Nike Air Max Uptempo 97 History
Many basketball fans would say that the golden era of such sports, particularly the NBA league would be the 1990s. Loyal followers who witnessed the excitement and madness of basketball back in the day would associate it to some of the best players on the hardwood and the kind of hoops shoe they were donning at that time. Needless to say, basketball shoes were equally popular as the iconic towering players wearing them.
The greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan together with his line of signature Air Jordans led a squad of star players who likewise elevated selected ball shoes to stardom. Charles “The Round Mound of Rebound” Barkley stole the limelight with his 1994 Air Max 2 CB ’94 and Air Max CB34, so as Dennis“The Worm” Rodman with his eccentric 1996 Nike Air Shake Ndestrukt, as well as Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway with his 1995 Air Penny I and Air Foamposite One.
But Michael’s sidekick Scottie Pippen literally turned Nike’s Air technology into a superstar in the hardwood when he popularized the Nike Air More Uptempo, the shoe he was wearing during the 1996 Chicago Bulls championship and in the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.
It was said that in the true Nike Basketball sense, there are three distinct design lines for different types of ball players. One is “flight,” which is intended for smaller-built point guards, who do a lot of quick foot movements on the court. “Force” is for the bigger post players like forwards and heavy center guys that need more stability, support, and cushioning. While the “uptempo” is for vertical players who are good at ball handling yet need the abundance of support and cushioning. This line is somewhat a hybrid of the earlier two categories.
Penny’s signature Air Penny I is considered to be the first Uptempo designed shoe, although it was not branded as such. The first ball shoe named as an “Uptempo” is the Air Uptempo dropped in 1995. This all-around profile features the prominent visible Air in the heel, which was unveiled at a budget-friendly price tag.
Nike soon introduced the Air Max II technology into a basketball shoe with the release of the Air Max 2 Uptempo. This modified version used multi densities of air pressure in the midsole, although this edition was more famous in the NCAA level than in the NBA.
In 1996, Nike added two more forward-moving profiles under this category. One is the Nike Air Max Uptempo, which features a full-length Air cushioning unit in the midsole that became extremely popular off the court. This iteration was followed by the Nike Air More Uptempo. Although this is not the official shoe of Pippen, his name will always be linked to it as he was seen in two major basketball games wearing this Uptempo version with a conspicuously inscribed “Air” on the laterals.
The next variation is called the Nike Air Max Uptempo III, which was also made famous by Pippen. The bold design concept of this shoe with raindrop molded jewel accents on the side panels was particularly admired by sneaker enthusiasts that it became the subject of updates in the succeeding years. The wavy and extended height of the heel counter offer additional support and stability in that region. The retro form of this shoe was branded as the Nike Air Max Uptempo 97, in reference to the year this shoe was initially dropped.
Fast forward to 2016, Nike puts the Air Max Uptempo 97 back on the shelves with the drop of two colorways during the Holiday season that year: the Black and the Urban Haze. The totally-black upper features premium Nubuck on a pure white midsole, while the Urban Haze rendition is made with an olive green upper and off-white midsole. The All Star interpretation in University Blue and white colorway was unveiled the following year, which was inspired by the venue of the 2017 NBA Star Game in Charlotte, North Carolina.