It is hard in 2023 to explain to young people who may not have heard of Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway how big of a deal Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway was in the 1990s. For a substantial period, he was a superstar in the NBA. Penny was possibly second to Michael Jordan in the superstar pecking order during a stint in the 90s. Penny is one of the few players to receive a signature line of sneakers from Nike.
The career of Penny Hardaway did not live up to his potential and the expectations of basketball fans. Injuries and other circumstances derailed Penny’s career. The Penny signature line would end with the IV, until it was resurrected by Nike years later.
Penny Hardaway’s signature line with Nike is one of the most iconic lines in the history of sneakers. It was a short run for the line, a brief period in the 1990s, but it was incredibly impactful. The Penny signature line is an important one when it comes to Nike and basketball sneakers.
Nike Air Max Penny 1
Eric Avar designed the Nike Air Max Penny 1. Before the Penny 1, Nike basketball shoes were split into two categories. There was Flight, which were shoes that were made for quick and stylish players. The Force was created for strong players who dominated in the post. Penny was a different breed of athlete. He had size and would attack the rim with reckless abandon. However, he also could play with finesse and with skill. Nike thought a new kind of sneaker should be made for the uniqueness of Penny’s game. Uptempo was crafted especially for Hardaway, and it would shepherd in a new era of Nike basketball. Avar studied Hardaway’s game inside and out when it came to designing and building the 1. The Nike Air Max Penny 1 also debuted Penny’s 1 Cent logo on the heel of the shoe. The Nike Air Max Penny 1 is one of the all-time great Nike basketball shoes.
Nike Air Penny 2
The Nike Air Penny 2 was released in 1996. Penny’s second model is considered by many to be the best Penny x Nike sneaker. The Air Penny 2 combined Max and Zoom Air technology. It featured the “1 Cent” logo on the side, which is one of the most iconic sneaker logos. The design and performance were equally memorable. It had the best cushioning at the time. Eric Avar designed the Penny 2. He crafted a shoe that worked just as well on the street as it did on the basketball court. The Nike Air Penny 2 was originally released in three colorways. All of the colors were variations of the Orlando Magic color scheme. In the 90s, signature sneakers traditionally stuck close to the player’s teams colors. The Nike Air Penny 2 felt like a true extension of Penny Hardaway the person, and player.
Nike Air Penny 3
The Foamposite One was a radical release in 1997. The III also came out in 1997, not too long after the Foamposite launch. The III used Foam technology and also was obviously influenced by the Foamposite when it came to design. It has Max Air in the heel and Zoom Air in the forefront. The III featured a metallic version of Nike’s Air Penny “1 Cent” logo. The Nike Air Penny III first returned in 2009. The III might suffer in the minds of sneaker enthusiasts because it was released so close to the Nike Foamposite One. The Foamposite One is not a signature sneaker for Penny, but in the minds of many, it is part of the Penny x Nike catalog. The first two Penny models, along with the Foamposite, are legendry sneakers. The III had the tough act of coming after three icons.
Nike Air Penny 4
The Nike Air Penny IV is a bittersweet release from Nike. It is a strong release in terms of style and function for the Penny Hardaway signature line. But it would also be the final Penny shoe released during the playing days of Hardaway. The Nike Air Penny 4 was released in 1998. Eric Avar would once again serve as the designer. The IV was launched during a dark period of Penny’s career. The star was dealing with injuries and the loss of his Orlando Magic superstar teammate, Shaq. The IV was not a huge hit. Probably because Penny’s career was struggling. By 1998, Nike was using more premium materials, and taking inspiration from luxury shoes, for its athletic footwear. The IV has a premium leather upper and a suede ankle. There was a supportive ankle strap on the IV and Air Max cushioning to the heel.
The Nike Air Penny line is an important part of the 1990s sneaker era. They are still receiving retro releases today, which shows the lines longevity. You can find Nike basketball shoes at Shoe Palace.
- Adam C. Better
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