#KoFBestOf2016 concludes with a look back at the 10 sneakers that mattered in 2016. Yes, mattered is different from best because as you’ll see in this list, there are kicks that shouldn’t be on a list of the best drops of the year, but should definitely be on a list that made the biggest headlines.
If you don’t have a pair of alphaBOUNCE’s right now, you are doing it so very wrong. As if they were feeling themselves too much, adidas revived the old BOUNCE name that was synonymous with decent but hardly cool basketball shoes of the mid-2000s and placed it on a new stylish and affordable silhouette. Thanks to some clever placement on the feet of 2 Chainz during the NBA Finals and a launch colorway that had people talking like it might be a new Yeezy, the alphaBOUNCE elevated beyond their performance category and were slotted into the same space that kicks like the Ultra Boost occupy. And with a starting price of $100, it was a shot by adidas that’s showing the world that they are capable of producing modern kicks that people want at prices people can afford. It’s the people’s shoe.
Reebok Question Mid
20 years and still going strong, the Reebok Question celebrated in grand style, dropping 20 new (and old) Questions throughout the year. From classics like the Blue Toe which was on the feet of Allen Iverson when he crossed over Michael Jordan to the forgotten All-Star colorway that A.I. was supposed to wear during his first appearance but didn’t to new collabs from BAIT, Melody Ehsani and much more, it was a fitting tribute for the most influential athlete of his generation.
Under Armour Curry 2 Low Chef
This is the entry that highlights the difference between a sneaker that mattered and a sneaker that people like enough to put on a top 10 list. In this case, it’d be foolish to not put a sneaker that exploded on social media in a way that was both helpful and hurtful to a brand. The Under Armour Curry 2 Low – specifically the Chef colorway – had everybody from sneakerheads to grandmas to late night talk shows hosts to pro wrestlers talking about it. The talk was always jokes ranging from funny to trite, but it also exposed the public to a brand that most associated with apparel and an athlete that has changed the way the game of basketball is played. That level of visibility can’t be replicated no matter how clever a marketing campaign is. It’s not unlike the way people unloaded on adidas when Derrick Rose went down years years ago, but like adidas, Under Armour should know that this is a learning experience and that maybe years from now everybody is wearing UA-branded sneakers that are deemed “cool.”
adidas Ultra Boost
Most folks couldn’t even begin to tell you the difference between the original Triple White adidas Ultra Boost, it’s 2.0 sequel and the 3.0 version. What they know is that they want a Triple White color because that’s the hot thing at the moment and they want it now. And adidas is more than happy to oblige, pleasing those who aren’t knee-deep in the sneaker culture and just want to buy white Ultra Boosts and those who obsees over every minute detail and are willing to make YouTube videos that highlight what makes one “better” over the other. The reality is that if you have all three Triple White Ultra Boosts, you won and adidas won. Kanye might think he can make the Yeezys the next Air Force 1s, but let’s face it, the Ultra Boost has a headstart on him by sheer numbers.
Nike Mag (But Really The Nike HyperAdapt 1.0)
How does Nike proper only have one sneaker on this list. Let’s see, Kobe retired and if it wasn’t for Mamba Day – from the marketing campaign to the 60-point performance – it would have been unbelievably depressing to see him go out the way he did. The Nike LeBron 13 or Nike KD 8 didn’t set the world on fire with unappealing drops and questionable design (see: the Nike KD 8 Elite and their funky sleeves), and as much we love the Nike Kyrie 2, the Nike Air Presto and the Nike Lunarepic, they weren’t knocking any of our other picks out of the top 10. 2017 sounds like it’ll be a different story for Nike, but in 2016 only one stood out and it stands to change not only how we “tie” sneakers and how we live our lives. The Nike Mag, for all the hype that it got, will end up being basically a prototype for the real future which in the form of the Nike Hyperadapt. Automation might suck if you work at a fast food restaurant or if you drive a cab, but if we can get to a point where a shoe will lace us up in a way that’s most beneficial to our in the long-term, that’s huge. So sign me up for the Nike HyperAdapt, when it’s cheaper and more refined.
Air Jordan 12
Wings. Flu Game. French Blue. OVO. Wool. The Master. Black Nylon. University Blue. Pink. Alternate. And more.
For those of us who love the Air Jordan 12 like no other (except 3s), this was a banner year for us. We’ll get the Taxi and Playoffs down the line, but there was more than enough to satisfy us 12 stans, with Flu Games and French Blues satisfying our need for the classics and drops like the Wings and OVOs to please our desire for something new and fresh.
adidas Yeezy Boost 350
Like many great musicians, Kanye West has taken pride in being able to reinvent himself with every new album release. The College Dropout sounds nothing like My Beautiful Dark And Twisted Fantasy which doesn’t seem to have much in common with The Life Of Pablo. He might have changed his clothes and adopted new ways of creating music, but through it he portrayed himself as the misunderstood underdog. From his music being perceived as ahead of its time, to his fashion sense being dismissed by the establishment, to his influence in the sneaker world being diminished by analysts, to his marriage to Kim Kardashian being painted as a sham, Kanye always had a chip on his shoulder. He might believe that still to this day, but 2016 turned his world upside down in ways that none of us could ever imagine or wish upon others. Will this affect his sneakers is kind of a minuscule and pointless question to ask at the moment, but it didn’t stop me from talking about it, and if things keep doing down this path, it will be a real question that many will ask in time. But for now, let’s enjoy our Turtle Doves, y’all.
Air Jordan 11 Space Jam x Air Jordan 1 Banned
Disclaimer: Yes, this is kind of cheating to get both Jordans on the list, but here’s the reality. We’re pretty sure that the adidas Ultra Boost, NMD and Yeezy Boost will be on this list in 2017, but we don’t know if the will be there in 2018 and 2019 and so on. The Air Jordan 11 and Air Jordan 1 will always be around no matter what. Even though they sell out in seconds, the OGs will be evergreen in terms of relevance and popularity. You can be they will be back on this list in 2017 and 2018 and 2019 and 2023 and 2045.
In a few years, the real Air Jordan 11 Space Jam – the one Michael Jordan actually wore in the movie – will return. It will have the patent leather cut that we want, the number “23” on the back that we demand, and the slide-out box that we crave. And when that happens, those who bought this year’s “Space Jam” thinking it was the real deal will now be faced with the dilemma of having to re-up once again for a sneaker that they thought they already had. And they will buy it because of course they will. Stock prices and market shares might drop, but this will only fuel Jordan Brand and Nike to do what it takes to reclaim the throne. They never lost it, but they will do whatever it takes to make sure nobody gets within breathing distance of it.
Meanwhile, the Air Jordan XXX1 dropped and just so people really get the connection and pay attention to a new new Air Jordan, Jordan Brand dropped the OG Banned colorway to drive the point home. The shoe that launched an entire culture will always have a place on this list.
Rihanna x PUMA Fenty Creeper
Rihanna is influential like Kanye is influential. It just so happens that while adidas has taken a more conservative approach with ‘Ye with obscenely limited drops, Rihanna is front and center as the face of a reinvigorated PUMA brand. Her style and drawing power has put the iconic franchise back on the map with a handful of new releases that attracted her fans who maybe never considered PUMA before. When dudes are buying Creepers, you know you’re doing something right.
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