words // Zack Schlemmer
The year was 1993 and Michigan's "Fab Five" of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson and Jimmy King was taking the world of college basketball by storm. Their unprecedented athleticism and "hip hop" style of play and attitude became a marketing tool for Michigan basketball, as well its sponsor Nike. The Fab Five's style of baggy shorts, shaved heads, and (maybe most importantly) black socks was what every kid on the playground wanted to emulate in the early 90's. The Fab Five, even though they never earned a dime for it, helped popularize, and sell, Nike Basketball models of the time that they wore on court like the Air Flight Huarache and the shoe featured in this ad: the Air Force Max.
The Air Force Max, also associated with Charles Barkley in the NBA, was the first Nike Basketball shoe with an Air Max unit in the heel. It would be important for that reason alone, but the fact that it was the Fab Five shoe - and a pretty awesome looking shoe, anyway - are what make it iconic.
This ad from Nike and The Athlete's Foot features a fake news story hinting at the Fab Five ("blue chip power forward", i.e. Chris Webber), reinforcing the group's association to the shoe. Now many years removed from the Fab Five era, Nike Sportswear has brought the Air Force Max back again, but this time with a slightly modified Vac-Tech upper. Check out the original ad from 1993 below, and let us know if you'll be picking up the latest retro version of the Air Force Max.