From the Air Jordan I to the Curry 2 Low “Chef Curry”

NBA Controversial Shoe

A Look at Five of the NBA’s Most Controversial Shoes

The recently released Jordan Brand shoe, the Air Jordan XXXI, features an obvious reference to the original Air Jordan I unveiled in 1985. The new shoe sports a similar black and red colour scheme and is the first shoe Jordan shoe since the original to feature both the Air Jordan logo and the Nike swoosh. The shoe also features the word “banned” written across the sole in large bold letters. Clearly, they won’t aiming for subtly.

Shoe controversies seem to be a big thing lately, as we’ve also seen backlash towards more than one pair of reigning MVP Steph Curry’s Under Armour shoes. With that in mind, we at wanted to take a look back at each of the aforementioned shoes and a few other controversial pairs that came in between.

Air Jordan I
Air Jordan 1

Credit: Sole Collector

In the 1980s, NBA players weren’t allowed the same type of self expression in their footwear that they are today. League rules at the time required all players on a team to wear matching coloured shoes and those shoes had to be at least 51% white. Wanting to challenge the rules, Michael Jordan wore a pair of black and red Nike shoes that featured very little white for an October 18, 1984 exhibition game against the New York Knicks. Former Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik then sent a letter to Nike warning them about the violation.

“In accordance with our conversations,” wrote Granik. “This will confirm and verify that the NBA’s rules and procedures prohibited the wearing of certain red and black Nike basketball shoes by Chicago Bulls player Michael Jordan on or around October 18th, 1984.”

When the Air Jordan I line was released a short time later, Nike used a stellar marketing campaign to promote the “banned” shoes.

In addition to telling people that they could wear a pair of shoes that the NBA had forbidden, Nike helped perpetuate a rumour that Jordan was fined $5,000 for every time he wore the shoes in game – a fine the company claimed they gladly paid. The truth, though, is that Jordan never actually wore the red and black Air Jordan I shoes in an NBA game. The pair that drew the league’s ire in that exhibition game were actually a prototype of the Nike Air Ship.

Kobe 2


In 2002 Adidas and Audi combined to design the KOBETWO, a shoe for Kobe Bryant which looked more like something a stormtrooper might wear than a basketball player. Not surprisingly, the shoe was not well received by fans and any hope Adidas had of making it successful went out the window when Bryant himself dropped the shoe in the middle of the 2002 NBA Playoffs and returned to an older version. The shoe quickly began selling for cheap and Adidas never produced another Kobe shoe. The relationship between the two sides ended a short time later and Bryant left Adidas for Nike.

Nike LeBron X
Nike Lebron X

Credit: Pinterest

In the summer of 2012, Nike announced its newest LeBron James branded shoe, LeBron X, and immediately began receiving backlash, not for the shoes’s design but rather for the rumoured price. The estimate cost was alleged to be $315, a whopping figure for any type of footwear. In the end, the shoe ended up going for less and sold like hotcakes, which perhaps is what Nike was banking on happening all along.
Adidas JS Roundhouse Mids
Adidas JS Roundhouse Mids


Also in 2012, designer Jeremy Scott collaborated with Adidas to make the JS Roundhouse Mids, a purple, orange, and black shoe complete with ankle shackles. The not so clearly thought out shoe was immediately condemned for its obvious connections to slavery. Scott’s inspiration for the shoe was actually the 1990s children’s cartoon, My Pet Monster, however, he couldn’t directly come out and say that because he didn’t receive official permission for the reference. Ultimately, Adidas decided to scrap the shoe.

Curry 2 Low “Chef Curry”
Curry 2 Low

Credit: Sole Collector

While Steph Curry and Golden State Warriors were busy trying to take down the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals, Curry’s sponsor, Under Armour, was busy dropping a shoe line designed for the two-time reigning MVP. However, when the Curry 2 Low “Chef Curry” shoe was unveiled, the internet exploded with criticism of the all white shoe for being too “boring” and looking too much like your grandfather’s shoes.

The blandness of the shoe’s design didn’t hurt the shoes sales though, as Under Armour was sold out of the pair as of July 20th. Under Armour recently unveiled two more pairs of Curry shoes, these ones of the more casual variety. The high-top, black leather UA Curry Lux and the low-top, tan suede UA Curry Lux Low, have both been met with yawns, but that’s not likely to prevent people from scooping them up when they go on sale at the Concepts store in New York City on August 5th.


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