmas Day. Game after game, James laced up new player exclusive colorways, including a "Red Carpet" pair inspired by the popular LeBron 7 style. He also broke out the LeBron 10, LeBron 13, LeBron 13 Elite, and LeBron 13 Low prior to the launch of the model. With so many players embracing the freedom to choose which sneakers they play in, James' run this season is proof that signature sneakers still matter.

NBA #SoleWatch Power Rankings 2016 2017 Season Infographic

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