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20 Years Of Nike Basketball Design: Air Hyperdunk (2008)

Team USA will face Australia in its first tournament game of the London Olympics in just a short time, the same team they trounced in the 2008 quarterfinal round by thirty-one points.  This squad often being called simply the ‘New Dream Team’ redeemed USA Basketball four years ago, their renewed commitment echoed by Nike Basketball’s revelation of a game-changing performance machine that’s still the standard to which modern basketball sneakers are compared.  The Nike Hyperdunk is yet another example of Eric Avar leading an innovative new project to fruition, its use of Flywire and LunarLite technologies so futuristic, it was only natural to include a Nike Mag-like heel counter (and that legendary ‘Marty McFly’ debut edition).  Click through to see sketches that represent the epicenter of a shift from which we’re still feeling the aftershocks and stick with Sneaker News as we approach the right-end of the timeline on this Swoosh roundball retrospective.

“We were looking to do it in an expressive way  let’s reduce everything else around it and let the Nike Flywire come to life.”- Eric Avar

Nike Flywire gave the notion of “Flight” some extra might. The Nike Air Hyperdunk went over the head of its opponents by borrowing a concept from one of the modern world’s most impressive architectural feats — suspension bridges. By applying super-strong nylon filaments for precise support akin to the cables of a bridge, the Nike Air Hyperdunk was able to radically reduce weight by providing support material only where it’s needed.

Nike Flywire was originally conceived for featherweight track spikes by Jay Meschter in Nike’s Innovation Kitchen. Excited by the idea of removing significant weight out of a basketball upper, the team worked with the Nike Sports Research Lab to begin analyzing whether these fibers could withstand the lateral forces of side-to-side cutting in basketball.

The NSRL recruited one of their favorite big-framed test subjects, “Jake the Destroyer.” Jake’s habit of punishing early samples was well known, and high-speed video capture of his foot during hard cuts would be the first test.

Making believers out of some of the skeptics on the team, the video showed the early version of Nike Flywire successfully holding the foot on the footbed of the shoe during the testing.

Lead designer Eric Avar remembers the discussions. “This was one of those projects that created a lot of debate among the team early on.”

Once the Nike Flywire proved its mettle in testing, Avar and the team’s approach was to create a design that allowed most of the shoe to fall away into the background in order to make the Flywire in the midfoot the focal point. Another new Nike innovation, Nike Lunarlon, would also make its first appearance in a basketball shoe as a key performance element of a design that borrowed elements from a shoe that, at the time, was only the stuff of legend, the Nike Mag.

The Nike Hyperdunk seized the global stage when some of the USA Basketball athletes took to the courts of Beijing looking to recapture glory. This was a seminal moment for both American hoops and the future of basketball footwear design.


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