Fanfare: Nike Celebrates the Culture of Basketball
Date: October 19 2017
By: Anna Crews
Since George Gervin busted out a pair of Blazers back in 1973, Nike have been a clutch player in the NBA narrative. From Air Force 1s to Air Flight Huaraches and Uptempos, many of the Swoosh’s greatest triumphs have taken place on the hardwood. Considering that affinity, it came as no surprise when Nike was recently announced as official sponsor of the NBA.
So what’s in store from the newly assembled dream team? Well, it’s way more than the addition of a simple logo change to your favourite player’s jersey. Nike have rolled deep with an impressive range of updated gear that underscores the brand’s cultural connection with the sport of basketball.
Nike x NBA Air Force 1 Collection
The Air Force 1 has been part of basketball culture since 1982, when Moses Malone, Michael Cooper and Mychal Thompson (the father of Splash Brother Klay) were part of the ‘Original Six’ who introduced the model. Like these venerable old-timers, the AF-1 has retired from active duty, however it remains a ‘force’ to be reckoned with on the streets of New York and beyond.
Bringing back the AF-1 in colourways inspired by eight teams – the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers – Nike have created an understated tribute to the NBA itself. The only explicit corporate reference is on the heel, where the classic Jerry West logo has been added. Nike-emblazoned laces and beefed-up Swooshes finish off this versatile platoon of Forces.
Read more about the Nike x NBA Air Force 1 collection here.
The Riccardo Tisci x Nike ‘Victorious Minotaurs’ Collection
Former Givenchy creative director Riccardo Tisci and Nike go way back, having worked together on an Air Max 97, the Dunk Lux High and various Flyknit models. Just like Jordan and Pippen, the duo know how to deliver! Their latest collaborative venture is a towering tribute to the AF-1 High’s place in b-ball’s hall of fame.
Rather than reveal his NBA allegiance, Tisci invented an entirely new team, the ‘Victorious Minotaurs.’ At the centre of the collection is the high-top AF-1, available in black or white, with gum soles and a tri-colour ankle strap in the NBA’s official hues. The NBA logo is merged with Tisci’s initials on the toe box, a crowning shout-out to the AF-1’s origins.
Taking visual cues from both formal wear and basketball warm-up attire, the collection also includes apparel honouring the Victorious Minotaurs. There are three pieces for women, four for men and accessories like pins and hats to augment any outfit.
Read more about the Riccardo Tisci x Nike 'Victorious Minotaurs' collection here.
The Vandal Returns
While the Air Force 1 dominated the NBA, its high-top sibling stole the show elsewhere. An early attempt from Nike to reinterpret basketball style for ‘non-athletes,’ the Vandal loosely echoed the AF-1’s design but was introduced strictly as a ‘recreational’ alternative.
The original canvas editions continued the basketball theme with colourways inspired by collegiate schemes, but it was the ‘Vandal Supreme’ variants and their futuristic satin construction that made the shoe memorable. The tri-colour canvas ankle straps and glossy finish attracted the OG b-boy crowd that would define the Vandal’s legacy.
As part of the 2017 roster, Nike have included the often-overlooked Vandal in their celebrations, bringing back the iconic ‘Metallic Silver’ edition earlier this month, and reviving the ‘Doc Brown’ colourway from the Back to the Future franchise, which is set for an October 21 release.
See more Nike Vandal here.
Spearheaded by April’s Supreme colab collection, the Nike More Uptempo has become one of the retro hits of 2017. That bold branding and chunky chassis has once again struck a chord with sneakerheads of all ages, and Nike have doubled down with a slew of wild colourways that accentuate the Uptempo’s unique typographic aesthetic.
See all the Nike More Uptempo news here.
KITH links up the Swoosh
We’re used to LeBron dominating highlight reels, but James is now King of the runway too! His appearance at the KITH show, where he debuted his latest signature model, was a NYFW highlight. The LeBron 15 represents Nike’s latest basketball tech innovation, but the upcoming release of the ‘Kings Cloak’ edition – created in collaboration with KITH – merges both high-fashion and high-tech.
Digging into the archives, KITH also revamped Scottie Pippen’s on-court staples from the 90s, the Air Maestro II and the Air Pippen 1. The premium suede of the all-class Air Maestros and flamboyant pony-haired Pippens were bona fide hits.
Read more about the KITH x Nike Scottie Pippen releases here.
Special Forces Air Force 1 ‘For Baltimore’
If you’ve ever bought a pair of Uptowns, you have Baltimore to thank! The AF-1 was facing the chopping block in 1984 – only two short years after its debut – but it was the unparalleled popularity of the shoe in Baltimore that ultimately convinced Nike to back the chunky baller.
To celebrate the town’s role in saving the Uptown from extinction, Nike will drop a special version of the SF AF-1 Mid exclusively at in Baltimore retailer DTLR. Named 'For Baltimore,' the gum-soled sneaker-boot is wrapped with premium tumbled leather and ballistic nylon across the upper, with 'B'More' embroidered across the strap. Tough!
Read more about the SF Air Force 1 'For Baltimore' here.
Jordan Brand Developments
The Swoosh made a splash at New York Fashion Week recently with their new Public School New York colab. The collection centred on the newly released olive and black PSNY x Air Jordan 15 and included matching apparel and a knee-high boot for women.
Nike have also given Instagram superstar and emerging style icon Aleali May a chance to remix the Jordan 1. Paying tribute to May’s beloved Sacramento Kings, a chenille Swoosh has been added to mimic the team’s vintage jackets.
The ‘Maya Moore’ Air Jordan 10 and matching AJ1 in pink, white and grey represents Nike’s growing dedication to making their basketball range more accessible to women. The Minnesota Lynx small forward made her mark on the AJ10, with her official 'double-m' logo embroidered on the heel and a tonal elephant print spread across the midsole.
Find more Jordan Brand releases here.
NikeCourt Air Zoom Vapor AJ3 ‘atmos’
In 2014, when Nike unveiled the NikeCourt Zoom Vapor AJ3 to celebrate RF and MJ – two of the greatest athletes to ever rep the Swoosh – sneakerheads loved the Zoom Vapor 9.5’s innovative tech remixed with the Air Jordan 3’s iconic crackle print. This year, Nike decided to revive the tennis hybrid as part of the basketball program. Following July’s ‘Fire Red’ release, Nike will launch a ‘Clear Jade’ model that incorporates the atmos Air Max 1 ‘Elephant’ palette to stoke the hype fire further.
Find out more about the Air Zoom Vapor here.
The Evolution of the Nike SB Dunk
When Nike targeted skateboarding in the early 2000s, who knew the reinvention of the Dunk would trigger full-blown hype hysteria? The SB Dunk is a testament to the strength of Nike’s basketball heritage, but it also laid the foundations for the collaboration model, which, as we know now, dominates modern sneaker culture.
This year marks the Nike SB’s fifteenth anniversary. While the new SB Zoom Dunk High Elite might be even further removed from its basketball roots than the original Dunk SB, the hardwood DNA is still unmistakable. Just ask the Jordan 1!
See more Nike SB here.
Off-White takes it Off Court
Off-White and Nike recently announced their collaborative ‘Top Ten’ pack, a collection that includes a number of remixed basketball silhouettes. Virgil Abloh divided the pack into a pair of contrasting releases.
The REVEALING pack has already dropped, and featured hand-cut, reconstructed versions of the Jordan 1 and Air Presto. Set for a November release, the GHOSTING pack includes a translucent AF-1 Low and a Nike React HyperDunk 2017. Abloh used the collection to draw a connection between creatives and athletes, telling Nike that his work was inspired by the ‘inherent style and focus that exists amongst athletes and designers alike.’
Find out more about the Off-White x Nike releases here.