The Best Basketball Shoes for Centers of 2024

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The physically most physically demanding position in basketball is the center. Centers are naturally the biggest guys on the basketball court, holding down the fort on defense. The modern game also requires them to defend perimeter guys, so their work is definitely cut out for them. They are expected to be big enough to repel inside incursions but nimble enough to keep in step with the guards. With these tasks in mind, what are the best basketball shoes for centers to make their job easier?

Well, there are actually decent options out there, given the fact that most performance basketball shoes right now are made for guards. Big guys need shoes with excellent support and cushioning for impact protection, and this review will point you in the right direction.

Our Favorites for the Best Basketball Shoes for Centers

Our Favorites for the Best Basketball Shoes for Centers

As mentioned, the recommended basketball shoes for centers should reign supreme in the support and cushioning departments. Centers are often the heaviest players, and running up and down the court takes a toll on the joints, especially the knees. That’s why centers need shoes that absorb impact while allowing them to be quick on their feet at the same time.

Under Armour Embiid 1

The reigning league MVP, Joel Embiid, wears this shoe, so this must work, huh? Rarely does someone nearly 300 pounds like Embiid get his own signature shoe, but Under Armour rolled the dice. As always, it’s not doing as well in the sales department as a guard’s shoe. However, centers who want a nice mix of impact protection and court feel will surely love the Embiid 1.

Its best feature is the full-length MicroG and HOVR. MicroG is Under Armour’s proprietary foam tech that offers excellent cushioning while being low to the ground, as it is at least 30% thinner than most of its counterparts. The HOVR is often used in UA’s running shoes, but this system still feels nice and bouncy, like Nike uses React in their basketball shoes. Many argue that the HOVR is even better, primarily because of the sock-like sleeve that envelopes the cushion.

What Makes the Under Armour Embiid 1 Unique:

  • Combination of MicroG and HOVR cushioning systems
  • The TPU wing offers a lot of support and stability
  • Exceptional fit with its lacing system

As for the looks and materials, the Embiid 1 is nothing special. However, it is very breathable and makes the shoe lightweight despite being a center shoe. The Embiid 1 shouldn’t also be your primary outdoor pair, although you can use it from time to time. Overall, this is one of the best basketball shoes for centers and may also be used by other positions.

Why Choose the Under Armour Embiid 1:

  • Moderately priced
  • Excellent traction, very grippy, especially on indoor courts
  • Awesome lockdown and foot containment

Air Jordan 36 Low

Most centers love the perceived protection of high tops, but there is no evidence that they can prevent foot and ankle injuries. As reiterated before, impact protection and support are the most essential factors here. Besides, the low-tops allow modern centers to move around if they need to chase guys around the perimeter.

Speaking of low-tops, perhaps the best one since the Jordan 34 is the Air Jordan 36 Low. It is one of the best basketball shoes for jumping since its setup allows players to have an extra lift. It is also more breathable and lightweight than the regular version.

What Makes the Air Jordan 36 Low Unique:

  • Very responsive and bouncy cushioning setup with the Zoom Strobel and Zoom Air units
  • Traction provides amazing bite whether you’re playing on clean or dusty courts
  • The Leno-wave upper and Fuse combo makes it lightweight but breathable and durable.

The overall performance of the Air Jordan 36 is like the AJ 34, which says a lot. The 36 has slightly better support, traction, and materials. Big centers certainly wouldn’t mind the protruding Zoom Strobel unit, which is an issue for smaller players. Some also have problems with containment and heel slippage, but then again, that shouldn’t be a problem for most centers who have big feet. Another solution is to go down half a size for a more snug fit.

Why Choose the Air Jordan 36 Low:

Nike Cosmic Unity 1

The Cosmic Unity 1 is arguably the best iteration of the series. All three have their high points, but the CU 1 is the best basketball shoes for centers because of its tremendous support and cushion. As the experts say, the Cosmic Unity is made from recycled materials, but its performance is far from trash.

The cushioning setup is a work of wonder. It has a full-length Zoom Strobel unit, but it is still low to the ground. That combination of cushion and responsiveness is almost unheard of in the shoe game. Yet, the Cosmic Unity 1 pulled it off.

What Makes the Cosmic Unity 1 Unique:

  • The cushioning setup gives a ton of court feel for maximum stability.
  • Bouncy and still very low to the ground
  • Materials are knit and textiles, which need no break-in time

The Cosmic Unity 1’s traction has some issues, but it’s not a deal-breaker. The only thing about it is that it could be inconsistent, especially when playing dusty courts, which is the case for most pairs. For big men, the shoe’s wide base and robust midsole contain your feet well.

Why Choose the Cosmic Unity 1:

  • The shoe was released in 2021, so it’s highly likely that you can cop a pair on the cheap.
  • Snug, comfortable fit.
  • Great-looking colorways, including the Atomic Orange/Green Sapphire and the Game Royal/Copa Black Glow.

Nike Men's Cosmic Unity Amalgam DA6725-500 Shoes, Aqua/Blue/Orange, 10
  • Nike
  • Mens Shoes
  • Athletic Shoes
  • Aqua/Blue/Orange
  • Synthetic & Rubber

The Runner-Ups for Best Basketball Shoes for CentersThe Runner-Ups for Best Basketball Shoes for Centers

Again, the prominent features of the shoes in the section are the cushion setup and support. However, they are just lacking in one particular area that could be deal-breakers for some. That said, these sneakers are still solid options as the best basketball shoes for big guys

Nike LeBron Soldier 14

The Soldier 14 is really awesome for big guys who dig support and forefoot cushioning. It shouldn’t be an outdoor shoe, but it’s a nice performer after a brief break-in period. The materials have a premium feel and are breathable while providing lockdown and an almost perfect 1:1 fit.

What Makes the Nike LeBron Soldier 14 Unique:

  • Extremely grippy traction
  • The shoe looks thick but not heavy.
  • Combination of Cushlon and Zoom Air units

Here’s the deal with Soldier 14– some players find the heel cushioning a bit too stiff. That is why the pair is said to be designed for big men and centers. Lighter players definitely won’t move the needle and will probably feel heel pain afterward. It’s a recommended Nike basketball shoe for centers, but it’s not versatile enough to be used by lighter guards and forwards.

Why Choose the Nike LeBron Soldier 14:

  • Made of solid woven upper that feels nice.
  • Containment and lateral stability are on point; no heel slippage.

Adidas DON Issue #3

The DON Issue #3 looks nothing like the previous two versions. Donovan Mitchell is a guard, but Adidas is known to make beefy shoes that can accommodate all positions, including big men. The DON Issue #3 is no exception.

What Makes the DON Issue #3 Unique:

  • Excellent and consistent traction; “nutter butter” pattern
  • Full-length Lightstrike that balances lightweight cushioning and court feel
  • Outstanding support and stability

In all honesty, the DON Issue #3 is a solid shoe, but it’s not perfect. It’s also not for everyone. For instance, while many players love its support and stability, the TPU’s (Thermoplastic Polyutherane) containment capabilities supposedly caused a bit of heel slippage. The sizing is also an issue for many as they find the shoe’s to box too big. Unless you’re a wide-footer, you may be better off looking for other options. Or if you’re a “Spida” Mitchell fan, you can get away going down half a size.

Why Choose the DON Issue #3:

  • Wide-footers should love that it’s not too snug.
  • Solid outdoor option

The Value Picks for Best Basketball Shoes for CentersThe Value Picks for Best Basketball Shoes for Centers

If you’re a center mosty playing outdoors, you should always prioritize budget first. Concrete basketball courts are the most unforgiving, and it could fray the outer soles’ rubber compound just by touching it. Alright, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the point. It makes no sense spending nearly $200 on a pair of Air Jordans just to play outdoors for three months. 

That said, there are several outstanding options to choose from, starting with this unassuming bad boy from Nike.

Nike Air Max Impact 4

The Air Max Impact 4 is probably the best budget basketball shoe out there. It is generally made with basketball movements in mind and is less about position. Considering this, it can be worn by quicker centers who likes to operate in the perimeter rather than bang down low. It only has an Air Max unit in the heel and a full-length phylon midsole that feels super bouncy.

What Makes the Nike Air Max Impact 4 Unique:

  • Outdoor durability is impressive for a budget shoe budget shoe
  • Contains four lateral containment segments that ensures superior support
  • Requires almost no break-in time

The only drawback in the Air Max Impact 4 is its design. Its as basic as they come and the materials are not premium. However, less is sometimes more and this shoe epitomizes that. It works well on indoor and outdoor courts, has grippy traction, and a great 1:1 fit. 

Heavier centers could probably use a shoe with more cushion than the Impact 4 offers. Other than that, you’d be hard-pressed to not include this pair in your go-to basketball sneakers list, whatever your position is.

Why Choose the Nike Air Max Impact 4:

NIKE Air Max Impact 4 Basketball Shoes Adult DM1124-001 (Black/WH), Size 11.5
  • A Max Air unit in the heel provides cushioning where it's needed. Padding in the heel and tongue adds to the soft feel.
  • Herringbone traction on the outsole helps control your movement and hold your ground. Diamond-shaped cutouts expose the foam and help reduce weight. Toe skin adds durability.
  • The sculpted foam midsole swoops up on either side of your heel to help keep it stable. Molded rubber wings do the same in the forefoot.
  • Forefoot underlay add stability.

Peak Streetball Master

The Peak Streetball Master as the name suggests, is made for streetball. The outsole’s rubber compound holds so well in concrete courts while providing monstrous cushioning and support. Just what a big man needs! Aside from these characteristics, the Streetball Master is made of durable weave material, while costing less than your monthly Internet bill.

What Makes the Peak Streetball Master Unique:

  • Has an “energy storage system”  in the midsole, along with EVA
  • Outsole is made of wear-resistant rubber
  • Woven material in the upper that’s mostly found in more expensive pairs
  • Dozens of colorways that include hot pink and sky blue hues

Peak has knock it out of the park with the Streetball Master. Sure, it is primarily made for guards, but impact protection and support that this pair possesses allows it to be in a center’s sneaker options. The EVA midsole of the Streetball Master is the glaring flaw. It performs well but is known to disintegrate faster than other midsole materials.

Why Choose the Peak Streetball Master:

  • Most inexpensive shoe on this review
  • Perfect fit for a brand that makes shoes half a size big

Peak High Top Mens Basketball Shoes Streetball Master Breathable Non Slip Outdoor Sneakers Cushioning Workout Shoes for Fitness
  • SEAMLESS INTEGRATED WEAVING & HOT-MELT PROCESS: High-quality integrated weaving combined with hot-melt process to fully reduce the discomfort of the foot and provide comfortable wrapping and support. The outsole of the Streetball Master is thick and solid, with a deep traction pattern that will wear nicely outdoors.
  • PEAK STA STABILIZATION MODULE: A stabilization module that rolls up on the outside of the forefoot and bulges outward, providing support for the lateral movement of the foot and reducing the chance of spraining.
  • OUTDOOR RB UPGRADED WEAR-RESISTANT RUBBER: By upgrading the rubber formula, the wear resistance has been greatly improved, which can better adapt to the conditions of plastics, cement, etc. in the field, and avoid the impact of the shoes service life due to the excessive wear of the shoe.
  • EXCELLENT SPORTS EXPERIENCE: Peak basketball shoes are positioned on the basis of actual combat styles, more optimized and designed for the actual combat experience in the field. The powerful protection and wear resistance and the high cost performance can satisfy more basketball enthusiasts and bring excellent field sports experience.
  • 100% CUSTOMER SATISFACTION: We are committed to providing our customers with anti-slip basketball shoes that we can stand by. If you are not satisfied with anything then simply get in touch with our friendly, easy-to-reach support and we will make things right for you.

Adidas Pro Model 2G

Adidas resurrected an old favorite, the Pro Model 2G, and gave it a modern cushioning system, the Bounce. Although the Bounce is not as flexible as the boost, it’s more explosive, because it doesn’t disperse your weight as readily as Boost does. With that being said, the Pro model is built like a tank and could handle the extra weight of heavier basketball players.

What Makes the Pro Model 2G Unique:

  • Made of patent leather, which is essentially scratch-resistant
  • Tractions works well indoors and outdoors
  • Solid support and stability

Users complain a bit of heel slippage and the shoe needs break-in time, but these are not deal-breakers. The Pro Model 2G is released almost four years ago and is on sale on most stores. The full-length Bounce provides ample impact protection, while still offering responsiveness and court feel.

Why Choose the Pro Model 2G:

  • Highly durable
  • Comes in glossy, attractive colorways (red, blue, black, metallic gold, etc.)
  • Could handle the extra weight of heavy centers

adidas Unisex Pro Model 2G Basketball Shoe, Black/White/Black, 7 US Men
  • adidas unisex Basketball shoe
  • The adidas brand has a long history and deep-rooted Connection with sport. Everything we do is rooted in sport
  • Driven by a relentless pursuit of innovation as well as decades of accumulating sports science expertise, we cater for all, from elite professional athletes and teams to any individual who wants to make sport part of their lives

How to Choose the Best Basketball Shoes for CentersHow to Choose the Best Basketball Shoes for Centers

Finding an adequate pair of basketball shoes for a big man is more difficult than it used to be. The shoe game has become a perimeter guy’s territory, as KDs, SCs, LeBrons, Lukas, and Jayson Tatums can attest. While it’s becoming a tall task, it’s still not impossible to find the best basketball shoes for centers. Thing is, you just have to look harder.

Here are the factors that you must consider when buying shoes for centers:

How should the shoes fit?

Fit is one of those things that are decided by personal preference. Some like a snug fit, while others prefer a bit of room in the toe box. What’s important, though, is that there should be zero to minimal heel slippage and that the foot stays in the middle to prevent injuries.

Another thing to watch out for when choosing the shoe’s fit is its arch. The arch of the shoe must align with the natural arch of your foot, or it can hurt your feet in the long run. Basketball shoes with proper arch support can provide stability and reduce the risk of foot fatigue or overpronation.

What types of shoes provide the best support and stability?

The shoes that provide the best lateral support are those with outriggers, sidewalls, and supportive midsoles. These act like a cage that locks your foot down in the middle so it won’t slip from side to side. Heel counters do the same thing to the heel, preventing heel slippage.

What types of cushioning are recommended for centers? 

Most of the recommended basketball shoes for centers have a two-cushion setup. These shoes combine two foam technologies: HOVR and MicroG for Under Armour or Zoom Air and Zoom Strobel for Nikes and Air Jordans. Others may not have this setup, but a full-length cushioning system is preferable for maximum impact protection.

What type of outsole pattern is commonly recommended?

The herringbone traction pattern is a classic and is proven to do well in most court situations. If you’re a center, find a shoe with a wider traction surface area on the outsole. This can provide better stability, especially during back-to-the-basket moves and when battling for position in the paint.

What materials contribute to the durability of basketball shoes?

Leather is no longer a common basketball shoe material because it lacks ventilation and breathability. Modern performance basketball sneakers are usually made of synthetic materials such as mesh, textiles, knit, and patent leather. Other high-end shoes may include carbon fiber plates as well. 

Besides the materials of the upper, the durability of the outsole’s rubber compound is also critical. Top-quality rubber compounds are chosen for their longevity, traction, and abrasion resistance. The outsole design, particularly the pattern and thickness, further impacts how well the shoes withstand the rigors of court play.

Heavier or lighter basketball shoes for centers? 

Choosing between heavier and lighter basketball shoes for centers largely depends on their play styles. Traditional, back-to-the-basket bigs should benefit from wearing heavier shoes, while lighter, perimeter-oriented centers should opt for something lightweight.

Heavier shoes tend to offer more stability and support, especially in the ankle and midfoot areas. Centers engaged in physical play, post moves, and frequent battles in the paint may benefit from the additional stability these shoes provide.

On the other hand, lighter shoes are primarily associated with quick movements, covering more ground, and jumping. Centers who prioritize these movements may benefit from lighter footwear. Any big man with more finesse than power in his game may find lightweight shoes a great fit.

What is your budget?

Of course, if there is one factor that could break the deal, it’s money. Your budget plays a significant role in determining the basketball shoes you should buy, as it influences the range of options available to you.

Remember that expensive basketball shoes often come with advanced technologies, premium materials, and innovative designs that can enhance performance, comfort, and durability. However, most of them, such as the Air Jordans, are meant to be used indoors. Even if you have the budget, you are better off buying an outdoor shoe.

That said, if you play competitively and on a frequent basis, it is advisable to invest in a high-quality pair. On the other hand, players who engage in recreational basketball may find budget-friendly options sufficient for their needs.

What Shoes Do NBA Centers Wear?What Shoes Do NBA Centers Wear?

NBA players often wear Nike because of the sheer options available to them. Apart from the plethora of signature shoes, there are dozens of general-release sneakers to choose from. There are also high-top and low-top options for personal preference.

Generally and traditionally speaking, centers prefer the bulkier setup of high tops. However, that has changed in recent years. Many centers have been wearing low-top Kobes. For example, Sacramento Kings center Domantas Sabonis wears Kobe 6 Protros. Milwaukee Bucks big man Bobby Portis has different Kobe shoes as part of his regular game rotation.

The low-top Cosmic Unity 1 has also been worn by some NBA centers. Jonas Valanciunas wore it 57 times, while other big men like Goga Bitadze and Anthony Davis also showed up rocking it. The Cosmic Unity 1 actually debuted on AD’s feet at the tail end of 2020. 

Wrapping Things Up: The Best Basketball Shoes for Centers

Choosing a basketball shoe for centers is tricky. Traditionally, they need to have sneakers with optimal impact protection and stability. That’s a problem since most shoes nowadays are made for guards and are geared toward less cushioning and more about court feel. Still, there are several sneakers for big men available today.

What are the best basketball shoes for centers? This guide lists the Embiid 1, Air Jordan 36 Low, and Cosmic Unity 1 as the favorites. The Nike LeBron Soldier 14 and the DON Issue #3 make the cut as the runners-up for the recommended basketball shoes for centers. Last but not least, the Peak Streetball Master, Nike Air Max Impact 4, and the Adidas Pro Model 2G are among the bang-for-the-buck choices for centers.

Of course, you have to gauge your circumstances before making a purchase. As a center, you must consider the fit, support and stability, cushioning, outsole material and pattern, and your budget. You must also take into consideration the frequency and level of your play and your overall playstyle. The options for the best basketball shoes for centers listed above are a good start.

We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.

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Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

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