Wait For It… Sneaker Samples, PEs, and Rarities That Later Released
Unreleased sneakers are a class of rare footwear the serious enthusiast recognizes as a way to set yourself apart from the ever growing sneakerhead masses. Rare limited edition shoes that never even hit store shelves have become one of the key ways to demonstrate your passion and status within the community. On occasion, these hard to get styles are too good not to release at retail, and here we’ve assembled a collection of some of the most significant unreleased kicks that eventually earned that elusive official release date.
This trend has seen a marked uptick since around 2010, which also happens to be a turning point around which the internet sneaker culture really established itself. These past few years have welcomed unexpected changes in the industry, and the demand for certain rare collectors items to be made available to the public is one that is very easy to understand. In the words Fab Fiver Jalen Rose, a sneaker influencer in his own right, you’ve “Got to give the people what they want!” Here are some of the best examples of once elusive styles becoming more accessible, compiled for you below.
Then: Nike Air Flightposite One – Allan Houston “Knicks” PE (2000)
Now: Nike Air Flightposite One “Knicks” (2014)
Allan Houston is however unfairly remembered for one of the worst contracts in NBA history, but he didn’t have that opportunity for no reason. Houston helped New York to the 1999 NBA Finals, made All-Star teams in 2000 and ’01 and his teams consistently made the postseason. Now nearly fifteen years after a release almost identical to his rare player exclusive Knicks colorway will be hitting stores soon.
Then: Nike Mag (1989)
Now: Nike Mag 2011 (2011)
Going on resale value alone, this is the most significant entry in the list. But there are a host of other factors that make the 2011 release of the Air Mag as depicted in 1989’s Back to the Future Part II important. In this particular case, it is literally impossible to find the ones Michael J. Fox wore during filming, and even a prototype that hit eBay in 2008 only offered one single shoe. Air Mag 2011 is the ultimate example of people going crazy when a coveted unreleased sneaker finally drops.
Then: Nike SB Dunk High “Gucci” (2005)
Now: RESN x Nike SB Dunk High (2010)
Nike SB’s 2005 ‘Team Manager Series’ is the stuff of legends, including Diamond’s ‘Tiffany’ Dunk and Stussy’s ‘Neapolitan’ coming straight from dudes who’d spent their lives absorbing skate and street aesthetics. The guys at Girl pushed it a little too far with their hightop Dunk SB, with potential conflicts from Gucci and Girl’s Crailtap allies Lakai leading to the originals being limited to a very small number. The design finally released in 2009, with a tribute to original designer Sam Smyth by way of his graffiti tag ‘RESN’ on the tongue tag and ultimately, the shoe’s nickname.
Then: Air Jordan IV “Thunder” (2006, online only, $500)
Now: Air Jordan IV “Thunder” (2012, $160)
The Thunder Fours dropped in very limited numbers on the same day as their ‘Lightning’ counterparts, back in the summer of 2006. Both carried a premium price tag but the Thunder colorway came with a matching jacket and retailed for $500. So when they returned in late 2012 at the standard price for all Jordan Retros at the time, it was a must-cop.
Then: Air Jordan 13 – Ray Allen PE for Record-breaking night (2011)
Now: Air Jordan 13 “Ray Allen” (2011)
Ray Allen broke the NBA career record for three-pointers baskets in February 2011. He wore a white and green Jordan XIII PE that immediately met with a positive response. Luckily for those who liked them and were sufficiently motivated, a limited release of this once player exclusive colorup hit retail later in the summer.
Then: Air Jordan 11 Low “Concord” (2011)
Now: Air Jordan 11 Low – White – Black (2014)
Michael Jordan wore a pair of these for the Chicago Bulls 1996 NBA Championship parade. They picked up the nickname ‘Parades’ and MJ has been seen rocking them occasionally after Derek Anderson laced up a pair for his stint with the Spurs. Eighteen years after their reveal, these are set to drop during the summer season.
Then: Air Jordan 6 PE for Michael Jordan Motorsports team (2009)
Now: Air Jordan 6 Retro “Motorsports” (2010)
The Michael Jordan Motorsports team creates a new theme each year connecting their bikes and livery with a special edition Air Jordan colorway. The VI was created in 2009 for MJM’s sixth year in competition, but it proved to be such a pleasing design, they couldn’t help but release it the following spring.
Then: Nike LeBron 9 Elite “NBA Finals PE” (2012)
Now: Nike LeBron 9 Elite “Championship” (2012)
LeBron James won his first NBA title in 2012. The Miami Heat took control of their series with the Thunder by winning one of the first games in Oklahoma City and seizing home court. LeBron wore the red Elite IX for these first two road games. Nike Basketball commemorated the victory later that summer by packing these in with the ‘MVP’ LeBron 9 for August’s ‘Championship Pack’.
Then: Nike SB Dunk Low “Loon” (2004)
Now: Nike SB Dunk Low “Loon” (2011)
This design by artist Todd Bratrud for Minnesota’s Familia skate shop was first presented as a sample in 2004. There weren’t any legal issues to note, but for whatever reason, this colorway didn’t end up releasing for over six years. The released version improved upon the original by adding depth to its signature pattern through embroidery, though they omitted the original zebra heel tab.
Then: Air Jordan III “White/Cement” (1988 Original, 1994 Retro)
Now: Air Jordan 3 Retro ’88 (2013)
The original ‘White/Cement’ Jordan III dates back to the days when you could just walk into any good sneaker store and buy what you wanted. No Quickstrikes, camping, no bots, no resale, and the cool factor was arguably even higher. So when Jordan Brand released an OG colorway with the unprecedented return of the ‘NIKE AIR’ heel logo, we welcomed it as an unexpected blast from the past.
Then: Nike Air Flightposite One “Carbon Fiber” (1999)
Now: Nike Air Flightposite One “Carbon Fiber” (2014)
The Carbon Fiber Flightposite is one of two shoes among these that already had a retail release. Thing is, the originals are so rare, these may as well be a first run because you have almost no chance of finding the 1999 release.