Basketball fans who grew up in the ’90s will remember arguably the greatest lineup of players and sneaker combinations the game has ever seen. Of course there was Michael Jordan and his run of signature Jordan sneakers but we also got to see Charles Barkley in his Air Max2 CB ‘94 and Air Max CB34; Penny Hardaway in his Air Pennys and Air Foamposite One, Gary Payton in the Air Zoom Flight ‘98 “The Glove”; and the Nike Air Flightposite 1 worn by multiple players. But in the midst of all these amazing silhouettes emerged a cult classic worn by Scottie Pippen in the ‘96 Chicago Bulls championship run and ‘96 Olympics: the Nike Air More Uptempo.
Pip had his own signature line with the Swoosh that spanned from the Nike Air Pippen to the Nike Air Pippen V but when MJ’s partner in crime donned the Air More Uptempos, his name would forever be connected with the sneaker that had a personality of its own. Sporting Nike’s Swoosh branding all over the silhouette and its now iconic “AIR” on the laterals with 3M, the Air More Uptempo would not only win on the hardwood but would also be part of the height of Nike’s marketing and advertising campaigns, which featured a sneaker periodic table with Foot Locker and Nike pre-flight takeoff checklist with #33. Also, let’s not forget that the Air More Uptempo made its way onto actor Brendan Fraser’s feet for 1997’s George of the Jungle film where he famously gets dropped off in a crate, pulls out a pair of OGs, puts them on, adjusts the pull tabs, and runs into the African plains.
Wilson Smith, the man who designed the sneaker once said, “I think generally, the mid ’90s were just a bigger-than-life time,” and everything about the Air More Uptempo embodied that. The sneaker that reflected the decade saw its “AIR” branding on the upper draw inspiration from pop art and graffiti and the Air bubble run from heel to toe to reflect the oversized and larger-than-life cars and jeans of the era. “The Nike Air More Uptempo was an extension of the environment. Ideal for the vertical player who needed the lockdown and abundance of cushioning.”
In the same way that the original Air More Uptempo drew inspiration from its birth year, the upcoming Supreme x Nike collab draws the same inspiration from today’s streetwear scene. Already given the moniker “Suptempo,” the three colorways Supreme will be putting out not only pay homage to its brand and the Bulls but also to the lavish culture of modern streetwear where colors such as gold can be used to cover an entire shoe without a second thought. Interestingly enough, these also won’t release in-store like its predecessors but only online in Europe and the States which is a direct result of the growth of sneaker collecting and unfortunately reselling.
The Nike Air More Uptempo was already based on the idea of maximalism in design, so any colorway it took on could be considered memorable in its own right. However, for the truest of fans, it was the 1996 Olympic model that made it an instant classic. Wrapped in a timeless navy and white, this pair worn by Scottie Pippen for the second Dream Team represented more than just USA pride, it also symbolized the Swoosh’s dominance on the game both in America and abroad.
Black-on-black was an original ‘96 colorway and while they featured a black Swoosh on the heel, later retros, seen above, sported white instead. This colorway is still the epitome of retro basketball sneakers and yes, Scottie Pippen is credited for ushering them into the spotlight whilst never actually having them as his signature kicks. Either way, the shoes are synonymous with his name and for longevity sake, putting them on will without a doubt still turn heads today.
2016 marked the 20th anniversary and comeback of the Air More Uptempos. When the black and whites were announced to be released for the special occasion, so too were the “Gym Red” versions which were also known as the “Bulls Home” — depicted by the dominantly white and red-trimmed design. Red always makes a strong impression and seeing the More Uptempos take on this rendering was a feast for the eyes.
While still fresh in Swoosh fans’ minds, the recent 2017 March drop of the Nike Air More Uptempos in the “Bulls” colorway calls back the glory days of the dominant ‘90s NBA team. These pairs sold out within minutes on release day online and if Scottie Pippen were still playing today, he would definitely wear them with pride and perform on the court with conviction.
Supreme x Nike Air More Uptempo
To call a model a classic before its actual release could be considered blasphemy for die-hard collectors. Plus, there’s still much debate to be had on which pair is worthy enough to carry the “iconic” torch for Supreme’s collaborative release. The Supreme x Nike Air More Uptempos come in three colorways — the red and white, gold and white, and a sleek all-black model. The former two are the models up for debate. While the gold and white screams flashiness and channels the “Olympic” gold medal, the red and white pairs do carry Supreme’s signature colorways. For something to be called “Suptempo,” it better scream Supreme immediately at first glance.