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Inside The Nike Basketball Vault: Air Bakin’, Kobe 4, And More

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After taking a look at the early history last week, Nike SNKRS is back this week with part 2 of their outdoor basketball sneaker retrospective. After leaving off in 1996 with the Air Shake, Rattle, and Roll in part 1, we now see the next wave of durable, asphalt-ready hoops shoes continue in 1997 with the Air Bakin’ and Air B-Que. The two models with playful names and bold designs began the brand’s next chapter of outdoor basketball sneakers with attention to breathability while still remaining durable.

The Air Bakin’, worn in the NBA by Tim Hardaway, featured a fiery design with cut-out mesh panels for ample ventilation for the hottest summer hoops sessions. The unforgettable design has gone on to become one of the most famous of Nike’s basketball sneaker offerings from 1997, with multiple retro returns throughout the years.

The Air B-Que fired up another extra durable outdoor hoops option in ’97, featuring a heavy canvas upper and high-profile rubber outsole and foam midsole for armor against the asphalt.

In 1998 came the Air Sleep Hoop, part of the “Live, Breathe, Sleep” Hoop series of outdoor-minded performance models. The Sleep Hoop featured Nike’s most extreme emphasis on breathability yet, featuring large open cut-out areas for a built-in cooling system that paired with a durabuck upper and Zoom Air cushioning.

Jumping ahead, in 2008 the Nike Zoom Kobe 4 would become another sneaker perfect for outdoor hoops thanks to its XDR (Extra Durable Rubber) outsole that ensured a long lifetime on the playground as well as the hardwood.

The Air Jordan 2010 got rid of its see-through window and armored up for a special outdoor version, featuring an XDR outsole, toe cap, and cross-strap design paying homage to Tinker Hatfield’s first outdoor basketball sneaker, the Air Raid.

2010 also saw the release of a Nike basketball sneaker revolutionary in more ways than one, the original Zoom Hyperfuse. Perhaps Nike’s most versatile basketball sneaker ever at the time, the Hyperfuse was the perfect blend of durability, breathability, and lightweight design thanks to the innovative fusion of synthetic material and mesh for its upper. The shoe was a great performer indoors or out, and introduced the landmark Hyperfuse technology that is now utilized on countless performance and lifestyle shoes from Nike.