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.
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.
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.
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.
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 3…2…1…
5. adidas Crazy Light Boost 2015 – Already covered, but the shoe is a great beginning to adidas’ resurgence in performance while also standing on its own as a great performer.
4. Jordan Brand Melo 11 – An 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.
3. BrandBlack Force Vector Premium – I 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.
2. Under Armour Curry One Low – Surprise. 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.
1. adidas Rose 6 – I 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!!!!
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.