words & images // Nick DePaula
The third chapter of Nike's "Innovations That Changed The Game" display currently showcased at the brand's DC Armory fieldhouse takes us into a new millenium that saw the emergence of mechanical cushioning systems, the soon-corrective shift to more minimal and sleekened sneakers, and of course, the much anticipated 20th anniversary of the iconic Air Jordan signature series.
Enjoy an up close and detailed look at five models that helped to define the first half of the last decade ahead.
Also check out:
2000 -- Shox BB4 [Designed by Eric Avar]
With a hugely successful "Boing" marketing campaign built around them and the unforgettable sight of Vince Carter clearing a 7'2" human for a dunk in the 2000 Olympics, Nike's new Shox technology was off to a brilliant start. Time wouldn't be as kind to the now-defunct cushioning setup, but it launched with huge fanfare just as Nike's patent on visible Air expired at the start of the millenium.
2001 -- Hyperflight [Designed by Eric Avar]
After the passing of Nike Co-Founder and former Oregon Track & FIeld coach Bill Bowerman, creator of the brand's earliest running footwear innovations, designer Eric Avar was inspired to create a "track spike for basketball" in his honor. The ultra-minimal Hyperflight was a show-stopper, dropping in literally every color of the rainbow and perhaps unknowingly ushering in a new era of all-patent sneakers that followed.
For the full story on the design of the Hyperflight, check out this feature celebrating the shoe's recent 10th anniversary.
2003 -- Air Zoom Generation [Designed by Tinker Hatfield / Eric Avar / Aaron Cooper]
After inking a $90 Million contract with Nike before ever stepping foot on the NBA hardwood, LeBron James enjoyed the luxury of having three of the company's best ever designers team up to lead his debut sneaker. Inspired by the silver Hummer H2 birthday gift that he cruised around Akron in while still a senior in high school, the AZG introduced Nike's Sphere Liner to basketball and worn by the sensational rookie as he lived up to the hype and became only the third rookie to ever average 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game. Being in the company of Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson after just a year was a decent start.
2004 -- Air Zoom Huarache 2K4 [Designed by Eric Avar]
With mechanical cushioning systems dominating the marketplace and sneakers becoming more and more overbuilt, Avar looked to bring a modern sense of style to the hardwood with the re-introduction of Tinker's original Huarache concept. The sleek and performance-first model featured all the bells and whistles of a great on-court sneaker, like Zoom Air cushioning, herringbone traction, a sizable heel counter and carbon fiber for support.
2005 -- Air Jordan XX [Designed by Tinker Hatfield]
Expectations were high for the 20th anniversary of the Air Jordan, and legendary designer Tinker Hatfield returned for one of his most daring and stylistic designs yet. Featuring a laser-etched midfoot strap that highlighted stories and accomplishments from throughout Michael Jordan's career, the concept was actually inspired by trumpet maker David Monette and the way in which he'd inscribe icons and details of a musician's life onto their instrument. The XX incorporated an ankle leash lockdown system into the collar, and also introduced Independent Podular Suspension to the game, a targeted dual-density full-length foam cushioning setup.