The All-Time Greatest Penny Hardaway Nike Sneakers
Repping a wide variety of signature and non-signature Nike basketball models on the court, Anfernee Deon 'Penny' Hardaway and his Lil’ Penny sidekick racked up an impressive amount of sneaker highlights in the 1990s. A couple of decades later, a new generation of models brought some social currency to the Penny line. Rather than compile the colourways and limited editions that have released so far, this is a celebration of the silhouettes that still have sneakerheads coughing up their change to cop.
Air Jordan 9 Penny Hardaway PE (1994)Air Jordan 9 Penny Hardaway PE (1994)
As recently featured in ‘The All-Time Greatest Air Jordan PEs’, Hardaway actually had an Air Jordan 9 Player Exclusive before he played in his own signatures. Dressed in shades of charcoal grey with Magic-appropriate blue accents, the pair was finished with 1 embroidered into the heels instead of MJ’s 23. Speaking of whom, did His Airness ever face his own shoe on court? Of course not – he was busy playing baseball.
Nike Air Go LWP (1995)Nike Air Go LWP (1995)
Nike’s LWP (Lightweight Performance) line was instrumental to introducing Zoom Air technology (though the term Tensile Air was still being thrown around beforehand). Hardaway was the perfect player to showcase its basketball applications via the Air Go LWP model, which was also closely associated with the other Hardaway, Tim (no relation). The shoe rereleased in late 2010 and is super rare now: it’s just about impossible finding a pair on the secondary market.
Nike Air Flight One (1995)Nike Air Flight One (1995)
Hardaway spent some time in the Nike Air Flight One up until the release of his inaugural signature sneaker, the Air Max Penny 1. The model is still fairly underrated, having quietly retroed in 2012 – even appearing as part of the notorious ‘Galaxy’ pack – and not having been seen again since. Perhaps more famously, Michael Jordan had to wear blacked-out Air Flight Ones in the 1995 Playoffs due to a uniform discrepancy with his Air Jordan 11 ‘Concord’.
Nike Air Max Penny 1 (1995)Nike Air Max Penny 1 (1995)
There’s an entire cheat sheet on the Air Penny 1 here, so let’s look at it in its more recent context. As a solid part of Nike’s retro basketball series, the model has returned regularly throughout the 2000s and 2010s in OG guises and new colourways (2005’s ‘Knicks’ edition is super fresh). And it’s about to enter the fray again, in both a hotly anticipated return of its OG ‘Magic’ edition, plus a likely reboot thanks to an upcoming collaboration with Social Status, who are also reworking the Air Penny 2.
Nike Air Foamposite One (1997)Nike Air Foamposite One (1997)
No retrospective of Penny Hardaway sneakers is complete without mentioning the Air Foamposite One. A radical departure from the stylings of his previous eponymous signatures, Hardaway’s 1997 model was one of the defining basketball shoes of the era. Funnily enough, this model also caused Hardaway some uniform clashes of his own, whereby he resorted to shading in the ribbing on the blue upper black to meet regulation – a moment honoured by Nike years later with a special release.
Nike Air 1/2 Cent (2009)Nike Air 1/2 Cent (2009)
Nike sure loved making hybrid models in the 2000s, and to their credit, the Air 1/2 Cent is one of their best efforts. Combining elements from Penny 1 to 5 encased in Foamposite as a Lil’ Penny signature of sorts, this Nike Sportswear sneaker released in classic colourways including ‘Royal’, ‘Cranberry’ and ‘Green Spark’, which found fans in DMV natives such as Wale. Despite its ‘you had to be there’ status, pairs on the secondary market still ask at least three times the $190 RRP.
Nike Zoom Rookie (2011)Nike Zoom Rookie (2011)
Again on the hybrid tip, former Nike designer Marc Dolce went into the vault and dug out the aforementioned Air Go LWP and Air Flight One models, combining them to create the Zoom Rookie. This best-of-both-worlds shoe also featured Foamposite uppers (it had to, really) and Zoom Air cushioning. Anecdotally, their actual performance was lacking in some departments, but there were plenty of hot colourways, which included the ‘Glow In The Dark’ and the ‘Galaxy’.
Want more 90s basketball content? Learn more about the Nike Air Max CB 94 here.