Throwback Thursday: The Air Force Max


By Drew Hammell

via Sports Illustrated

2018 marks the 25th anniversary of a memorable year in basketball. Back in 1993, the North Carolina Tar Heels won their third NCAA national title, led by coach Dean Smith and stars Donald Williams, George Lynch, and Eric Montross. Meanwhile in the NBA, the Chicago Bulls won their third straight title, led by Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Horace Grant.

The Michigan Wolverines and Phoenix Suns were the runner-ups that year, but both squads had memorable players of their own. Michigan’s Fab 5 is still one of the most famous basketball teams of all time, featuring Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson (ironically, Michigan was forced to vacate their entire season’s record due to a team booster scandal). The Phoenix Suns featured Hall of Famer Charles Barkley (who won the MVP that year over Jordan), Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, and Danny Ainge.

Perhaps just as memorable for sneaker fans were the shoes the runner-ups were wearing: the Air Force Max. Nike outfitted the entire Fab 5 in the Air Force Max with black socks for March Madness, and Barkley was sporting them throughout the NBA playoffs a month later. Despite the shoe being showcased on the losers’ feet, the Air Force Max was incredibly popular. It goes to show just how revolutionary and aesthetically pleasing the shoe was.

1993 was the year of the big Air bubble for Nike. The gigantic shiny Air Max unit in the heel could be seen as clear as day on the blurriest of non-HD TV screens. Like a luxury SUV, the Air Force Max was bold, yet sleek. Built with plenty of cushioning for large, bulky power forwards, but smooth enough for small, flashy guards to wear as well. The Air Force Max played a major role in the first wave of Nike sneakers featuring a fully visible heel Air Sole unit, and hundreds of different models have released with similar technology since then.

The Air Force Max model has been retro’d several times over the years. Some fresh new colorways released the past few months, including navy and sepia stone versions. The silhouette continues to stand the test of time twenty-five years later, with the black and silver colorway one of the most popular thanks to the Fab 5 and Sir Charles.

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