Monday, 14 May 2012

No Blood | No Foul

Subject matter: Street Basketball
Location: 180 courts throughout NYC's five boroughs
AuthorsBobbito Garcia and Kevin Couliau
Content: An exploration of the definition, history, culture and social impact of New York’s summer b-ball scene through the voices of playground legends, NBA athletes, and most importantly the common ballplayer. 

Where Bobbito and Couliau explore the phenomenon that is street basketball, it is my intention to explore the many types footprints left over the years on the hallowed turf. To conquer outdoor hoops and it's outdoor weather conditions you need a sneaker designed for outdoor use only. It's requirements are to be more sturdy, more resistant to abrasion and to be all black to reflect the players black out and knock out game. The reality is any time spent in the street and your shoes get dirty. Black may look tough but by bringing dark colours to the outsoles and the midsoles two things happen. One it makes the stance of the shoe look tougher and more rugged. Two it eliminates the dirt variable. If you hadn't suspected already, the shoe in question is the 1992 Nike Air Raid - the first purpose designed outdoor basketball shoe. 

In 1992 there were seemingly two distinct approaches to innovation at Nike. They aimed to solve the shared problem of trying to make the ghetto's aura marketable. Solution 1 was the Air Flight Huarache. It stripped the shoe down to its bare minimum. It cut out the center of the shoe exposing the ankle and used a reinforced phylon midsole to lock down the forefront of the shoe, causing less stress on the ankle bone. Seemingly so left field that the mainstream ignored it, Nike found 5 freshmen from the University of Michigan  to make it their own. It didn't take long as the Michigan 5 came with the most impressive urban skill set set since Texas Western in 1996. Their only question was, do they come in black? 

Solution 2 was the Nike air Raid which channeled the ghetto's aura not through player associations but rather its own image. Where the design mentality with the Huarache was less is more, the Raid's X-strap, thick outsole, and sheet metal detailing on the outsole suggested the reverse. If there was a shoe that was going to call next on the court this was it. Unlike previous shoe designs, Nike was designing with the street in mind. Interestingly the Raid's X-strap would come to represent the mentality and the mindset of the street. It's inclusion on later professional models like the Air Jordan VII and Air Force Max CB suggested that Nike thought even the professionals could learn a trick or two from the street game.     

Another notable chapter in Nike's street basketball ventures is the Darwin Hi. Its release in 1994 was building on the publics popularity of outdoor products. Nike's response to this trend was to design a shoes that was increasingly pushing to become overtly indestructible. The profile of the shoe feels like a boot for the basketball court. Rather than trying to incapsulate the meanness of the ghetto's aura it's design inspiration was for a time when you could be creative: the summer time, the outdoor game - all times when you could just have fun and not take yourself so seriously... the tick going in the opposite direction might just be testament to that.  


As a final offering here is a wrap up of some other notable street basketball staples.

Nike Air Ndestrukt:

Nike Air Unlimited:

Nike Air 2 Strong:

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