Who Lives? Who Dies? The End of Year Picks of Duke4005

The wait is over. The anticipation is high. The moment is here…Duke4005’s Year End Awards. This year was freaking fantastic from a performance standpoint because brands brought heat from all directions.

Honestly, my top five was extremely hard to narrow down, so I may do a top seven or eight by the time I get done. Enough ratchet jawing, let’s do this…

Top Materials – No doubt, the BrandBlack Force Vector Premium. The leather (especially the Italian vachetta leather on the tan) was exactly what I have been wanting for years, as opposed to mesh/fuse/plastic we have grown used to. Yes, Jordan did the I in the same leather, but for almost three times the price.

Vector BH4

Top Fit – This was a tough category. The Curry Two fit was almost runner-like with the Speedform ankle, but the Nike HyperRev 2015 was also dead on, and the adidas CLBoost 2015 was other worldly. In the end, though, I go…Nike Lebron Soldier 9.

For some reason, that shoe just whispers to me. I got a pair way late from release, and everyone had already reviewed, so I skipped my formal review, but the ankle/forefoot strap combo doesn’t even need laces — it just works.


Top Traction – Again, the brands really brought the gift this year in a category. We had the blades on the BrandBlack models, which worked extremely well. We got the herringbone on the Rev 15, which stuck like Chuck. We had the broken herringbone of the CLBoost, and it worked really well but wore off in no time. The Rose 6, in any other year, wins, because it just works better than most.

However, one shoe stood out, and it was by design (it’s the first thing this signature athlete said he needs in a shoe) – the Under Armour Curry Two. Speed personified.

curry 2.1 Hinkle

Top Cushion – Again, some serious problems in ranking…the rest. The Lebron XIII had HUGE Zoom units that could actually be felt and made me all weepy inside. BrandBlack and Jetlon was still a player. Jordan and the Tri-Zoom in the Super.Fly 4 got better as it got older. But one shoe was so far above, it was a race to second place. I leave this here, and no explanation is needed.

rose 6 hinkle3

Top Support/Stability – Lebron XIII and the ankle Posite. Rose 6 and the seatbelts. Reebok with the Pump system. Peak and the TP9 was a solid shoe in this category. I reviewed the Ektio Breakaway this year, but it came out last year, although it would still win. To be fair, I will keep it 2015, and the winner is…the Nike Zoom Hyperposite. As a guard, there wasn’t much about the shoe that I liked, but support and stability was second to none.


Now, on to the next

Most Fun to Play In – If you don’t know what it is like to have a shoe you just lace up and play in, shoot great, don’t get crossed, and overall every time you wear them just feel and play good, you need to play more. Here are my “fun” shoes, and I haven’t even reviewed one yet.

1. adidas CrazyLight Boost 2015 – Colorway, fit, and materials (PrimeKnit, Boost) all scream summer, but the shoe really shines indoors.

2. Under Armour Curry One low – I really liked the mid but the low just played better for me. A little more cushioning and feedback, a little better forefoot fit, same traction, all good.

3. Nike Air Max Audactiy – I haven’t reviewed them yet, and may not (team shoes gets bumped for sigs most times), but for a semi-budget shoe (it was priced at $100 which is still kind of high in real world $$$) it has some great features – an Air Max 180 heel unit, mesh/fuse upper that fits good, forefoot has only phylon but it’s comfy, and traction that digs. I never worry when I’m in them.

The Nike Air Max Audacity Is Available Now 1

Comeback Shoe of the Year – adidas Crazy Light Boost 2015 (that takes FOREVER to type). Last year’s shoe, well, sucked. Forefoot was dead (gave me shin splints), traction was okay, fit was okay, materials were okay, heel Boost was useless. What a difference a year makes. Everything is improved, top to bottom, and the CLB15 is a top shoe this year.

Retro Shoe of the Year – With Jordan seemingly bringing a retro every weekend, this is a tough category. Reebok basketball slowed down on retro releases. Fila brought some Stack/Mash/Hill retros but they were a little less than performers. I don’t even consider shoes in different colorways as a retro – had to be released in the first series/OG color.

So to that I say, Air Jordan Maroon VI. Not the best performer, then or now (although then we didn’t care), it still saw some better materials and construction. And not seen since 1991 – it had to win.

Top 5 coming in 321

5. adidas Crazy Light Boost 2015Already covered, but the shoe is a great beginning to adidas’ resurgence in performance while also standing on its own as a great performer.

clboost duke

4. Jordan Brand Melo 11An oldie but a greatie – especially the Christmas colorway. It released in early January (although I got mine late December last year), but still combines great traction, FlightPlate and unlocked Zoom, great materials, and good fit and stability. Overall, a great shoe.

Jordan Brand Melo 11 Performance Review.1

3. BrandBlack Force Vector PremiumI wanted to put the J.Crossover II in the top five just based on design and the woven upper being so good so early in the company’s life, but I honestly felt the Vector fits my game better. My foot tended to push over the edge of the midsole of the JC2 and the containment in the FV was better. Seemed like the heel was more stable on the edges as well, with same traction. For that reason, BBFV gets the nod.

Vector BH9

2. Under Armour Curry One LowSurprise. NO, not the Curry Two. For me, the One low offered better play. Cushioning was the same, fit was the same, traction was almost the same, so why the One low instead of the Two? Because it’s my list, that’s why, and I just felt better and played better in the One. Maybe because I had super-high expectations for the Two and it wasn’t a great improvement over the One, but there it is.

curry low 1

Aaaannnnnddddd (fanfare)

1. adidas Rose 6I haven’t checked but this may be the highest rated shoe I have ever tested (alongside the Jordan XX8). It took over my favorite adidas shoe ever from the SuperNatural Creator. Fit, traction, and support are all great, and cushioning is untouchably the best this year. Give me a PrimeKnit upper (it’s coming supposedly) and this is an all-time top top for me. If you are still sleeping, WAKE UP!!!!

rose 6 hinkle4

Before we finish, and you get too upset and comment, here are the shoes that JUST missed the cut – 6 through 10, in no order: Nike Lebron XIII, Nike HyperRev 2015, BrandBlack J.Crossover II, Under Armour Curry Two, and Jordan Super.Fly 4.

There it is – my top five. Not as much variance as I thought, with the bigger brands coming in on top, but don’t think the smaller guys are sleeping or going away. There are so many great shoes out there right now with EVERY logo on them – branch out, have fun, discover some hidden gems, and most importantly – PLAY BALL every chance you get.


  1. Great rotation Duke, thank you somuch but i just wonder what do you think about the Lebron Soldier 9 ????

  2. I’m in love with the Zoom Soldier 9 but I’m waiting on the obligatory price drop before I try the Rose 6. Great lists.

  3. Great pick!! Like many said i also want to try the rose pic,the price is the only thing that hinder me to get them
    Also any chance the audacity review coming??i still gonna get them(love the phatman pe)
    And while many enjoyed them,i simply cant use the soldier 9,something about their fit and my foot shape cant match well,i guess its just show how each people body type,style,and need is different heh?

  4. Great pick Duke. The Rose 6 is a beastly performer. I have way too many shoes and of all of them, the Rose 6 is up there. Adidas really did good work with these. I can’t wait for the team models that were posted here with the softer mesh upper. I’ll size down for those but I can only imagine how they’ll feel overall. Boost, when done right, is NO JOKE. I have the Away and they feel good but I bought a synthetic custom from miAdidas and they feel pretty damn big. I don’t know what’s up with the sizing but they need to get that and the upper in check. Then it’ll be close to perfect.

  5. Great list, the most intriguing ones for me are those Brandblack lux, the year got away from me though, except for a couple of retro’s I haven’t gotten around to any new-releases.

  6. The Rose 6 is Bombay but “I wish” the collar feel could be muted some, those eyelet curls I try to tuck the tounge behind – just the process of lacing these feels awkward but none the less they play awesome. And kudos on dropping Newjedctives (silent missing “A”) As geeked as I was to receive the J cross this summer they never made my rotation. The soldier 9’s I need a try for sure. At most gyms I hit the majority rock that Kyrie and the KobeX so I’m sure peeps will be like “Where’s the Beef (Kobe GOAT beef that is)

    Stay with It DK

  7. Adidas is releasing a pair of roses with primeknit for the all star game. If it is like the knit on the clb, then it should be amazing

  8. Great year, great reviews, great to read and see your videos, Duke. The Weartesters brand is strong and your experience adds a lot of credibility to what NW has built. Merry Christmas to you and the WT crew!

  9. The lillard 1’s were my personal favorite. I’m a wide footer and the fit for me was DEAD ON! It’s like adidas made a shoe just for me. Boost is still prefered but the adiprene+ was still good enough for me.

  10. Great list, man. I’ve been conflicted on whether to choose the D Rose 6 or Curry Two, and thanks to the reviews on this website, it seems like i’ll be sticking on getting the former. The Boost part just got me, haha. The latter is no slouch either, though. I’ll probably be buying the Home colourway. And definitely the purple colourway (I think that’s the Primeknit you were talking about) once it’s released.

    Again, great list! Hopefully, everyone realises that Nike and Jordans aren’t the only options for basketball shoes and that the other brands have shoes that are worth bang for your buck.

    1. Can’t really say because I don’t play much outdoors. Just from new shoes, I wouldn’t grab air bubbles or thin outsole. Something like the Prime Hype or Rose 5, lillards would work too. Curry will not – traction is too soft.

  11. How long does the Curry 2 last outdoors? I’m trying to choose between them and the D Rose 6. It really now depends on the outdoor durability.?

    1. If they have the same outsole as the curry 1, they won’t last long its soft rubber. I would probably only use them once and then go straight indoors with them.

  12. Thanks for the reviews Duke! I purchased Drose6 after asking you on Youtube and don’t regret it a bit!

    Thanks again

  13. Love your list man, Ive started copping shoes in 2015 and got all your top 5 except the #5 since everybody said they won’t last long even indoors.

    Do you think that the 2.5 dropping this year will fix that problem? I gotta admit that I wanted them badly but in my country this shoe is expensive ($180) and I’m always looking for the best bang for my buck.

  14. Nice list! I see you have the synthetic leather pair of D Rose 6 pictured. Do you prefer the synthetic upper or mesh upper? Also I just bought the Xeno D Rose 6 (still shipping), do you know the difference between the mesh on the grey pair and the Xeno pair? I can’t find any information on them. I worry about the dead space in the forefoot in the mesh versions that many have talked about, but the Xeno pair looks like it wouldn’t have that issue. Thanks for the reply and if you don’t know no worries either lol

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