words & images // Nick DePaula

We all remember last February's frenzy over Nike's Galaxy Pack during All-Star Weekend. It was such a crazy release, that in most cities, the shoes slated for a midnight launch on Thursday night of that week didn't even release. By the time I made it over to the Florida Mall that night in Orlando, host to the NBA's All-Star game, there was a scene of thousands, police cars everywhere, helicopters circling above and even crowd control officers atop horses.

It put any launch scene I've ever witnessed or heard about to shame. You know its national news for real when my grandma is even calling me about it. The next morning, when I returned to the mall to check out the scene, I was greeted by an ominous digital sign overlooking the parking lot that simply read, “All Sneaker Releases Cancelled All Weekend.”

Galaxy took over the entire spring and became a phenomenon larger than anyone expected, but do you remember when you saw the theme's first appearance?

That would've been on the feet of Nike Sportswear Category Footwear Leader Gentry Humphrey, on stage at our Nike x Sole Collector Las Vegas event to launch the new Zoom Rookie LWP this past October 29th, 2011.

The version that Humphrey wore that night was actually an early round trial sample and would go on to change quite a bit by the time the eventual Galaxy Foamposite One tried to be released in February, but the first look at the event was impactful enough.

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Already in development for the entire year, the concept came about after the creative minds in the Nike Basketball group met with the Nike Sportswear team to discuss a direction and approach for the upcoming Orlando All-Star Weekend. One thing was for sure, they weren't going to slap together some beach-inspired backstory, with the coast a good two hours away. This theme was rooted in storytelling and rich with detail.

“We all met with [Graphic Designer] Erick Goto and [Color Designer] Eugene Rogers from the Performance Basketball team and discussed a direction around space, space travel and an astronaut theme, and what that might entail from a color perspective,” explains Morgan Barnes, NSW Color Designer.

“It was a great concept that the Nike Basketball team came up with,” says Marc Dolce, NSW Design Director. “With the game being close to Cape Canaveral, NASA and space missions have always been about utilizing the best technology in the world. There’s a cool story there that ties into the products we create that also include the best technology in the world.”

Once the team had that direction to work with, they began to look at new ways to tell the story, leading Barnes down the path of applying graphics for the very first time atop Penny Hardaway's most iconic sneaker. “We identified the Foamposite as the model, and then they let me go from there,” Barnes recalls. “The first thing I said was, 'Well, have we printed on it?' We had been doing some preliminary trials on printing around that time, and I knew from a development standpoint that it was tricky, but not impossible. I worked with developer George Chiou and we just started sending out pattern trials with different methods of printing to see which one looked best to make sure it would come out the way that we wanted.”

One of those first trial samples was the pair that Humphrey would eventually rock for the Las Vegas launch event of Penny's newest sneaker. After kicking things off for the Zoom Rookie LWP with our Orlando-themed launch colorway and 5-model “Penny Signature Pack,” we quickly started brainstorming with the NSW group on what our next project could be.

They could sense the excitement that the Galaxy theme was already bracing for, and we decided early on just after the event that we wanted to turn our attention towards a project later down the road that'd carry over the theme onto the Zoom Rookie to bring the story full circle. While Gentry got the sample love the first time around with the Foamposite, it only made sense to create the first Galaxy Zoom Rookie sample in a size 14 for Penny himself.

Created last February just as All-Star Weekend's hysteria over the pack was at its peak, the first Galaxy Zoom Rookie sample was teased by Penny as he was putting up shots on his backyard court, and featured sharp accents of pink and purple and no additional badging or custom touches. Which would quickly change.

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After working through the pattern more from there, we honed in and brought more blues into the mix, giving the shoe a much brighter feel than the Foamposite's more dramatic and dark hues. It's a graphic closer to the sample first worn by Humphrey, with a more radiant appearance. While the Foamposite body was surely the hero of that model, we also had a bit more room to play with here, as the molded pods along both the lateral and medial sides allowed for some nice real estate to dial things up.

While a version of the Galaxy Zoom Rookie featuring black pods is headed to limited accounts on October 6th, our more exclusive version actually includes vibrant pods that, like the outsole, glow in the dark.

You'll also notice a subtle way of co-branding the shoe along the tongue's tabs. The Galaxy theme's NASA-inspired badging certainly holds down the focus, but simply remove each tongue tab to reveal Penny's iconic “1 Cent” logo along the right shoe, and our “S” swatch atop the left shoe.