The signature basketball ecosystem is in the midst of a changing of the guard. LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry; all once in the midst of their footwear primes have taken less and less to the signature process over the years, honing further into their craft and less into the annual avant-garde release festivities. In their place, the industry’s leading basketball banners have already begun formulating the inaugural chapters for its future generations of signature wearers.
Nike, adidas and Jordan Brand have all inducted the League’s next crop of stars into an ulterior stratosphere; bestowing six young athletes with their own signature silhouette heading into the 2023-24 NBA Season. All-Star selections run rife across Nike’s youthful lineup of Ja Morant, Devin Booker and Sabrina Ionescu while the 3-Stripes have positioned Anthony Edwards as the future face of adidas Basketball. Meanwhile, overseas brands such as Rigorer have popped onto the scene by leveraging the popularity of newcomers like Austin Reaves.
On top of the six debut models, the League’s next generation of greats in Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren could soon follow the paths of past Nike legends by receiving their own model within the first few years of their respective careers. On the women’s side, two-time WNBA Champion A’ja Wilson is more than overdue for her own silhouette, proving throughout her six-year career that she’s been ready to helm her own line.
With training camp complete and the regular season just around the corner, we surveyed the landscape for the best first-signature shoes on the market. From technology and performance to aesthetics and colorways, here are the Top Six Debut Signature Shoes entering into the NBA season alongside a few models we’re expecting to see make an inaugural entrance in the coming months.
No. 6: Rigorer AR1
Ranking last in our list is easily one of the most unexpected signature shoes of the past few years, Austin Reaves’ Rigorer AR1. Entering his third year in the League out of Oklahoma, Reaves took social media by storm on a multitude of occasions behind his fearless play next future Hall of Famers in LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Amidst 20-point outings in the Playoffs, half-court buzzer beaters and consistent praise from The King, the legend of AR-15 was born.
Over in China, newly-formed athletic company Rigorer realized the potential star-power of Reaves after his first two seasons and elected to make the 25-year-old Arkansas native the face of their basketball banner. Sporting a triple-white pair on Media Day, Reaves’ inaugural signature solution has been revealed in a selective number of colorways since the model’s August debut. Introduced through a chilling Ice Cream inspiration, the AR 1 also suited up in a “Stars & Stripes” ensemble for Reaves appearance with the USA National Team this summer.
Joining LeBron James as the only current Lakers with a signature shoe, it remains to be seen how well Reaves debut model will transition toward the US market amidst the likes of Klay Thompson, Dwyane Wade and D’Angelo Russell already leading the charge behind overseas signature options.
No. 5: Jordan Tatum 1
No basketball brand has reworked its signature roster as quickly as the Jumpman banner, most recently gifting Jayson Tatum with his own signature ahead of the 2022-23 NBA season. This summer Jordan Brand pulled the curtain back even further on the four-time All-Star’s debut model by introducing four-new colorways into the mix. On top of a range of Team Bank options, the Jordan Tatum 1 enters our list a bit later than its Swoosh-stamped counterparts due to the model’s overwhelmingly light-weight construction.
Boasted as the brand’s lightest performance basketball shoe to date, the Jordan Tatum 1 explores a carved-out lightweight frame that’s surrounded by a durable foam – although it’s by no means tooled for the wear of outdoor competition. While an airy knit upper collaborates with the latter for around nine ounces of weight – for a men’s size 9 – the Zoom Air constructed sole unit underfoot leaves a bit more to be desired in the realm of stability and structure.
What the Jordan Tatum 1 lacks in security, it makes up through a bountiful amount of OG-inspired colorways. From an homage to the Air Jordan 11 “Cool Grey” to the “Pure Money” Air Jordan 4s and the Air Jordan 12 “Playoffs”, Tatum’s archival Jumpman knowledge has been on full display over the course of the silhouette’s seasonal release schedule. While he’s dove back into past exclusives like the “Blueprint” for his annual off-season workout at Duke, Tatum’s past Game Shoe PEs could begin reappearing atop the Tatum 1 throughout the silhouette’s second NBA season.
No. 4: Nike Ja 1
The release of Ja Morant’s inaugural signature shoe this past spring saw as quick of a rise as Morant flying toward the rim – headlined by an ice sculpted Mt. 12skiii pop-up installation at All-Star weekend. While a suspension limited the silhouette’s amount of sightings throughout the back half of the 2021-22 season, the Beaverton brand has remained committed to the 24-year-old two-time All-Star’s general release rotation.
As is evident from his Media Day locker photo, the Nike Ja 1 has been privy to an overwhelming number of titular colorways that bear a litany of personal inspirations to Morant’s upbringing. Offerings like the “Hunger”, “Wet Cement” and “Fuel” colorways gave fans a closer look into the motivations that have driven Morant since a young age, from flipping tractor tires to enjoying summer barbecues in his childhood backyard.
Priced as the Beaverton banner’s most cost-effective signature tooling, the low-top trim resides in a more reserved vein of signature designs, opting for a crisp mesh base layer and supple leather overlays which sports a simple TPU swoosh that connects at the heel. Infused with a top-loaded Zoom Air unit within the forefoot to aid with Morant’s otherworldly bounce, a raised foam collar and mid-foot containment system keeps the wearer locked into the surrounding breathable real estate. While over a dozen color blockings have already made their way to shelves, expect Morant to suit up in an extended range of offerings come this season.
No. 3: Nike Sabrina 1
In the Spring Nike announced that two-time All-Star Sabrina Ionescu would be ushered into its signature family, joining Elena Delle Donne as the first WNBA athletes to receive their own signature silhouette since Diana Taurasi in 2005. The Swooshes’ first unisex basketball shoe officially released at the beginning of September to an overwhelming amount of popularity. From the top-ranked high school players in the country who obsess over the full-length React cushioning set-up to an initial sell-out of Nike By You orders, the Nike Sabrina 1 might be one of the brand’s most compelling on-court toolings in recent memory.
Catering to quick and accelerated movements, the low-top model extends a top-loaded Zoom Air unit atop the forefoot’s foam footbed while a hidden mid-foot band system and lockdown cables provide stability. Intricate embroidered details, various upper overlays and a split sole unit arrange for a number of hidden messages and storytelling opportunities.
Having worn over a dozen colorways throughout the WNBA season, the Nike Sabrina 1’s sleek design is sure to appear at nauseam across the NBA, similar to the League-wide dominance exuded by the inaugural GT Cut. If the shoes’ multiple appearances on the Nike By You platform are any indication, the silhouette can be expected to dress in a range of player exclusives throughout the ensuing months.
No. 2: adidas AE1
This past September in his hometown of Oakland City, Georgia, Anthony Edwards was formally inducted into the historic roster of adidas Basketball signature athletes. Revealed in a bright Georgia peach-inspired colorway, the adidas AE1 has been widely-regarded as the best first signature from the 3-Stripes since the launch of Derrick Rose’s brand in 2011.
Boasting a split-tongue upper bootie and carbon fiber heel counter, the BOOST-cushioned model introduces a dynamic containment TPU caging system. The latter’s eye-catching geometric perforations are pinched toward the forefoot, exercising an aerodynamic velocity to aid with Edwards’ speed on the hardwood.
After showing out on the world stage for the USA National Team in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, Edwards has been positioned as the future face of the brand’s basketball banner. While specific technical details have yet to be revealed, Anthony Edwards’ debut signature is currently slated for a launch in the late Holiday season. In the meantime, expect the first-time All-Star to explore a myriad of unreleased color blockings throughout the first leg of the season – such as the recently seen “New Wave” blue colorway.
No. 1: Nike Book 1
Devin Booker’s first signature silhouette is equal parts nostalgic and timeless. Dubbed a “Future Classic” by Booker and designer Ben Nethongkome, the silhouette’s juxtaposition between a vintage exterior design and internal tooling is inspired by Booker infusing his classic Chevy’s with modern, high-performance engines. The storytelling, intricate details and overwhelming amount of thought placed into his first signature is just one of the many reasons the Nike Book 1 comes in at first on our rankings.
The Nike Book 1 serves as an homage to the firsts of Nike’s on-court history. The three-time All-Star dove into the DNA Archives in Beaverton to meticulously study the Air Force 1, Air Jordan 1 and the Blazer – the brand’s very first basketball silhouette. The Bruce Kilgore design shows up in the overlays of the forefoot, which are sleeker and sharper than its 1982 counterpart. Set atop a full-length Cushlon 2.0 cushioning system, a top-loaded Zoom Air bag in the forefoot provides that extra pop while an internal TPU sidewall keeps the wearer atop the footbed.
Initially revealed in a clad-orange wear test sample via a series of grainy videos posted to Booker’s IG, the desert-inspired “Chapter 1” colorway has since traveled from the feet of Drake to an official unveiling at the Nike World Basketball Festival. Becoming the 24th signature Nike Basketball athlete in the brand’s history, Devin Booker’s inaugural signature shoe with the Swoosh will hit the court before its official release in December.
ANTA Kyrie 1 – To Come
The news of Nike and Kyrie Irving ending their partnership hit home for a number of basketball players who have come to rely on the consistency of Irving’s signature line with the Swoosh. Over half a year passed until Kyrie found a new partner in the sneaker space, inking a five-year deal with Chinese-based brand ANTA which includes the title of Chief Creative Officer of ANTA Basketball. On top of being empowered with signing other collaborators and players to the brand, Irving will be working on the final touches of his first signature silhouette with ANTA.
As the Kyrie 1 is primed for a release next year, Irving will be sporting the ANTA Shock Wave 5 Pro. The 2016 Champion was spotted in the brand’s flagship silhouette just a few weeks before officially signing his deal and again popped out in the triple-black “Dark Knight” colorway on NBA Media Day with the Dallas Mavericks. The ANTA Kyrie 1 is expected to be released within the first quarter of 2024. In the meantime, the eight-time All-Star will rely on the Nitrogen-infused line of models that cater to his banking style of play.
PUMA SCOOT Zero – To Come
NBA Media Day is the League’s equivalent to picture day, and the players routinely flaunt their latest kicks for the season-long content capture that takes place. After being selected with the third overall pick in the 2023 Draft, Portland Trail Blazers guard Scoot Henderson decided to showcase a look at his first signature silhouette at his first media day appearance.
Becoming the seventh rookie to play their debut game wearing their own signature shoe, Henderson’s unequivocal style of play and superstar potential were snatched up by PUMA when the then 18-year-old was dominating for the G-League Ignite. Henderson’s inaugural signature caters to the titular colors that have endeared LaMelo Ball’s signature line to millions of young athletes. Taking inspiration from his connection with the number 0, the PUMA Scoot Zero pairs mesh uppers with a reimagined formstrip and elongated teeth that stretch upwards from the outsole. Much like his electric style of play that’s expected at the Moda Center, Scoot’s signature PUMA silhouette is expected to be equally playful with the color palette throughout the coming season as an official release date looms.