BLAZER – 1970S
The original 1972 Blazer featured a fatbelly Swoosh design on what was otherwise a sleek shoe, simple leather or suede uppers sitting on a white vulcanized bottom. It was worn by many professionals, but defined by, the silky-smooth scoring machine from San Antonio that wore it. The Blazer preceded Air, but he was so light afoot he didn’t even need it. Sometimes simple is better. Sometimes less is more than enough.
AIR FORCE 1 – 1980S
Calling the Air Force 1 the first modern basketball shoe wouldn’t be wrong. The first Nike basketball shoe to feature Air, 1982’s Air Force 1 also introduced a downward-slanting front-to-back cut inspired by hiking boots, a removable strap for ankle support and, in the first models, a mesh panel behind the Swoosh design for ventilation. It was a big shoe that played big, like the low post innovators that wore it.
AIR FOAMPOSITE PRO – 1990S
The Foamposite One originally released in 1997 and, 20 years later, still looks like something from the future. Up until then, basketball sneaker production hadn’t changed much—stitched-together leather and synthetic uppers were stitched and glued to separate midsole units. The Foamposite One was liquid poured into a mold, producing a one-piece foam upper that conformed to the wearer’s foot like nothing else. A carbon fiber plate provided spring, Zoom Air provided bounce. And Penny Hardaway, he gave the futuristic royal blue shoe context, dropping dimes and throwing down poster dunks in them. Talk about ahead of its time.
ZOOM GENERATION – 2000S
Nike had a lot riding on LeBron James’s first signature shoe in 2003, what with Michael Jordan retired for good and Kobe Bryant not yet in a signature model. So all the heavy hitters were brought in to work on what would become the Zoom Generation, including legendary designer Tinker Hatfield. The aesthetic inspiration for the Zoom Generation hinted at the infamous Hummer that LeBron drove in high school, a bulked-up shoe befitting an already bulked-up player. The final product — traditional leather or nubuck upper with a carbon fiber plate and lots of shiny bits — in no way fell short of expectations. Neither did LeBron.
FLIGHT BONAFIDE – 2010S
The Nike Zoom Flight 95 — or just the Nike Zoom Flight, as it was called back then. Those huge orbs on the side were like eyes wide open, seeing the entire court, but also like the big-and-little wheels of a dragster, prepared to go from a standstill to flat-out in no time at all. The car theme carried over in the sleek shape of the shoe, all the way to the spoiler-like pulltab on the heel.
Celebrating the legacy of the Zoom 95 tooling — and its unmistakable “bug eyes” — the Nike Zoom Bonafide unites old and new by incorporating a clean, sophisticated Flyknit upper. A rear zipper allows ease of entry. The overall aesthetic brings the boldness of the ‘90s firmly into the future. While the Zoom Flight 95 was a fast shoe for a fast player, the Bonafide’s suited to the street than the court. But the soul and sole of the original still lives.
The Nike 5 Decades of Basketball Pack is available at Kith Manhattan from February 10 and selected Global retailers from February 18.