Intro

<p></p> <p>Hoops fans will see the National Basketball Association's (NBA) top talents take to the court this weekend for the annual NBA All-Star game. In addition to the game's historical lack of defense – which often leads to eye-popping alley-oops – many players will also be showing off the latest in footwear fashion and technology.</p> <p>More than in any other popular American sport, basketball athletes focus on their shoes. Since "signature shoes" emerged in the 1970s and the phenomenally successful Air Jordan debuted in the 1980s, many basketball stars have put their imprimatur on wild styles and concepts. Along the way, some genuine breakthroughs in sneaker technology have come about as a result of this arms race centering on – well, feet.</p> <p>Here is a look at some of the big leaps in basketball shoe technology over the past thirty years or so, as well as some of the more innovative new shoes that today's best players wear on the hardwood.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Nike Air Force 1</strong>

<p></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><br></strong></p> <p>This iconic shoe unveiled in 1982 was among the first Nike products to have a pocket of air in the sole, an innovation that countless shoes on and off the basketball court have since mimicked. This "Nike Air" system provided shock absorption and boosted overall comfort in the process. The original high-top had a Velcro strap to help fit around the ankle as well.</p> <p>Los Angeles Laker Michael Cooper and basketball hall-of-famer Moses Malone both sported Air Force 1s on the court later in their careers. Yet the sneaker was actually not a huge hit at first. Much of the "hoopla," if you will, surrounding the Air Force 1 has occurred away from the basketball arena where the shoe has become a hot fashion accessory.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Reebok Pump</strong>

<p></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><br></strong></p> <p>First introduced in 1989, the Reebok Pump was the first footgear to feature an inflatable air mechanism. Several finger presses of the basketball-shaped and colored pump at the top of the tongue ensured a snug fit for the wearer, and a release valve on the back of the shoe let the pressurized air out.</p> <p>Hall-of-famer Dominique Wilkins and other basketball luminaries Dee Brown, Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers and Byron Scott all wore The Pump in the 1990s, according to Reebok.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Nike Air Foamposite One</strong>

<p></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><br></strong></p> <p>Released for the 1996-1997 season, this seemingly science fiction-inspired shoe did away with stitching for a synthetic upper and outsole made of a foamy material. This "foamposite" – which actually began as a liquid in the manufacturing process – molded itself around a player's foot with repeated wearings and offered extreme durability.</p> <p>NBA star Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway – as well as his miniature alter-ego puppet "Lil' Penny", voiced by comedian Chris Rock in advertisements – took a shine to the shoes.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Adidas KB8</strong>

<p></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><br></strong></p> <p>Named after Los Angeles Lakers' phenom Kobe Bryant who wore a No. 8 jersey earlier in his NBA career, this late 1990s shoe took a design cue from a rather obvious source: the human foot.</p> <p>Adidas' "Feet You Wear" technology had the shoe's midsole and outsole follow the anatomical contours of the human foot for natural movement and balance. The KB8 also featured a friction-resistant inner lining that has evolved into the Adidas' Torsion System, a stabilizing midfoot insert that eases rearfoot and forefoot flexing.</p> <p>Adidas has just re-released the KB8 as the Crazy 8, and the "Feet Your Wear" tech has since come to be called Pure Motion.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Nike Shox BB4</strong>

<p></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><br></strong></p> <p>Shox technology, which took well over a decade to develop, has spawned many imitations since its introduction circa 2000 – as well as a lawsuit citing patent infringement.</p> <p>The four hollow columns under a wearer's heel offer responsive padding and can put a little spring in the step, as NBA star Vince Carter famously demonstrated with the BB4 model. At the 2000 Olympic Summer Games, Carter leapt over 7-foot, 2-inch (2.2 meter) French center Frédéric Weis for a slam dunk so intense it was later dubbed "The Dunk of Death." Check it out in the video below.</p> <p>{youtube xp6qJ7LZNlg}</p> <p></p>

<strong>Adidas_1 </strong>

<p></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><br></strong></p> <p>This 2004 shoe was the first to ever feature a built-in microprocessor to tweak the level of cushioning on the fly (a version of this "intelligent" shoe with its own optimized software came out for basketball in 2006).</p> <p>A magnetic sensor embedded in the heel fed data to the microprocessor about the shoe's compression level. A motor-driven cable system – yes, this shoe had batteries – adjusted the shoe to be softer or firmer for maximum comfort and support. Wearers pressed a button to turn the shoe "on," and the sneaker automatically shut off after ten minutes of inactivity, according to a <a href="http://www.engadget.com/2005/03/22/adidas-1-review/">review</a>.</p> <p>This Adidas_1 did not experience the success of other sneakers on this list – thanks in part to its steep price tag of $250 – but the shoe is more than likely a sign of what's to come.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Nike Hyperfuse</strong>

<p></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><br></strong></p> <p>This recently launched high-top uses an innovative fusing process that cuts down on stitching and weight: The Hyperfuse comes in at just 12.5 ounces (354 grams), a few ounces lighter than many other basketball shoes.</p> <p>The fused mesh of the shoe allows for breathability, according to Nike, and the Hyperfuse features Nike's first use of an "outrigger" – a bit of extra material flaring sideways – in the heel to support lateral movement.</p> <p>The USA men's national basketball team wore the shoes in Turkey at the 2010 International Basketball Federation World Championship, an event held every four years.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Athletic Propulsion Labs Concept 1</strong>

<p></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><br></strong></p> <p>This techy shoe has the distinction of being the only shoe banned from the NBA in the league's 64-year history for providing an "unfair competitive advantage," according to an NBA official as quoted by the shoe's maker, Los Angeles-based Athletic Propulsion Labs (APL).</p> <p>A springlike device inserted into the heel is the cause of the controversy. APL claims that biomechanical tests at university labs demonstrated that the Concept 1 shoe adds around 3.5 inches (8.9 centimeters) to a vertical jump – a huge difference when it comes to going high on jump shots or nabbing rebounds.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Reebok Zig Slash</strong>

<p></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><br></strong></p> <p>The snazzy zigzag sole of this new basketball shoe transfers energy forward from heel-strike to toe-off, propelling its wearer forward, according to Reebok.</p> <p>The Zig Slash is the signature shoe of rookie star John Wall, who was selected by the Washington Wizards as the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft.</p> <p>Reebok held a contest to come up with the colorway that Wall will wear in the All-Star Game skills challenge on Saturday night (Feb. 19). Winner Dylan Stratton's design appears above.</p> <p> </p>

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