Fashion Girl of Today:Corset

Corset
by Beeswonderland

The Internet Responds to Big Baller Brand’s First Shoe – the $495 ZO2 Prime

Earlier today first-round prospect Lonzo Ball unveiled his first signature shoe, the ZO2: Prime, produced by his family’s Big Baller Brand.  The shoes were immediately made available for pre-order for $ 495 for sizes 8-13.5 and $ 695 for sizes 14 and 15.

While the debut shoe, the ZO:2 Prime, looks incredibly good for a debut design, many took exception to the price.

RELATED: Lonzo Ball Unveils ZO2: Prime – First Big Baller Brand Shoes

As with anything related to the Ball family lately, the internet had some opinions to share and today you might say they held nothing back.  Below are just a few highlights from this afternoon.

Regarding the price:

Opinion from Insiders:

Then there were memes:

Then the disrespect:

Fashion Girl of Today:Yellow

Yellow
by Aphrodite

Kicks On Court // Unreleased Boost PEs Shine at adidas Uprising ATL

High school heat was at a premium in Hot ‘lanta as the adidas Uprising Tournament traveled to Georgia. Just like its pitstop in Fort Worth, our girl Cassy Athena was there with plenty of on-foot shots. Just the same, there were plenty of shoes we’d never seen before along with some familiar but still funky favorites.

Check out the pairs that stood out to us in the photos below.

adidas Crazy Explosive Low "All-Star" PE
adidas Crazy Explosive Low “All-Star” PE
adidas Crazy Explosive Low Andrew Wiggins PE
adidas Crazy Explosive Low Andrew Wiggins PE
miadidas D Lillard 2
miadidas D Lillard 2
miadidas D Lillard 1
miadidas D Lillard 1
adidas Crazy Explosive Low Navy/Red
adidas Crazy Explosive Low Navy/Red
adidas Crazy Explosive Low "Gauntlet" PE
adidas Crazy Explosive Low “Gauntlet” PE
unreleased adidas D Lillard 3
unreleased adidas D Lillard 3
adidas D Rose 7 "Nations"
adidas D Rose 7 “Nations”
adidas Crazy Explosive Low Black/Orange
adidas Crazy Explosive Low Black/Orange
adidas Crazy Explosive Low "Arthur Ashe"
adidas Crazy Explosive Low “Arthur Ashe”

Fashion Girl of Today:Perfect for Spring

Perfect for Spring
by elizabethkeene

The Word // Nice Kicks Staff Sounds Off On Lonzo Ball & Big Baller Brand Options

words // Nick DePaula:

As one of the top projected picks in this summer’s NBA Draft, UCLA’s one-and-done star point guard Lonzo Ball is generating non-stop conversation around his potential shoe deal partner.

Of course, much of that conversation can be attributed to his outspoken father LaVar, who launched the Ball Sports Group agency to represent his son, created Big Baller Media to promote highlight videos of his sons, and also founded Big Baller Brand to potentially outfit his sons in not only apparel, but potentially sneakers too. He’s appeared on countless TV and radio shows over the last two months to discuss his sons, and himself, for good measure.

No matter where you stand in your view of LaVar, his love for his family and children, and the aspirational bar he has set for his kids to attain along the way, is both undeniable and admirable.

As Lonzo is just over a month away from being a top NBA Draft pick, now the talk is being put to the test. Real marketing dollars are at stake, with real branding work to be done ahead. With all of the attention that’s come the family’s way, does Big Baller Brand have a legitimate shot at breaking through the competitive NBA footwear market, which is becoming increasingly tougher to crack into? What’s Lonzo’s potential, both on and off the court? To tackle some of the more pressing options and scenarios at hand, as LaVar navigates through their ongoing negotiations with interested brands, the Nice Kicks team sounds off below in our first edition of The Word.

What is the value and demand for a Big Baller Brand sneaker if they enter into the footwear space?

Ray P, Content Director: BBB’s value and demand for a sneaker is potentially HIGH, because the Ball brothers are exciting to watch. Truth be told, if Curry can sell Under Armour sneakers, any brand can sell with the right talent. To me, he proved your hoop shoe doesn’t need to look good at all to sell. If Lonzo Ball goes on to have a reputation as a winner in the league, he will have a flock of young athletes admiring him, from his style of play to his kicks on court. I stress the importance of winning, because without the Ws, no one will want to wear your shoe.

Ian Stonebrook, Editor: With no tech, I don’t see it selling for more than $ 90. I think there actually is demand for something new in the market, as the signature shoe space is down and it’s probably not the worst time to break in. While Lonzo has the game and the family has the social media presence, they’ve really gotta get a good designer in there. Even then, it’s tough to sell anyone on a logo that’s not a Swoosh or Stripes.

Nick DePaula, Features: The name is really, really tough. Big Baller Brand — it’s just awkward and feels like something that would’ve came out when I was in High School…in the early 2000s. Oftentimes, it’s of course the actual player that kids and young athletes want to emulate, with less regard for the brand, if it’s not Nike. In the case of AND1’s Tai Chi, the Reebok Question, and more recently, even some of the early adidas DRose models, kids would prefer to have subtle branding and logos for a breakthrough model. My fear for Big Baller Brand is that the triple Bs would be prominently featured directly on the side of the shoe. LaVar isn’t exactly known for subtle taste so far. There’s also an amazing lack of awareness between value and pricing that we’ve seen on the Big Baller Brand clothing. If they’re planning for anything priced above $ 100 — let alone $ 200, as I’ve heard some say — then there will have to be some major technical elements, performance attributes or premium materials involved. Out the gate on a first crack for a debut shoe? That’s a tough equation to nail right away, that we’ve seen some brands spend a decade to figure out.

Matt Halfhill, Nice Kicks Founder: Jim Jones was the last person to successfully sell anything with the name “Ball,” “Baller,” or in his case “Ballin.” The term has been in pop culture for years, but considering that the last successful launch using the term was in 2006, I’d hold off on launching a full line like that. Big Baller Brand is just too literal of a name and screams overt screen printed branding (which is exactly what we’ve already seen on the brand’s webstore) in a world where the vast majority of consumers want less and less names, or even logos on their gear.

A brand is supposed to be exactly that – a brand.

Branding, from the very beginning, was nothing more than a means to distinguish your product from others in the market. In the roots of branding, a ranch would brand their herd and finest pedigree of cattle to make a name for the ranch. The branding iron in the very beginning was used as a way just to distinguish who’s cattle belonged to whom, but over time the brands that were burned into the hide of these beasts made a name for the ranch that raised them.

We aren’t talking cattle here, but we are talking product. A strong brand is one that you find on a great and consistent product. Brands can also become known for their technical innovation, or a distinct and strong design language. As a new brand, BBB unfortunately will have no reputation or quality product to date, and will have a longterm uphill battle to make a name for itself – especially in a crowded and competitive market featuring billion dollar companies with decades of foothold in the business. Good luck.

How marketable do you think Lonzo Ball is in the NBA?

Ray P: Lonzo is super marketable because he’s been in the spotlight since the beginning. His fans and young athletes literally watched him grow up and know his story, whether they care or not. You do not need to make up a superhero story, because it’s already been playing out naturally via social media. I believe LaMelo, the youngest Ball brother, is exponentially more marketable, but when I saw Lonzo do the ‘So Far Gone’ Challenge, that showed me his awkward yet shy personality resonates with fans, because real people act the same way. He could literally be the Drake of the NBA. People like him because he’s just a normal guy who’s great at hooping and has his otherwise normal human traits and quirks, similar to how Drake appeals to his fans.

Ian: I think Lonzo Ball is incredibly marketable in the NBA. There hasn’t been a pass first point guard with his size or athleticism really since Jason Kidd, and he went on to have multiple signature shoes, numerous All-Star appearances and won both Gold Medals and a NBA championship. He also raps like Jason — revisit Jason Kidd’s “What the Kidd Did” on the Basketball’s Best Kept Secret album!

Nick: A lot of people have been worried that Lonzo lacks personality and flair, but I think that’s mostly because of how much he’s been in the shadow of LaVar’s oversized persona. Plus, he’s 19, so he’s just starting to figure things out and evolve when it comes to his comfort in front of media, on social media and in shaping who he is as a dude. I think he’ll break through that shell and kids will really take a liking to Lonzo over time. On the court, he’s an all-around point guard with incredible court vision that makes winning plays for his team. His shooting form is funky, but he’s still impacted winning at all times on the court in one way or another, and I can see that translating to the next level well. With an exciting style of play, a willingness to lead and take ownership of a team, and a personality that’s still developing, I think he’ll definitely have a huge marketing profile in the league.

Matt: As much as Lavar has gotten attention in sports media recently for sometimes not the best of reasons, I think that Lonzo does have some good marketable potential. On the surface, you have a very young kid with a very young face from the LA area, who went to college at UCLA and played a great season before declaring for the NBA Draft. If he lands in the LA market, or even Phoenix for that matter (lets think about teams that also have high picks), I think the great story continues for him. The biggest consumer of performance basketball shoes are middle and high school boys. A 19 year old NBA prospect with a baby face has longevity with that age bracket. See: Steph Curry.

What do you make of LaVar Ball’s insistence on a “co-branded partnership” with brands looking to sign Lonzo?

Ray P: I cannot sit here and hate on LaVar Ball for trying to shift the Basketball business culture. He’s aiming really high and if he’s looking to co-brand, I support that fully. Just because athlete deals have been working one particular way for a long time, doesn’t mean change can’t happen. One thing Papa Ball can’t do is package his other two sons in any deals until they complete at least one year of College basketball — so he can forget about that. However, for Lonzo, if they ran his social presence better, I think he would have a good case. Lonzo Ball has many many many eyes on him, more than anyone else at his level right now. What brand doesn’t want that kind of exposure and influence on the next generation? I don’t think the co-branding deal is a big issue like everyone else does. If he pulls this off, it could change Brand x Athlete deals forever, and who knows what happens after you open Pandora’s box?That’s exciting.

Ian: I think the only big brand with an American audience that would ever take that risk is adidas, and they have too much momentum to gamble on that at this juncture. It’s cool that LaVar is stirring the pot. I think our guy Darren Griffin is on the right track, when he tweeted that things will eventually move this way, but likely with someone else with more leverage and star power. I don’t see any big brand here doing it. With that said, I could definitely see AND1 doing it. They have tech, roots and relationships in LA and a background in basketball. That actually makes a ton of sense to me.

Nick: On paper, it’s completely ridiculous. No incoming rookie has ever tried it before, and for good reason. Brands aren’t willing to simply absorb or license your own clothing line that has no proven track record to date, with a following of less than a fraction of their own. On top of that, no incoming rookie has the resources or wherewithal to launch a brand on their own — the design and development expertise, production timelines and costs of the entire process are no joke. The last thing we’d want for Lonzo is to see him step on the pro court Day 1 in some Big Baller Bricks. It’s a very fine line to aspire to build your own brand, own your own likeness and market yourself as a star as you see fit — against brands with millions in development resources that have proven performance capabilities on court and in the marketing world. It’s perhaps the boldest and loftiest thing I’ve ever seen in hoops marketing. If you look through the course of history, there’s less than a handful of comparable cases. Patrick had his “Ewing” brand with Pony’s founder, Stephon had “Starbury” with the Steve & Barry’s retailer, and Mike launched “Jordan Brand” with Nike during his last season in Chicago. That was after twelve of the most iconic years the combined worlds of the NBA and global marketing had ever seen. Maybe only LeBron could’ve pulled off the co-branded concept early in his career, but in 2009 and not 2003, closer to when his initial rookie Nike shoe deal was expiring and he’d already proven himself as a generational player. Entering the draft with a co-branding demand for an endorsement deal? I don’t see it.

Matt: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. The brand has next to no sales on its own — how much would a brand put behind it instead of their own label? If LaVar wants to make a big market for his kids outside of apparel and footwear, GO FOR IT, but the apparel and footwear business is not only a crowded and largely competitive one, but also one that is in decline. If I was LaVar, I would be putting on Ball Clinics for middle school and high school kids in every High School gym across America, every summer. His background is in personal training. He’s clearly taught his own kids how to work hard, and they each have a great feel for the game as well. Millennials want Instagramable moments, not another T-shirt.

What do you think happens for Lonzo’s shoe deal?

Ray P: Lonzo will get a traditional deal from one of the three major footwear brands. Adidas would be crazy not to sign him. They’ve got nothing to lose and we’re used to seeing him in the Crazy Light and Harden Vol 1 from his time at UCLA. I believe Lonzo is worth a high number simply because he is very appealing to the youth, more so than any NBA rookie we’ve seen in a long time, in my opinion. And if the kid lands in Los Angeles with the Lakers… definitely cash him out!

Ian: I hope he does no deal and brings Kicks on Court back! If not, AND1 or a heritage company like British Knights could be really cool. I’d like to see that.


LaMelo Ball, the youngest brother

Nick: I think LaVar is hopeful and prideful enough to really try this all on their own, and have Lonzo wear the first Big Baller Brand basketball shoe for his rookie year. I also think it’s important we give them a chance — it’s of course daring, but also interesting and exciting to see someone shake up the traditional endorsement model. Hopefully they have the process in place to make sure the shoes are thoroughly tested, playable and will hold up over the course of the season. The last thing Lonzo needs to be worried about his rookie year is his sneakers, when he could be matching up with Russ one night, Steph the next, and then James a few nights later.

The downside of doing it on their own is they’ll be bypassing quite a bit of guaranteed money from an established brand — somewhere around $ 5 Million — along with the added marketing costs that go with your typical regional, and potentially national, athlete activations. Is Big Baller Brand funding all of the Ball Sports Group payroll and footwear development costs off of Lonzo’s NBA rookie contract? I’m worried about the finances of the investment here, and I’m also worried that shunning the major brands now will also hurt future opportunities for LaMelo, who just might be the most exciting player in the family. Who knows, maybe the first few Big Baller Brand sneakers rely on Lonzo as a bit of a guinea pig with some early hiccups, and by the time LaMelo potentially goes pro, BBB is hitting their stride and unveiling the next generation’s Hyperdunk.

Matt: Which shoe deal? The $ 1 Billion dollar, ten-year deal is not happening ever, on any planet, so let’s just stop that right now. Many footwear brands are at best clearing 15% after all costs on wholesale sales of performance footwear, when factoring in marketing and R&D. Do some quick math and you’ll see how impossible it would be for any brand to take this chance.

Is Lonzo a marketable person for shoes? That is a big question as well. Right now the shoe walls and product development teams at many brands are slap full. Nike has signature basketball shoes with 4 active NBA players and 1 recently retired legend in Kobe, so the chances of them adding yet another face to the marketing deck is very unlikely at this point or any time in the very near future. Adidas perhaps does have some space on their roster with signatures for Harden, Dame Lillard and DRose’s ongoing franchise, and there’s also potential for more established NBA players to slide over to the brand this fall. (Follow NDPs sneaker free agency coverage!) Under Armour could use another face with the brand, which would also give less dependency on one signature athlete and one signature shoe to carry an entire brand’s category. Considering LaVar said Lonzo is better than Stephen already — right now — that ship has probably sailed.

There’s a reason very few guys enter the NBA with a signature shoe out the gate though — only LeBron and John Wall have done it since the 2000s with a major brand — let’s wait and see how things go.

Fashion Girl of Today:A Touch of Pasadena

A Touch of Pasadena
by elizabethkeene

Beyond the Numbers // The Curry 3 & Changing Times for Basketball Sneakers

Recently in an article published by ESPN’s Darren Rovell, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank gave some very candid commentary on the lackluster sales of the Curry 3, which follow up the sensational seasons and upward wave created by Steph and his play in the Curry 1 and 2, respectively. The commentary from Plank came from Under Armour’s company earnings call, with the company reporting its first quarterly loss as a public company.

“Our success in basketball hasn’t been without its learning,” Plank expressed in the call. “As we launched the Curry 3 late last year, our expectations continued to run high. And while the 3 played very well on court for Stephen Curry and our athletes, a sluggish signature market and a warm consumer reception led to softer-than-expected results.”

While Plank is attempting to ease the anxieties of likely worried investors, what he’s saying is far from a fib. Though no longer the talk of the town as he shares the spotlight, Steph is still putting up incredibly strong numbers and his fair share of highlights. On top of that, anybody who’s hooped in the Curry 3 can attest that they play well — this writer and many of his peers included both IRL and online.

True, the Curry 3 hasn’t made waves at retail, but in reality it’s overall sales volume has been near that of the Curry 2 — they just made way more pairs. Around the way, many of the other signature basketball shoes on the market have been far quieter than years priors. How so? This season, Nike dropped the starting retail prices drastically on LeBron, KD and Kobe models, forecasting a shift that had already affected them and the rest of the market. Though critically accepted, the KD 9 would still see discounts, while the LeBron 14 would receive the least amount of marketing or push seen on a King James signature ever. Just the same, the typically tech savvy Kobe line would trim performance features and price, also getting discounted not long after launch.

What’s this mean? Not much really, as performance basketball shoes have always been made for the masses and even the most coveted colorways in retro life were once discounted in OG life form.


photo via Eastbay Blog/The Shoe Game

While MVP candidate-backed shoes like the adidas Harden Vol 1 and Air Jordan XXX1 seem to be doing reasonably well at retail, it still seems price is as big of a catalyst for success as play. Perhaps the biggest takeaway on today’s basketball market in regards to sales is that the Kyrie 2 was the only modern hoop shoe that cracked 2016’s Top 10 Best Sellers List. That was likely much in part because it retailed for less than that of Curry, Kobe, Kyrie or LeBron — though crossover appeal (no pun intended) and strong storytelling and ‘newness’ certainly helped. Kyrie was also top of mind from a moment standpoint, nailing the most memorable shot from this past spring’s NBA Finals.

While the energy Nike created with launches like the “South Beach” LeBron 8, “Grinch” Kobe 6 and countless other colorways after shifted the market to making modern basketball shoes into more lifestyle shoes, this was never quite sustainable. As we’ve seen in recent years, the colorways really have become endless.

What did shift over that same time however was consumer response to a shoe going on sale. A price drop — which was once awesome — suddenly made some shoes undesirable. That’s somewhat fair, everyone wants want they can’t have, and don’t want what they easily can have. More on the mark though when speaking to a mass market product like a basketball shoe, it’s hard to be limited cool and commercially viable at the same time. Somehow though, Nike mastered it for the better part of this for almost over decade, and Under Armour struck gold adopting this same format during sensational seasons for Steph.

As performance basketball shoes continue to become less desirable in the lifestyle market and running takes the cake, it’s clear Nike and Jordan have already started shifting their pricing policy. Plank notes that Under Amour will do the same, as the Curry 3ZER0 retails at $ 120, compared to the $ 140 mark of the Curry 3. Stephen’s latest shoe is already well outpacing the 3 in sell-thru percentages.

In addition, Plank also stated that Under Armour will be sharper regarding future shoe launches, “with respect to number of color offerings, scarcity, exclusivity and cadence of launches to drive more consistent engagement and results,” as reported by ESPN. The article also notes that “nearly 80 percent of the people who wear basketball shoes do so for fashion” and addresses the trend that lower-profile shoes are more popular, which we would translate both on court and off. You can attribute this to Kobe, you can attribute this to running models reigning in sneaker culture, or you can attribute it to joggers shifting fashion. Either way, times change and so do trends.

Like any trend though, the upcoming result could be good for a core consumer that isn’t swayed by sales — the actual hoopers. While signature shoes built for basketball have somewhat suffered due to chasing denim and gaining weight, it may be time for a new wave of performance product that’s all about play. If there’s one thing Under Armour is good at, it’s focusing on competition and caring less about crossover. If there’s one thing Nike reigns at, it’s innovation. As adidas and Jordan Brand duke it out for MVP honors this summer, here’s to hoping the Curry 4, Harden Vol 2, LeBron 15 and AJ XXX2 are all hoop and no hype.

Lead image by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images via Zimbio

Fashion Girl of Today:Pasadena Moments

Pasadena Moments
by elizabethkeene

Tinker Hatfield’s 30 Greatest Footwear Designs

intro // Nick DePaula:

Sneakers, and the entire athletic industry along with it, would be pretty boring were it not for the inventive imagination, relentless drive towards improved performance, and raw aesthetic talents of Tinker Hatfield.

Oft nicknamed “The Architect,” Tinker is more than just an artist that draws up shoes — he’s gone on to become the architect of Nike’s brand look now four decades. The mind behind the original Air Max lineup, the creator behind the entire CrossTraining category as we know it, and of course, unmistakably, the equal-parts-GOAT counterpart to Michael Jordan in creating the Air Jordan series’ most iconic models, Hatfield is undeniably the footwear industry’s most accomplished visionary.

To celebrate Tinker’s 65th birthday today, the Nice Kicks team tallied up our favorite Hatfield designs through his illustrious career. From iconic signature models that have laid the framework for a multi-billion dollar brand, to cult tennis favorites and even a few oddities in between, check out our 30 favorite Tinker-tailored kicks below, and let us know your favorites in the comments section below.

30 – Air Jordan XX8

Design can point to a new direction a company is looking towards, or simply often represent an era and a period of time through a repetitive approach. The XX8 was the perfect response to the overly synthetic and increasingly busy designs of the early 2010s, with it’s fully shrouded upper and targeted carbon fiber support wedges giving it a sleekened stance and dramatic silhouette.

At Michael’s specific request, the shoe took on a “stealth” aesthetic. First debuting in its recognizable all black edition on the feet of then-newly-signed Russell Westbrook, it would later feature everything from fully printed text uppers, to graphic patterns tying back to several of the brand’s key NCAA schools.
— Nick DePaula

29 – Nike Zoom Vapor 9 Tour

Many designers view themselves as problem solvers. Time tested and well proven in the art of war with pencil and paper, Tinker Hatfield took to modern weapons to help Roger Federer in the war against fatigue and boring style, in a sport that was getting younger and more competitive, but aesthetically less interesting.

So, what was Tinker’s new weapon of choice in a time of a new athlete and new tech? The Apple iPad. Sketching the Nike Zoom Vapor 9 Tour in realtime with real input, Federer was able to tell Tinker just what to change both stylistically and functionally. The result? A bold, bright and light tennis shoe that led the Swiss sensation to a Wimbledon W over Andy Murray. Problem solved.
— Ian Stonebrook

28 – Nike Air Tech Challenge 3

Long before Federer looked to shake things up with more flair on the court through his sneakers, Tinker helped to revolutionize the look of the sport in the early 90s through the style and brashness of Vegas-born rising star Andre Agassi. The Tech Challenge series perfectly encapsulated Agassi’s rebel approach, with highlighter bright neons, a scorchingly fast tennis ball graphic along the heel, and head-to-toe matching looks that brought the disruption full circle.
— Nick DePaula

27 – Nike Air Mowabb

Man, Tinker, can you let these other designers live? If it wasn’t enough to create categories, collab with the greatest athlete of our era and debut visible Air, the man with the pen stepped outside — literally and figuratively — and made the most memorable ACG model ever. Yup, deriving from the same sock styling as his Huarache favorites, the Nike Air Mowabb still reigns as the funkiest and most favorited silo from the always evolving All Conditions Gear series.

Performance driven in design, the lightweight hiker has seen crossover success over many a retro run, always navigating new paths. Give it up for Tinker as he appealed to both backpackers and ballers, thirteen years before Kanye released The College Dropout.
— Ian Stonebrook

26 – Jordan Trunner

A hybrid of the words training and runner — people didn’t really know what to make of the initial Jordan Trunner when it first launched in 1999 during the infancy of the Jordan Brand and its expanding range of footwear. With an aggressive v-silhouette along the collar and a full mesh sleeve tongue, most of the shoe’s lockdown came from its molded midfoot and collar support support panels.

The shoe also featured protective Max Air in the heel, along with some seriously springy Zoom Air in the forefoot, making for one of the most purely comfortable shoes you could ever throw on. Originally released in just a Bulls-esque white/black/red, along with a bright blue and black makeup, and the more refreshing alligator olive colorway, the Trunner was a classic exercise in Tinker design. There was a new take on performance design, a random and quirky colorway option, and a daring aesthetic that blurred the lines between what a trainer-slash-runner could even be.
— Nick DePaula

25 – Nike HTM2 Run Boot Low

As the ‘T’ part of the brand’s HTM collective, alongside Japanese designer Hiroshi Fujiwara and Nike CEO Mark Parker, the trio became known for their quirky collaborative takes on both original silhouettes and new looks alike. Along the way, they added a second ‘M’ — Mark Smith — and the oft-forgotten Run Boot Low perhaps best represented their shared approach to minimalism and comfort.

The neoprene sleeved slip-on sneaker featured targeted collar padding to help give you some structure, along with a perforated upper overlay, a reinforced toe and a hand-sprayed Swoosh, making for a clean and modern look atop a great kick-around sneaker.
— Nick DePaula

24 – Air Jordan XX3

As Michael Jordan entered into the depths of roundball retirement for reals — or so we thought — the newly coined Jordan Brand continued the line in a direction of hoop luxury that was as aspirational as it was technical. Models like the Air Jordan XVI, Air Jordan XVII and even Air Jordan XX1 would be more associated with an immortalized MJ who was in a category all his own: a living legend with an aura who reigned sovereignly over the game he both loved, left and came back to as a court king in velour track suits and CEO in tailored business suits. Playing to positioning and toting tech, said shoes would pack a price point to match such esteem. Sadly for sales or even intended function, the bells and whistles associated with such silos were often deemed too nice, too expensive and too hard to break in to actually ball in.

While Tinker perhaps best optimized the idea of a modern luxury basketball shoe on the Air Jordan XI, the Air Jordan XX3 still is and forever will be the grown man Jordan. Made with the craftsmanship and class that mirrored that of the greatest the game has ever seen, this tribute take will be remembered by collectors for its amazing marketing rollout, but will be immortalized for its attention to detail and design. Sleek, progressive and elevated — just like Mike’s game — this was a signature shoe in every sense, down to the John Hancock on the toe box.

With loyalty and royalty inside his DNA, the thumbprint on the underside of the tongue predated iPhone access, and truth be told a remastered retro will probably never do this shoe a true justice — save the Trophy Room collab, bravo. At the end of the day, the Air Jordan XX3 was both an event and a worthy shoe that could’ve easily capped off a storybook series just as perfectly as the Last Shot.
— Ian Stonebrook

23 – Nike Air Oscillate

Tinker Hatfield didn’t always have every athlete clamoring to wear his sneaker designs. Not only did he have to woo Pete Sampras into the Nike Air Oscillate, a shoe that he wore and dominated in for almost a decade, he actually had to trick him into it. Now, this wasn’t because the design was bad or Sampras didn’t like the shoe, he was just fine with the Nike sneakers he was currently wearing. As the legend goes, Tinker challenged Pete to a game of basketball and slyly gave him a pair of the shoes to wear in the contest. Pete instantly loved the cushioning and responsiveness, and would go on to wear the Oscillate throughout the remainder of his career, winning many more major championships along the way.

Mastery is often relegated in singularity. Not Tinker. He designed all-time great basketball, tennis, running and track and field sneakers. As evident by the models worn by both Agassi and Sampras, the models could also live on opposite ends of the spectrum too. His belief that anyone with a body is athlete allowed him to step outside of those confines and design for all sports, all people.
— Darren Griffin

22 – Nike Air Tech Challenge 2

If the Oscillate became the most recognized, and albeit, fairly tame model worn by Pete Sampras, then the radiant pink and gradient fading Air Tech Challenge 2 without question perfectly represented Andre Agassi.

With overlays and a rubberized lace eyelet along the collar serving as the foundation of support, in a way similar to the Air Jordan IV just before it, the shoe was classic Tinker. There was an athlete that captured and owned the spirit of the design, and iconic colorways and graphics that defined the sport’s era. The fact that the tooling later became the foundation for the equally iconic Air Yeezy 2? Well, that’s just a bonus of course.
— Nick DePaula

21 – Air Jordan XX

We wouldn’t go as far to say that taking risks was easy when Mike was playing, because he sure was a good guy to bet on. Patent leather on a sneaker? Dainty before, but dope if you’re winning rings. Fuzzy branding on a tongue? Juvenile excess in reality, but a pop culture success when you’re getting buckets with Bugs. So, while all Jordans were a hit when Jordan was hitting shots in them, how bold could you really go when he wasn’t making them cool by making memories on court? You needed a hit maker and you needed some guts. Yup, you needed Tinker.

And Hatfield it was. Following the very safe anniversary iteration that was the Air Jordan X, the Air Jordan XX had to be a major moment, because two decades of flight had to be better and bolder than one — even if it meant taking a risk. Still it was a risk, and probably a scary one at that. Calling in Tinker after sitting out the last four Jordans, it would be crazy to go wild on such an anticipated comeback after his last design for Mike — AJ XV — was so panned. Right?

Wrong. Going for the gusto and even throwing off the fugazis — the also-celebratory Dub Zero was originally dubbed the Decoy to bait fakers and leakers — the real deal Air Jordan XX was the brashest model made for Mike since the 11. Would the internets or first day fans love it upon first look? Nooooo. But still, Tinker and team were right and the XX was greatness.

Propelled by technical innovation like every amazing AJ, the XX featured a polarizing ankle strap that offered the wearer the feel of a low top or a high depending on how they wore it. On top of that or actually below, podular IPS cushioning was good on court and far more accessible and aesthetically interesting than that of previous models.

The real kicker though? Storytelling. Years before we were sold shoes based off athlete’s favorite sandwiches or court accomplishments that hadn’t yet happened, Tinker teamed up with Mark Smith and Spike Lee to tell the tale of the greatest hooper to ever hit the hardwood via Laser technology and an amazing ad campaign. Relying on a real past with real tech and real friends, it really wasn’t a risk at all. Trust Tinker.
— Ian Stonebrook

20 – Nike Zoom Talaria

One of the many Tinker designs blessed with the ever popular Nike “phone number” ads, the Zoom Talaria was born after the creation of Tensile Air, better known as Zoom Air, in 1995. In 1997, the Nike Zoom Talaria blended the industry’s best new cushioning technology with bottom-loaded Zoom Air and flex grooves in the forefoot, making for a plush ride unlike anything before it.

Tinker also got creative with the build, outfitting the shoe with a breathable base topped by synthetic suede overlays. This shoe, in many ways, also gave viability to the “Tennis Ball” theme, as its Neon Yellow OG colorway was rich in color with a standout look.
— Darren Griffin

19 – Nike Air Flight Huarache [with Eric Avar]

After an insight came to Tinker while water skiing, of all things, the neoprene-based foundation of Huarache was established, making way for a new fit-focused innovation in the initial running shoe that’s still been a favorite all these years later. Just after designing the runner, Hatfield worked in tandem with young designer Eric Avar on a basketball adaptation, which became none other than the Flight Huarache.

“What was cool about the basketball shoe was that the Fab 5 at the University of Michigan were given these shoes, and they all wore them. They thought they were great,” Hatfield recalls. “This shoe developed a life of its own partly because there was no basketball shoe that ever looked like that before it, and these guys all at the University of Michigan were all wearing them — it was an explosion after that.”

While much of the credit cane be given to the feet of the Fab  5 and their dominant influence of the early 90s, the shoe’s classic design featuring a white leather upper and quirky neoprene accent colors was still all Tinker.
— Nick DePaula

18 – Nike Air Safari

The Air Safari is admittedly a fairly formulaic design on the surface. A few of the lines even draft rather directly from the Air Max 1 just before it. But, running shoes at that time didn’t come in a mostly black upper. Or feature huge allotments of orange. They definitely didn’t incorporate what has become one of the more iconic Nike prints, as the Safari’s pebbled grey and black patterning has gone on to establish the shoe as a modern design classic of the 90s.

Even still, we often see new releases from Nike that feature the print, whether it’s new takes on classic running silhouettes, or even futuristic soccer cleats that give new life to their forward thinking silhouettes.
— Nick DePaula

17 – Nike Air Huarache Trainer

The cross training counterpart to the Huarache concept’s running and basketball models didn’t veer too much from the idea, as the neoprene sleeved tongue still provided conforming comfort for foot shapes of all sizes. Tinker also designed a midfoot overlay that offered more support, which worked in tandem with a midfoot strap for added lockdown. While the category was then still in its infancy, Hatfield’s Trainer Huarache design has long set the blueprint for how trainers can look.
— Nick DePaula

16 – Air Jordan 14

With inspiration drafting from none other than a Ferrari, the XIV represented Michael’s ability to careen around screens, brake in an instant, and harness so much explosive force into his attacks — much like the automobile industry’s pre-eminent sports car.

The collar logo took cues from the iconic Ferrari shield, with additional wordmark and typeface inspiration throughout. Of course worn during Michael’s final game and historic “last shot” as a Chicago Bull, the XIV perhaps offered up the most targeted and sleekened stance of any game shoe that MJ donned on court.
— Nick DePaula

15 – Nike Air Max 180

Michael Jordan didn’t always exclusively wear Jordans. There were times when he wore other Nike designs, most of which were designed by the man who turns 65 today. MJ even sometimes sat his feet in runners, as is the case with the Nike Air Max 180.

In 1992 during that historic summer in Barcelona, when not towering over competition on the court, playfully dominating on the golf course, or roaming the Olympic Village with his teammates, Jordan was seen cruising the European city in the “Concord” 180s. A break from on-court wears of the Air Jordan 7 “Olympic,” Jordan opted for the mixed material comfort of nylon and neoprene, a juxtaposition far ahead of its time and long before anyone even thought to use words like athleisure. Tinker is a futurist at heart, forecasting what we’ll want to wear for years, even decades to come.
— Darren Griffin

14 – Air Jordan 13

After designing ten signature shoes for His Airness, you’d think Hatfield would’ve exhausted all of his most personal stories and details connected to Michael. In fact, the Air Jordan XIII is perhaps the most personal of them all, leaning on MJ’s guarded nickname, used by only his closest associates — The Black Cat.

With a podular outsole that mimicked the paws of a panther, the shoe also innovated in both materials and construction, like the 3M-mesh upper, the suede-wrapped midsole and the hologram logo icon along the heel.
— Nick DePaula

13 – Air Jordan 12

Following up the instant classic Air Jordan XI was no small task, and while many expected the brand to continue on with a similar look or style, that was the last thing on Tinker Hatfield’s mind. He, of course, often talked about zigging while others zag, so the XII featured a rich full grain leather upper, with bold overlays that made for an unmistakable court block.

With Michael’s 72-10 season just before it, and another championship ring added to his legacy, the XII held back no punches, declaring “Quality Inspired By The Greatest Player Ever” along the heel tab.
— Nick DePaula

12 – Nike Air Raid

Before Battlegrounds, barbershop sold mixtapes or even EBC, streetball was born to boom commercially thanks to movies like White Men Can’t Jump and Above the Rim. While Reebok would reign in said space during the mid ’90s and the Trash Talk tees and Skip Tape from AND1 would eventually bring it back at the turn of the century, the subculture of hoops didn’t officially have its own shoe until Tinker created it in 1992.

The Nike Air Raid was made just for the asphalt. Heck, it was actually offensive to wear indoors as it’d leave a mark more permanently on the court than any elbow to the jaw or sunlit poster thanks to its rugged rubber outsole. But, that was just the foundation. Strapped like Hustling Raymond after getting got by Sidney and Billy but keeping the peace on its afrocentric follow-up, the Air Raid held down outdoor hoopers in every since. Like any king of the park, it looked tough because it actually was tough.

Still relevant today, the Nike Air Raid is appreciated on the playgrounds of US and in Paris by Pigalle. High fashion or high heat, the Air Raid reigns as THE outdoor basketball shoe even as tech evolves in the game with no ref.
— Ian Stonebrook

11 – Air Jordan 5

Is Tinker Hatfield a sneakerhead or is he the reason we are sneakerheads? We’re gonna agree with the former but lean more towards the latter.

While anyone born after Tinker linked with Nike respectfully rendered their own kick creations based off the designs and culture Hatfield created, Tinker didn’t look at something already existing in said space in an attempt to make something new in the same field. An architect by education and an athlete by choice, Tinker found inspiration in design off success in structure and speed much like Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. studied Gandhi to solve social issues in nonviolent matters. A stretch in analogy? Sure but a strength just the same.

Drawing literally and figuratively from a World War II Mustang Fighter Plane, the Air Jordan 5 would propel and equip Michael Jordan in sky high battle against the Detroit Pistons. The shark tooth midsole was a nod to the muse, but that was merely the launching pad for the innovation and iconography that would take place. Branding genius like a 3M tongue would literally illuminate the Jumpman logo as Getty Image photographers snapped the GOAT, while the introduction of an ice blue bottom would have traction in both a technical and aesthetic sense.
— Ian Stonebrook

10 – Air Jordan 6

I remember seeing Creed in theaters back in 2015. The spinoff of the Rocky series follows Adonis Creed who was the son of Apollo Creed, Rocky rival turned training partner and ultimately best friend. Michael B. Jordan, the films’ leading man, wore the Air Jordan 6 “Black/Infrared” in multiple scenes throughout the picture. During one in particular, he’s training in the streets of South Philadelphia while native son Meek Mill scores the movie during this pivotal point of Jordan’s character development. The camera cuts to wide lens angles to include Jordan’s shoes in all their glory, while also ensuring his head-to-toe Jordan Brand sweatsuit equally in full view.

In that moment the film was anchored in historical context. The music, the wheelied bikes, and of course, the Air Jordan 6. The shoe had done the same in decades prior in White Men Can’t Jump, as a youthful Kadeem Hardison donned that very same shoe with MJ’s Chicago Bulls jersey in tow. Tinker Hatfield was not just influencing sneaker culture at this point; he was driving global culture. Films, commercials, advertisement, all hinged upon the designs of one man. That’s ultimately what set Tinker apart. He wasn’t just designing sneakers, he was diagramming popular culture.
— Darren Griffin

9 – Nike Air Trainer SC

After creating a category with the Nike Air Trainer 1, Tinker Hatfield had the tall order of producing a sequel that once again appealed to an audience of athletes that ranged all ages and all abilities.

Tough crowd, huh? Casting Bo Jackson as the star, the Nike Air Trainer SC was a shoe designed for the demands of the world’s greatest and most versatile athlete, thus making it good enough for everybody beneath his abilities — yup, everyone.

Scored by sail cloth that would go onto inspire Flywire technology two decades later, the shoe would not only carry on the success of the category, it would help the Auburn athlete that endorsed it become a blossoming star in a sport brand that was more and more about signature stories and charisma campaigns.

Since its time, no physical specimen has been able to fill Bo’s shoes as the OG ad alludes to. Just the same, no designer has proved as versatile as Tinker.
— Ian Stonebrook

8 – Nike Air Max 90

Originally dubbed the Nike Air Max III, Tinker Hatfield had one of his biggest non-Jordan commercial successes with the Air Max 90. Multiple retro releases of the shoe have followed since its inception more than 25 years ago, and its OG “Infrared” colorway has become synonymous with sneaker culture. The build was slightly higher than the Air Max 1, and the Air Unit was a bit more exaggerated.

A chameleon of sorts, no matter the material, fabric or re-imagined frame, the 90 has been able to adapt and live in different spaces, different eras, and remain special to the audience that saw its birth along with the population that inherited it. Truly the mark of a transcendent shoe.
— Darren Griffin

7 – Nike Air Huarache

If you think “sneaker inspired by a water ski boot,” it’s understandable you’d envision something potentially hideous and overbuilt. Luckily, one of Tinker’s greatest traits is taking a bigger inspiration or design cue, and tailoring that into a beautiful looking product. The Huarache is yet another example, with the inspiration mostly guiding him towards fit solutions.

“The neoprene bootie in a water ski fits a bunch of different people, so I’m thinking, ‘That’s kind of cool,’” he recalls. “I started sketching up booties and then realized that it needed, for support, some sort of exoskeleton, because I thought it would be cool to be seen. So the whole exoskeletal approach to the shoe design sort of came out of this sort of desire to want to develop this Dynamic Fit shoe.”

The Huarache, named in part thanks to some inspiration from co-worker Sandy Bodecker, is in the midst of yet another resurgence in popularity, and is one of today’s best sellers of the current era.
— Nick DePaula

6 – Air Jordan 4

With its triangular and rubberized support wing, wrapping midsole and a unique mesh-wrapped tongue and quarter panel, as is often the case with a great Tinker design, the Air Jordan IV featured a striking look without any reliance on branding. The shoe stood out on court then, and still stands out off of it all these years later. Namely, in both its white and black based takes with “cement grey” accenting.
— Nick DePaula

5 – Nike Air Trainer 1

All throughout Tinker’s career, he utilized his ability as a former multi-sport star athlete to also inform the performance traits he was looking to incorporate into his footwear designs. Along the way, he just so happened to create an entirely new category for the industry, based on his insight that there’s a new for an all-purpose type of shoe.

“I was trying to stay in shape, and I was still playing basketball, so I’d go to the YMCA, and they had a couple of really nice basketball courts there,” Tinker recounted to me. “You could also jump into a racquet game, and aerobics was really starting to pick up, and they had a really nice weight facility, too. So with me working for Nike, I would always go over there with three or four pairs of shoes and not really knowing what I was going to do. I’d actually have three pairs of shoes in my bag.”

After awhile, as you can imagine, Tinker realized that not only was it not all that practical to have to haul and switch sneakers for each activity, but that also wasn’t realistic for the rest of the club members that didn’t happen to work at Nike with countless shoes at their disposal.

“I was not gonna go for a 5-mile run in a pair of basketball shoes, but people were doing just that,” he continues. “My observation was that most people would show up there with one pair of shoes, whether they were running shoes or basketball shoes or tennis shoes, and try and do multiple things with one shoe. I’m going, ‘Well geez, now I see a path to a project.’”

And thus, the Air Trainer 1, a shoe that could work well enough for just about everything, was born, and the entire Cross Training category as we know it, too.
— Nick DePaula

4 – Nike MAG

Sneakers can often take on an even grander profile thanks to the iconic athletes that wear them on the pro hardwood, fields or courts. In the case of the Nike MAG, the platform and audience that the Back To The Future franchise provided was beyond anyone’s expectations.

For Tinker, designing a fictional shoe (along with the entire scene storyboard) for a movie set in the future was an all new experience, and perhaps the greatest display of his other worldly design talents.

“This was an opportunity to think about the future, which is a great exercise to go through when you’re designing any shoe, really, because it will be in the future anyway,” Hatfield told me years ago. “I thought about the year 2015, and I had a strong opinion that shoes might be somewhat intelligent and able to turn on and become alive in the future. I just naturally designed that into what ended up being this shoe.”

That matter-of-fact explanation of the design process is of course an understatement, as the “Power Laces” and way in which the shoe illuminated went on to be defining traits of a shoe designed some thirty years ago. Ever since, its created mass hysteria among sneaker collectors, movie memorabilia collectors and the general public alike whenever there’s even a hint towards a re-release.
— Nick DePaula

3 – Nike Air Max 1

Tinker Hatfield’s first connection to Nike came while in college when he ran track for Oregon track coach and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman. Tinker studied at the University of Oregon earning a degree in Architecture from the University of Oregon School of Architecture.

Tinker joined Nike in 1981 when he began work designing Nike’s Beaverton Campus and World Headquarters. By 1985 Tinker started designing footwear where he took inspiration from buildings.

Inspired by the Pompidou Centre in Paris, Tinker wanted to put the technology from the inside of the shoe on display for all to see.  Nike had Air cushioning since 1979, but it wasn’t until 1987 with the Nike Air Max 1 that it was on display for all to see.

Tinker would continue to design several other legendary and iconic shoes in the Air Max series, but the ground that was broken with the Nike Air Max 1 is one that is felt in every category of Nike products and still today.
— Matt Halfhill

2 – Air Jordan 11

There are some shoes that seriously need no introduction, and if there was any Air Jordan that fit this label, it would be the Air Jordan 11.

While the shoe will forever be cemented into NBA history on the feet of Michael Jordan during the historic 72-10 season, in addition to some of MJ’s most memorable career moments, this shoe that was designed by Tinker Hatfield was his very best with or without Michael ever playing in them.

The design of the Air Jordan 11 was unlike anything we had ever seen in a basketball shoe from top to bottom. The lacing structure was again unlike anything ever done in sneakers down to even the actual laces. While not the first shoe to use patent leather, the way it wrapped around the mudguard of the shoe was completely original design.  The midsole was a new material that was softer than prior models but with a greater energy return.

The full length Nike Air was one of the smoothest and most comfortable rides ever engineered. For stability, the shoe featured a carbon fiber plate. Lastly, the outsole featured a signatory clear rubber, but with traction pads with the herringbone pattern.

While many Air Jordans have crossed over from the feet of MJ and the sport of basketball to the streets and pop culture, none did it quite like the Air Jordan 11s. There is a reason that like MJ, Jordan Brand saves the best for last and finishes out the 4th quarter on top with a Jordan 11 release.
— Matt Halfhill

1 – Air Jordan 3

What makes a shoe a classic? Is it the design, the technology, the impact it has on culture, or what was accomplished in those shoes? Mark all of the above and then some for the Air Jordan III.

Three years and two Air Jordans into his contract, Michael Jordan wasn’t exactly happy. There were talks of him leaving the Swoosh to join Team Adidas and even a failed attempt by Peter Moore, designer of the Air Jordan 1-turned-adidas-exec, to pull him away from Nike as well. It was at this time that Nike called in the difference maker, the game changer, the legendary designer, Tinker Hatfield.

Tinker took a different approach to design. One of his first landmark designs was an all-purpose trainer. Literally a shoe that fit into no category except for all of the above, and in fact created a new space on shoe walls around the world called cross-training.

New approaches to design came in many ways to the Air Jordan III. It started with the first ever mid-cut basketball shoe. No longer did Nike need to produce a high and low top shoe for the Air Jordan franchise – there was just one. Another distinguishing look about the Air Jordan III was Tinker’s call out to the Air cushioning in the Air Jordan with an exposed heel unit.

One of the most unique design elements to the Air Jordan III came in the form of the elephant print accents that have been borrowed by a number of Nike and Jordan products over time, not to mention other brands. Lastly, the Air Jordan III introduced to the world the Jumpman logo on the tongue for the entire world to see.

Nike was not a rookie in the marketing world, but when they called Wieden + Kennedy for the Jordan III, the stars aligned. You had a high flying athlete, a wonderful product, and the cultural connection with Spike Lee as Mars Blackmon. Even Spike would have a hard time scripting a better recipe for success.

The Air Jordan III was an amazing product with many unique characteristics, but the life and legacy of the shoe extends far beyond just the leather and rubber that construct it. If you look back through the years of Michael Jordan’s playing career, the 1987-88 season was arguably the greatest season for Mike where he didn’t win a ring. In that one season, MJ accomplished what some Hall of Famers need an entire career to do.

Though he was not able to lead the Bulls to a championship in the Air Jordan III, Mike was honored with plenty of hardware. As an All Star, MJ took home not only the Slam Dunk title, but also All Star Game MVP honors. Mike dominated the offensive side of the ball leading the league with 35 points per game, but backed that up defensively by leading the league in steals with 3.2 per game. As the Scoring Champ, Steals Champ, Slam Dunk Champ and All Star MVP, it was not a hard choice by the league to honor Michael Jordan as the league’s Most Valuable Player for the first time in his career that season.

Design innovation, pop culture connection, and history derive from the Air Jordan III. That is why they are one of the greatest sneakers ever made.

Three. The magic number.

— Matt Halfhill

 

On behalf of the entire Nice Kicks team — happy 65th Tinker!!

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