words // Zack Schlemmer
Celebrating the original release of the Air Max 1 on March 26, 1987, Nike has declared today "Air Max Day". Essentially a brand new sneaker holiday created by the Swoosh, we’ll all have our chance to rejoice in the glory that is Max Air; the coolest (at least aesthetically) cushioning system ever and lace up our favorite pairs of kicks containing the greatest amounts of visible Air.
But so far, it seems like Air Max running models are getting all the glory. Of course, Air Max did start in running, and when you hear the words you probably think of your favorite model, like the ‘90 or ‘95. But let’s not forget about the other categories. Basketball and training have also had plenty of excellent models equipped with Air Max cushioning. While you contemplate which Air Max model in your closet to break out for Air Max Day, celebrate these ten non-running models too.
When it comes to Air Max, you can’t forget about the cross-training category. One of the coolest Max trainers, without a doubt, is Deion Sanders’ DT Max ’96. The boldest model of Prime Time’s celebrated signature line with Nike, the Diamond Turf Max features an unforgettable “shredded” design and Air Max2 cushioning in the heel.
The first basketball shoe to utilize Air Max, the Air Force Max from 1993 was made famous by both Charles Barkley and Michigan’s Fab Five (complete with black socks, of course). Just like the Air Max 1 runner, the first Air Max basketball model is still one of the best.
Probably the most popular turf trainer ever, Ken Griffey Jr.’s first signature shoe with the Swoosh is still as cool today as it was in 1995 when every kid was wearing their hat backwards like Jr. The worst part of the Griffey Max is deciding if you like the “Freshwater” or “Emerald” colorway better.
It was a hard task to follow up Penny Hardaway’s first signature shoe, but Nike did it quite successfully with the Air Penny II. No list of best Air Max basketball models could possibly be complete without this one.
Just like how the Air Force Max was the first Nike basketball to utilize Air Max, another shoe associated with Charles Barkley was the first basketball shoe to have Air Max2, the brand’s new dual pressured Air unit. The shoe’s straightjacket-inspired design was intended to capture Chuck’s beastly on-court personality—and that it did. fThe result was one of the toughest looking Nike shoes ever. But can we finally get a retro of the OG white colorway shown above?
One of the all-time great college hoops shoes, the Air Max2 Uptempo was worn by all of the best Nike-sponsored schools in 1995—Michigan, UCONN and Duke. These were just a little late for the Fab Five, or they would have certainly became one of the squad’s most iconic models ever. But guys like Ray Allen made them look great, anyway.
Each of Penny’s shoes has its hardcore fans, but the general consensus is that the Air Penny, his first signature shoe, is the best. The iconic wing design, the jeweled Swoosh, the pinstripes, and Air Max in the heel…it all adds up to one of legendary designer Eric Avar’s best creations ever.
LeBron’s seventh signature will undoubtedly go down as one of the best, thanks in no small part to its incorporation of a full-length Air Max unit—the first of LBJ’s models to depart from Zoom Air cushioning. The more visible tech, patent leather and superb colorways like the “Red Carpets” make the VII a fan favorite.
It was the most blatant, borderline tasteless branding in Nike’s history, but somehow it worked—and ended up being one of the brand’s most iconic basketball shoes ever. Made famous by Scottie Pippen, there was no mistaking that this shoe contained Air cushioning, and lots of it.
The Air Max Uptempo’s great looks mixed with the sheer amount of pros and college players that wore it back in 1995-96 make it a pretty easy choice for #1 on the list of best non-running Air Max models. The Air Max Uptempo was also the first Nike shoe to feature full length Air Max, even before a running shoe did. The simple yet bold, wavy upper, loads of visible Air, great colorways, and even one of the coolest outsoles ever with its bubbly oval shapes all together make the Air Max Uptempo a true classic.