December 28th, 2012 by Sneaker News
There is no question to whom the most popular signature sneaker series of all time belongs. Michael and his Air Jordan line were so successful that people were looking for his heir apparent even before the first retirement. And while that whole Harold Miner thing didn’t exactly work out, Nike did indeed strike gold with another young guard playing his pro ball in Florida. The Orlando Magic swapped their 1993 number one overall draft selection in Chris Webber to the Golden State Warriors for Anfernee ‘Penny’ Hardaway, who’d been selected third in a trade that sent shockwaves through the NBA for years to come. Along with a young Shaquille O’Neal, the two rising stars created one of the league’s most formidable duos, particularly with regard to marketing potential.
After a solid two year stretch that gave the Magic their first 50-win season and NBA Finals appearance, Beaverton realized that Penny didn’t need to be the next Michael for his next-gen Magic (Johnson) approach to be plenty signature-worthy. The Nike Air Max Penny was unveiled for the following season, and the line went on to go strong from there as Hardaway posted career numbers in the Air Penny II, had a last hurrah with the Magic in the Penny’s IIIs, and saw the fourth, and what was thought to be final, Air Penny model release in support of a Phoenix Suns tenure that turned out to be the beginning of the end for the injury-plagued superstar.
Ten years after the Air Penny IV, memories of Chris Rock as Lil’ Penny proved poignant as heads had continued to cop sporadic Penny Retros. Nike Sportswear turned its modular alchemy on the series and resurrected the familiar ‘1c’ insignia with the Half Cent hybrid for 2009, then rode that wave of success into the Zoom Rookie LWP last year, and with quite a few retro releases in between, it became clear the market is still hungry for more Air Penny goodness.
All that history brings us to this fall, when NSW released the Air Penny V, setting a record for longest time between signature releases with the first totally fresh post retirement Nike drop for anyone not named ‘His Airness’. Following up on those mash-ups borrowing from Hardaway’s whole career, the Air Penny 5 found its place in the canon with familiar materials, swooping lines and colorways inspired by Anfernee’s unique basketball odyssey. Styles like the ‘Orlando’ and ‘Suns’ referenced some notable NBA stops along the way, while the ‘Red Eagles’ told a personal tale and the ‘Dolphins’ edition connected with one of today’s trendiest palettes in a nod to Hardaway’s retired life down in Florida. Great design, storytelling and personality made the Air Penny series a hit when it debuted over fifteen years ago and it proves to be a timeless combination with the success of the Penny V all these years later.
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