December 29th, 2011 by Aaron Kr. / 40
#16 – NIKE ZOOM ROOKIE LWP
The staying power of the Nike Air Penny line continued to flex its muscles in 2011 thanks to the Nike Zoom Rookie LWP, the second Air Penny hybrid shoe in three years. The Nike Air 1/2 Cent of 2009 was ranked by Sneaker News as the tenth best sneaker of the year, as it featured a tasty recipe consisting of the most popular Air Penny models of all-time – the Air Max Penny, Air Penny II, and Air Foamposite One. 2011′s Zoom Rookie, however, touched on a particular sneaker era of Penny Hardaway’s career that may have been difficult to pinpoint for the younger generation of sneakerheads; while the beloved Air Foamposite One remained the anchor of Zoom Rookie LWP design, Nike Sportswear decided to re-introduce the Nike Air Go LWP and the Air Flight One – two high-performance Nike Basketball models of the mid-1990′s that remained in the archives until the LWP returned last year. While both of those shoes were widely appreciated during their time, would the younger generation’s lack of familiarity with the older models in some way affect the public reception for the shoe? Not likely. Between the weight carried by the Air Penny name in the sneaker world and the flawless execution in telling the Rookie story, the shoe turned heads and sparked interest from day one.
The Nike Zoom Rookie LWP first made waves in March when a Yellow/Black colorway leaked throughout the major newsfeeds on the internet, and the immediate reader response was widely positive. The signature details like the ‘swiss-cheese’ spheres on the upper and the aesthetic of the Air Go LWP were instantly recognized and the cohesive gelling of the three Nike Basketball models, as well as use of the popular Foamposite material, left many viewers hungry for a closer look.
The addition of Foamposite on the forefoot and heel and the inclusion of an inner-bootie construction were tributes to Penny
Hardaway’s personal requests, who valued a lock-down fit for his basketball sneakers; the shoe was, in fact, part of the Air Penny line, so it had to be designed within Penny’s exact specifications. The Zoom Rookie also played the role of a ‘history lesson’ of sorts in another way, as it featured an astounding four different logos; the ’1-Cent’, the ‘Flight’ from the Air Go LWP, the original ’1′ logo from the Air Flight One, and a newly designed ‘Rookie’ logo inspired by the original font from the ‘Flight’ emblem were all strategically placed around the shoe.
The design of the Zoom Rookie LWP was already praised for its intriguing design, but Nike Sportswear chose to introduce the shoe in grandiose fashion by doing with it something had never been done with an Air Penny shoe, let alone a Nike signature shoe. The Zoom Rookie LWP officially kicked off with a limited edition ‘Glow In The Dark’ colorway that was available at select retailers. After clearing out of stores on the day of its release, the immediate demand sparked a steep rise in resale prices and sneakerheads began to grow more and more impatient for the next Zoom Rookie release. Following the Glow In The Dark edition was a purist-friendly ‘Binary Blue’, which carried with it the quintessential Air Penny persona. Binary Blue, however, was a slightly darker shade than the usual Royal Blue we are accustomed to seeing with Air Penny’s, but the slight change provided some additional character to the futuristic design.
In addition to the other retail-bound colorways seen this year, a few PE’s were made just for Penny Hardaway on request; a tonal red version dubbed the ‘Memphis Express’ and an another tonal blue called the ‘Memphis Blues’ showed up at a few of Penny’s All-Star charity game events. While the Air Penny line was rather short-lived, Nike Sportswear has done a phenomenal job of keeping the story alive with the Zoom Rookie LWP – rearranging key components and rebuilding new designs, while keeping the anatomy of the original Air Penny glory days at heart.