Nike reaches into their vault to revisit an important but often overlooked subdivision of their basketball footwear history, the outdoor line. Created to make sure those that played basketball predominantly outside on hard, unforgiving asphalt had durable sneaker options, Nike began their outdoor-specific basketball line in 1992 with the birth of the Air Raid.
Designed by Tinker Hatfield and Mark Smith, the Air Raid became the first Nike basketball sneaker designed specifically for the blacktop, featuring a bold cross-strapped upper and extra durable outsole that was made entirely flat to ensure complete contact with the pavement. A landmark model in Nike Basketball history, the Air Raid was the brand’s first and still most iconic outdoor basketball sneaker ever.
Tinker Hatfield’s early sketches of the Air Raid, which was originally slated to be named the Air Jack.
A sequel was created for the Air Raid the following year in 1993, the Air Raid II. The similar design featured more substantial leather cross straps this time, and a slightly modified sole unit. The Air Raid II also brought graphics to the silhouette, like the “wooden” colorway seen here and the famous “Peace” version.
The next step in Nike’s outdoor basketball line was the Air Darwin from 1994, which also featured an asphalt-minded extra durable leather upper and rubber outsole. The Darwin also featured a quick-lace system utilizing nylon lace loops, visible Air, and the introduction of the “backwards” Swoosh which added to its bold design.
In 1995 Nike would give specific branding to the outdoor line: NDESTRUKT. The NDESTRUKT line was championed by the basketball models, but the rugged and extra durable constructions were also seen on tennis and trail-running footwear. The entire NDESTRUKT line debuted with the basketball sneaker simply named the Air NDESTRUKT.
The most notable sneaker of all the NDESTRUKT line was the Air Shake from 1996, made famous by Dennis Rodman. His unofficial signature shoe, the Shake featured an appropriately unusual and bold look to match his style, with an asymmetric lacing system and leather wrap. The Shake was accompanied in 1996 by the cleverly named Rattle and Roll, which each featured the same durable outsole but were designed with a more traditional upper.
The outdoor basketball line lives on today with many of Nike’s basketball models offered in extra-tough XDR outsoles designed to stand up to hours and hours of play on any surface.