In 1992, Nike introduced a truly revolutionary basketball shoe that stood out from the crowd: the Nike Air Flight Huarache. Based on the Nike Air Huarache running shoe, which had been released one year earlier, it left its mark on the game and is considered one of the best and most comfortable basketball shoes to date.
Quite coincidentally, one of the most influential college basketball teams formed at around the same time. The University of Michigan acquired five young players who went down as probably the best freshmen class in college history: Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, Ray Jackson and their leader Chris Webber, also known as the Fab Five. So why am I writing about them when this article is supposed to be about a shoe?
Apart from actual signature shoes, there is no other sneaker, which is as closely linked to particular players as the Nike Air Flight Huarache. The shoe’s design was as radical as the Fab Five’s impact on basketball – the perfect match. Heavily influenced by hip hop culture and lifestyle the Michigan recruits shocked many older spectators with their flashy attitude. Say goodbye to short shorts. The Fab Five chose to wear baggy shorts, often accompanied by black socks (doesn’t seem too radical today, right?) and the hottest new sneakers by Nike. Two models stand out: the Air Force Max and most importantly the Air Flight Huarache. The original colorways did not match Michigan’s uniforms at all but that didn’t bother the Fab Five.
Huarache tech for the basketball court
Like the Nike Air Huarache running sneaker, the basketball version features a snug neoprene booty. It provides superior comfort and support. Legendary Nike designer Tinker Hatfield was actually inspired by neoprene water skiing shoes of which he loved the comfort. Quite an odd connection but one that proved to be one the best innovations in early 90s basketball shoe design. Together with the cut-out ankle design the Air Flight Huarache was like nothing you had ever seen on the basketball court before. And the players loved it.
The Fab Five were among the first who fell in love with the shoe. But many of the best NBA players of that time wore it as well. Reggie Miller and Scottie Pippen are among the most prominent fans of the Huarache basketball shoe. However, the Air Flight Huarache was not merely a phenomenon of the early 1990s. Even today, it remains a popular basketball shoe on the NBA hardwood. As Nike is bringing the shoe back in quite a lot of color options we even get to see a Lakers-inspired colorway, which previously had been a player exclusive (PE) for none other than Kobe Bryant. Another of the current retro releases looks to be inspired by the Fiesta colors of the 1990s San Antonio Spurs.