Nike Basketball

Nike Basketball’s latest retro release is truly ‘Heaven Cent’

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For NBA players and fans alike, the mid-1990s were an era in which anything could happen.

The great Michael Jordan had retired (for the first time) and taken the Bulls’ dominance along with him, making it truly anyone’s league.

The Houston Rockets took their opportunity to shine, winning back-to-back rings in MJ’s absence, beating the New York Knicks in 1994 and the Orlando Magic in 1995.

That Magic team was unforgettable for at least two reasons: Shaquille O’Neal, perhaps the most dominant center to ever play the game, and a young “point god” named Anfernee Hardaway, better known as “Penny.”

In just his second year in the Association, Penny helped Orlando to within four wins of the promised land. On the court, he was something the league had rarely seen before: big, strong and fast, a prototype of the positionless basketball we know today. He could score, pass the rock and rebound, and was an All-Star by his second season.

Penny’s game was so special that he even inspired innovation in the sneaker game. Nike’s basketball shoe range at the time was either designed for smaller guards or big men, and Hardaway needed a hybrid. His original signature sneaker, the Nike Air Penny, was the seed from which the iconic Uptempo line grew. The Air Penny is so important to basketball sneaker history that the Swoosh considers it one of its 20 designs that changed the game.

The 1995 Air Penny implemented a Max Air bag and brand-new tech in the way of Tensile Air, which we now know as Zoom Air, which combined for aa sneaker that accommodated both speed and strength. The first iteration of the Penny featured a foam wing on the lateral panels, which we’d come to recognize as Foamposite technology a couple years down the road.

Two years later, the Magic star’s third signature model, the Nike Air Penny III, hit shelves. It brought back the Foamposite overlays to the upper, in a wavy pattern starting at the outside toes and working their way up to the ankle where it meets a leather upper wrapping around the heel. Visible Air units in the heels returned to provide the cushioning, teaming up with the Zoom Air unit in the forefoot.

The Air Penny III has been the least commonly retroed of Hardaway’s line of five signature shoes, but now it’s back in an “Eggplant” colorway for the first time since 2010, perfect for those fall fits.

A shimmering Eggplant hue runs through the foam overlays, while a brighter purple appears around the heel, outsole highlights, sockliner and tongue tag. Penny’s unmistakable “1 Cent” logo is stamped on the heels by a small Swoosh on the white leather upper.

You can add some hoops history to your rotation when the Nike Air Penny III ‘Eggplant’ drops in Men’s sizing at FinishLine.com later this month.

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