words // Zac Dubasik

Following yesterday's look at the first year of the Sole Decade, today we're taking a look 2004.

Similar to the prior year, you'll see a mix of both performance and retro, as Nike SB entered its prime era, and new signature lines began to mature. Check out our list, and as always, let us know your thoughts in the comments.


10. Nike Air Force 2 "Espo"

You could say that you have to "credit" the Espos for inspiring shoes like the Invisible Woman AF1, and a plethora of fake clear Jordans, but "blame" may be the more appropriate term. Regardless though, the concept was truly original when it released, and quickly became one of the more hyped releases of its time.



9. adidas T-Mac 3

Tracy McGrady's third adidas signature shoe may not have had quite the popularity of his second, but will always be remembered for the mismatched pair he wore in the All-Star Game. Check out our cover story on Issue 3 of Sole Collector to see where he first showed his All-Star kicks.



8. Air Jordan Retro 2 "Melo"

Carmelo Anthony had a strong run of retro player exclusives during his time in Denver, and this Air Jordan 2 actually released. The launch was limited however, sold out immediately, and remains sought after even today. 



7. Air Jordan Retro 12 "French Blue"

By the time the French Blue Air Jordan 12s came out, MJ had already played his final game as a Wizard - and period. Had he played another season though, could we have seen these kicks on court? Even without the MJ co-sign though, these were one of the more popular new colorways of the era.



6. Nike Air Force 1 "HTM"

The HTM team of Hiroshi Fujiwara, Tinker Hatfield and Mark Parker first collaborated on a series of AF1s in 2002. Our favorite though is this 2004 release, limited to 3,012 pairs, which featured an all-over croc print, patent leather tongue, and suede lining. 



5. Air Jordan Retro 4 "Cool Grey"

It may not have been the first Air Jordan to release in "Cool Grey", but the Air Jordan 4 edition helped popularize the look we've seen grow in popularity since. Even without the 4's signature rubberized ankle triangles, fans quickly added these to their collections.



4. Nike Air Zoom Huarache 2K4

Few basketball shoes released during the Sole Decade have enjoyed the kind of love the Air Zoom Huarache 2K4 has been shown. This unofficial Kobe signature shoe has basically never left the NBA court, enjoying long runs on NIKEiD, and numerous re-releases.



3. Nike Dunk High SB "D.U.N.K.L.E."

The box read "Black/White," which seems to greatly undersell the D.U.N.K.L.E. SB. The shoe was a collaboration with MoWax artist U.N.K.L.E., featured artwork by Futura, and sold out immediately despite the heavy use of pink, and many buyers never having heard of U.N.K.L.E. 



2. Nike Free 5.0

Releasing a shoe which emulates not wearing a shoe is a risky move for a company who's primary business is ... selling shoes ... but the risk has paid off handsomely in the years since for Nike. The concept has since spanned categories and become lifestyle friendly as well. But the original Free 5.0 is the shoe that started it all, and deserves credit for taking minimalist running mainstream.  



1. Nike Zoom LeBron II

The Zoom LeBron II delivered on all levels, and then some. The best of Nike technology was on display, yet the shoe was priced at just $125. There was great leather, a Sphere liner, heel and forefoot Max Zoom units and a perfectly flowing design.

It fit LeBron’s game perfectly with its balance of speed and power through its aesthetics as well as performance. It was outstanding on court, and worked casually too. It also helped lead a wave of unreleased colorways that would become some of the most coveted of the era.

It’s that combination of performance, style, influence and collectability that lands the Zoom LeBron II at the top of our 2004 list, and the top of our overall list.