Can You Play Basketball in Air Force 1?

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The Air Force 1 is one of Nike’s most iconic and popular shoe models. In fact, the Swoosh still releases Air Force 1s over three decades since it debuted. While the AF1 is now mainly used as a lifestyle shoe, can it be used for other purposes, such as balling? Can you play basketball in Air Force 1, and most importantly, is it a good idea? This article answers that question and more.

Are Nike Air Force 1 Basketball ShoesAre Nike Air Force 1 Basketball Shoes?

Yes, the Air Force 1 is supposed to be a pair of basketball shoes. It is one of the earliest Nike basketball shoes, created in 1982 by Bruce Kilgore. It was the first shoe to make player and team editions back in the day.

The name “Air Force 1” was derived from the presidential aircraft, signifying prestige and excellence. The AF1 is the first of its kind to feature Nike’s new technology at the time, which is the Air Sole unit that enhances impact protection.

Right now, though, the shoe’s technology and design have become obsolete. Sure, it has transcended its purpose and remained relevant after all these years, but it is probably best as a casual shoe rather than a modern-day basketball sneaker.

Should You Use Air Force 1 for Playing BasketballShould You Use Air Force 1 for Playing Basketball?

If you’re walking in the park, have no plans to play basketball, but suddenly get the itch to hoop, then you’re OK. The AF1 actually has decent ankle protection and traction, plus it’s surprisingly lightweight (but still heavier than newer basketball models).

However, be reminded that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of high-performance basketball sneakers for that purpose. Besides the older Air Max technology, Nike basketball shoes have Zoom Air, React, and a combination of these featured in the sneakers.

But while its days as a basketball shoe are long gone, it has become a staple of casual street fashion. The triple white colorway has become a mainstay for men and women, and others who are into collecting hunt down the rarer colorways. They can be donned by any individual who wishes to experience these shoes’ comfort and style.

Why has the Air Force 1 become famous for street and urban fashion? Well, the shoe’s simple yet classic design helps. The pair’s durability is top-notch, especially its thick outsole and midsole that truly withstand the wear and tear of everyday use. 

Are Air Force Ones comfortable? Yes, but it’s better used in a casual setting than anything.

Pros and Cons of Playing Basketball in Air Force 1Pros and Cons of Playing Basketball in Air Force 1

So, here’s the deal. Just because the Air Force 1 isn’t designed for modern basketball doesn’t mean you can’t play hoops in them. And just because you can play in them, doesn’t mean you have to all the time. There are surely folks out there, probably older ones, who still play basketball in AF1s, but here’s why you should and should not follow what they’re doing.


  • Simple yet elegant design
  • Has a wide base for increased stability
  • Excellent traction without sacrificing agility
  • Air sole unit adds a touch of cushion
  • Some of the base models are not expensive.


  • The rigid upper leather may hurt the feet of wide-footers over time.
  • Creases should be very pronounced after a basketball game
  • Takes a while to break in because of the upper’s rigidity
  • It can be heavy, especially for youngsters.

While wearing AF1 shoes in basketball could offer certain advantages such as style, comfort, and versatility, players should consider their individual needs, playing style, and the specific demands of the game before making a decision. If the game is not serious enough, you can use Air Force 1s. Still, if you need to expend yourselves vigorously, the suggestion is to rock with a newer model that ensures safety and optimal performance.

So, are Air Force Ones good for basketball? It actually is, relative to its year of release, but it has fallen behind as new shoe technologies are implemented.

What NBA Players Wore Air Force 1What NBA Players Wore Air Force 1?

Since the AF1s were an 80s shoe, the first NBA players who wore them were the stars of the decade. However, they are still rarely used by certain players from the 90s and early 2000s. These are the NBA players who donned Air Force 1s:

1. Moses Malone

Moses Malone was one of the first six who wore AF1 in the NBA and undoubtedly the biggest star of them all. The three-time MVP wore the sleek white AF1 with a red check to match the Philadelphia 76ers colors. Nike released a Moses Malone Air Force 1 colorway in 2018 called “Fo’, Fo,’ Fo,” inspired by Malone’s prediction in the 1983 playoffs.

2. Mychal Thompson

Thompson, a member of several Lakers championship teams, wore the AF1 in his heyday. In 2007, Nike released a low-cut AF1 colorway in his honor. Since Thompson was originally from the Bahamas, it features a hemp upper and other details tied to his roots. If you didn’t know, Mychal was Klay Thompson’s dad.

3. Jamaal Wilkes

Wilkes was an early teammate of Magic Johnson on several championship teams. The Hall-of-Famer wore the AF1 during his athletic peak and, like Thompson, also has an AF1 colorway inspired by him. The AF1 “Jamaal Wilkes” has a suede purple upper with a gold swoosh and outsole. Hey, Wilkes was a Laker, so what do you expect?

4. Michael Cooper

The third straight Laker on this list, Cooper was the defensive specialist of the “Showtime” era. Coop also has a gorgeous AF1 colorway named after him. It was predominantly white with Baroque Brown and Metallic Gold parts in the back.

5. Rasheed Wallace

Rasheed Wallace was probably the most recognizable star who wore Air Force 1s in the modern NBA. He had a fleet of these models and almost wore them every game. He wore several Player Edition AF1s, such as the Black and White Leather PE, the Black and White Patent Leather, the Varsity Red Patent Leather, and other fancy colorways.

6. Bobby Jones

Jones may be an unknown for today’s basketball fans, but he was once one of the most athletic power forwards in his heyday. The 6-foot-9 highflyer served as a backup power forward during the Sixers’ championship run in 1983. Nike also released a “Bobby Jones” colorway of the AF1, featuring the white, blue, and red Sixer colors.

7. Calvin Natt

Natt was a lesser-known one-time All-Star in the 1980s who played for several teams. He made his lone All-Star team in 1985 while playing for the Denver Nuggets. The Calvin Natt  AF1 colorway is a combination of brown and white-army olive.

Outside of these players who wore Air Force 1 during games, others wore it for off-court activities. For example, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jayson Tatum, and Devin Booker were seen wearing exclusive colorways of the Air Force 1s as part of their casual wardrobe.

Wrapping Things Up: Can You Play Basketball in Air Force 1?

The Air Force 1 is Nike’s all-time best-selling shoe, bar none. Even decades since its first release in 1982, it has been topping every annual best-selling sneaker list. A few models can top that distinction or be considered in the conversation. The AF1 has crept into the mainstream and stayed there, thanks to its timeless and minimalist design.

So, for hoopers out there, can you play basketball in Air Force 1? Yes, you can! Believe it or not, it was originally meant to be a basketball shoe and the first implementation of Nike’s Air Sole technology. Nike even got six players to model the shoe during its release! Of course, there are better performance basketball sneakers today, so unless you’re just shooting and practicing light, it is recommended to only include the AF1 for your casual wardrobe.

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

Hoops Addict
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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