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Flashback to ’96: Olympic Sneakers of Dream Team 1996

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Any review of the most memorable sneakers of 1996—one of the greatest years for sneakers ever—could absolutely not be complete without a look at the Olympic sneakers of the USA’s Dream Team at the summer games in Atlanta. Following up the NBA All-Star Game and the NBA Finals of 1996, the Olympics in Atlanta that year were another one of the most memorable collections of basketball sneakers ever on display. In this edition of Flashback to ’96, we’ll recap which players wore what on Dream Team II’s quest for another gold medal.

Scottie Pippen and His Iconic Nike Air More Uptempo

Of Course, the most iconic sneaker of all from the ’96 Dream Team’s arsenal of footwear is the “Olympic” Air More Uptempo worn by Scottie Pippen. The boldly-branded and fully Air Max cushioned shoe that Scottie wore in the 1996 Playoffs on the way to a championship with the Bulls got an encore run in the Olympics, where it got an even more eye-catching color block in white and navy with gold accents. Considered by many as the greatest USA basketball shoe ever, Scottie made the More Uptempo one of the most successful sneakers ever, so to speak, with its winning appearances in the Finals and Olympics.

Charles Barkley

Among all of the future Hall of Fame players on Dream Team ’96, Charles Barkley broke out the widest assortment of sneakers during the Olympics. Throughout the early exhibition and official tournament games, Sir Charles wore at least the four Nike models you see above and below: the Air More Uptempo in the “Olympic” and all-white colorway, the Air Max CB34 II and the Air CB 4, the latter which he apparently debuted at the Olympics before wearing them the following 1996-97 NBA season. In the photo above with Scottie Pippen, you can also spot David Robinson in the Nike Air Modify Force (with the USA edition of the removable straps), which he wore throughout the games on the way to becoming the team’s leading scorer.

Shaquille O’Neal

Shaq was still wearing the hypnotizing Reebok Shaqnosis as Dream Team practiced, but by the time the games began he switched over to his newest signature shoe, the Preacher. Packed with Hexalite in a beefy high-top design, the Preacher was definitely a bold shoe built for Shaq’s massive frame. In the years since, the Preacher has become almost entirely forgotten by everyone but the biggest Shaq and Reebok sneaker fans. Is it time for a retro, Reebok Classic?

Gary Payton and Reggie Miller

The Glove and Reggie both wore the “little brother” of the Air More Uptempo, the Air Much Uptempo with visible Air only in the heel, during their time with Dream Team ’96. Since Barkley didn’t stick with the “Olympic” colorway of the More Uptempo, Payton and Miller were the only two players on the team to sport matching kicks throughout most of the tournament. However, for the gold medal game, Reggie randomly switched to a pair of the older Nike Air Max Strong—the same shoe he wore on Team USA during the 1994 FIBA World Basketball tournament.

Grant Hill

For the Olympics, FILA cooked up a special colorway of Grant Hill’s second signature shoe, the FILA GH II, featuring a patriotic white, navy, and red colorway complete with three stars at the toe in place of the FILA logo. Now known as the FILA 96, the shoe has become a certified classic of the ’90s, thanks in no small part to Hill wearing them on the international stage.

Hakeem OlajuWon and Karl Malone

Unlike today’s USA team dominated by Nike and adidas, back in ’96 there were room for some smaller brands on the Olympic squad. Two of the squad’s elite big men were rocking random brands on the Dream Team, with Hakeem Olajuwon in Spalding and Karl Malone in LA Gear. Like Klay Thompson with his Anta sneakers in 2016, The Dream and The Mailman were repping the little guys for Team USA in ’96.

Mitch Richmond and John Stockton

Two of the guys you might forget about being Team USA in 1996, Mitch Richmond and John Stockton, were both wearing the Nike Air Flight ’96 during Olympic play. Not to be confused with the more famous Zoom Flight ’96, the Air Flight was a more affordable takedown featuring standard Air cushioning. It did, however, utilize carbon fiber support on the upper for a similar look to the Zoom Flight. Richmond wore an “Olympic” colorway of the Air Flight, while Stockton kept it simple in white with black accents.

Penny Hardaway

Speaking of the Zoom Flight ’96, that’s the shoe we’ll close out this retrospective of the Dream Team’s sneakers with. It was Penny Hardaway who laced up the Zoom Flight on the international stage, switching over from his own Air Penny signature shoe from the preceding NBA season for a PE of the early Zoom-cushioned basketball shoe. Penny’s PE featured a white and navy upper with his number 6 stitched in gold on each heel. The PE edition retroed for the first time ever this summer to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Dream Team going for gold in 1996.