Not only is Anfernee Hardaway the point guard with the greatest sneaker pedigree, his signature line can stake a claim to being the second-best ever behind MJ himself. (That, of course, depends on what you think of the Reebok Iverson line or Nike’s LeBrons.)
As a player and a signature athlete, Penny captured the imagination of the masses in a way few have. He was just the total package: Smooth yet explosive, a 6-7 position-bender, teamed with early ’90s darling Shaquille O’Neal. Hardaway showed flashes of being one of the greatest players of his generation, if only his knees could have held up. But the highs he was able to muster – specifically his virtuoso performance in the 1997 Playoffs against the Heat – signified the rarest of air was at one point within his reach.
His sneakers, likewise, represented classic after classic. The Foamposite One, of course, took on an importance all its own. But every one of his sneakers was awesome: The Penny 1 was of course amazing, but we prefer the Penny 2, which looks like it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. (Eric Avar actually did the honors.) For the record, Penny himself prefers the 1, but has said the 2 plays better for him on court. We value his opinion.
For anyone perpetually stuck in the ’90s – guilty as charged – the most gratifying thing is that Penny remains relevant, and that it appears he will continue to be. After a bit of a gap, his sneaker line resumed with new models to go along with his popular retros, exposing a whole new generation to a player whose time at the top was way too short.
“I think it’s incredible, I really do,” Penny told me a couple years ago. “I never imagined this back when I was playing in the NBA, that my shoe would be going on this long. I did picture myself having a line of about 15 different pairs of Pennys, because I thought my career would go on that long and it’d be a different shoe every year.
“But still, to have the line still going on, it’s a great feeling.”
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Bonus: Jason Williams
White Chocolate was the one that got away. Meshing streetball with the NBA, Williams was immensely popular at the turn of the century, but we never actually got a signature sneaker for him. (The Air Flight Disruptor was supposedly designed for him, but to our knowledge, he never wore them.)
That said, there are a couple of silver linings. Though they were never technically his signature sneaker, you can’t see a pair of Hyperflights without thinking of Williams in his purple joints. Plus, so long as we can look up “Freestyle” and the ad with Randy Moss, White Chocolate will live on forever in the YouTube Hall of Fame.
And if you ever find yourself playing ball in Orlando? You might just find yourself the recipient of one of those sweet passes.
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You know the feeling the first time you listened to Kendrick Lamar, or when you watched DiCaprio in Basketball Diaries? That was what it was like for those few hundred fortunate souls who made their way to Kean University the winter of 2009-10 to watch Kyrie Irving light up Harwood Arena a couple of times a week.
On a loaded St. Patrick Elizabeth team that also featured Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and current Kentucky center Dakari Johnson, Irving stood out as a shoo-in future superstar. Kyrie simply did it all: He could score, he could pass, he could charm the local media — not to mention Coach K. Most impressive was his preternatural handle; though it was common to see him dribble the ball through his defender’s legs to himself on a fast break, it never lost its novelty.
The accolades have piled up since then. Irving was the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, won Rookie of the Year, and made his first All-Star team at age 20. (He also became the youngest player to score 40 in Madison Square Garden — move over, Michael Jordan.) Irving won All-Star MVP honors the following season, and then LeBron James decided to come back to Cleveland. If the sky wasn’t the limit before, it certainly is now.
All along, Kyrie has been a Nike guy — at Duke, of course, and before that at St. Pat’s, which was sponsored by the Jordan Brand. He signed with Nike about two weeks after being drafted, and with LeBron raising the profile of the whole Cavs franchise, he was blessed with his first signature sneaker last month. (He celebrated by eviscerating the Knicks at the Garden the next night.)
Irving would seem to have a great shot at cementing himself as one of the greatest point guards of his era. But his personal brand is similarly on the rise. That got us thinking: Nike has had a rich history of signature point guards in its employ. With the Nike Kyrie 1 “Deceptive Red” set to release at Champs Sports this weekend — and with Russell Westbrook beginning to tear up the NBA under the Jordan Brand umbrella — how does its namesake stack up?
Here is A History of Point Guards With Nike Signature Sneakers.
Follow Bryan on Twitter at @SportsAngle
image via Nike