Sneaker News Top 30 Sneakers of 2011

December 29th, 2011 by

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This month has been filled with hundred-million dollar contracts signed by elite baseball stars including Albert Pujols’ $254MM defection to Los Angeles. The number in that deal is close enough to remind fans of America’s pastime of the game’s first quarter-billion dollar man, Alex Rodriguez, who left Seattle for $252 million a decade earlier. Pujols’ legacy will forever outpace Rodriguez’ asterisk’d output irrespective of how many home runs they hit or World Series each wins, and it’s that kind of reverence for doing things the “right way” in baseball that makes Ken Griffey Jr. one of the game’s true super-elite.

Junior personified youthful exuberance with his backwards caps and gazelle-like grace between the gaps, and he’ll be forever remembered for a swing so sweet, it held off all but the most notorious ’90s names. Griffey spent his most productive days guiding the Seattle Mariners to heights the franchise had never before reached, including an epic run to the 1995 playoffs including a game-winning run in a sudden-death tiebreaker versus the soon-to-be-dominant New York Yankees that northwesterners still fondly recall as ‘The Double’. It was coming off that surge of momentum, along with the success of his ’95 Air Diamond Fury signature, that the Nike Air Griffey Max 1 was originally released in time for the following season’s first pitch.

We got our first run of Air Griffey Max 1 re-releases from Nike Sportswear in 2009, including a new ‘Fresh Water’ edition that offered a look quite close to the original Deep Emerald colorway. They were an instant sellout and made it to number 12 in the ’09 Top 30, but sneakerheads old enough to remember that season when The Kid played Batman to a 21 year-old A-Rod’s Robin were aware that they weren’t an exact replica of the OGs. That’s where this August’s ‘Emerald’ AGM1 comes in – a design true to the debut version whose only miniscule change was the use of the contemporary Fresh Water teal shade instead of the namesake original.

The fact that all of these Griffey retros have been greeted so warmly so as to spawn a series of hybrid mashups, proves that Junior’s contributions to baseball, as well as the sneaker game, not only stand up to the test of time, but transcend the game in a way we haven’t seen since guys like Babe Ruth and Joe Dimaggio were the nation’s biggest celebrities. Meanwhile, it’d take a Ken Jennings-like mind to recall what kind of cleats Big Mac wore while he was socking all those dingers, while those who remember Barry Bonds’ Filas continue to chuckle at the fact that only a foreign company would sign the surly slugger. It’s almost like we got it right all those years ago without even knowing it, and it’s a fitting tribute to Ken Griffey Jr.’s untouched excellence that sneakerhead demand still clears the Air Griffey Max 1 from shelves anytime they’re released – with 2011′s ‘Emerald’ edition proudly standing as a bonafide classic and the godfather of them all.

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