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A Look Back At A Decade Of Nike’s Black History Month Collection

By Jared Ebanks

Each February since 2005 Nike has celebrated both the advancements and heritage of African-Americans through the brand’s universal language, kicks. What once was a simplistic honorary pair of Air Force 1’s featuring hits of red from the Pan-African flag has since evolved into an extensive treasure trove of releases and monetary contributions advancing the ideals of equality, diversity and inclusion in and beyond sport.
From sports to social media and everything in between, Black culture and individuals have and continue to propel and inform society in countless ways. Memorializing the achievements and accomplishments of these communities has been a recurring theme for the Beaverton-based brand over the last few decades, most notably invigorating the greater basketball landscape with recurring thematic releases.
On the final day of Black History Month, it’s more than appropriate that we take a moment to appreciate both the influence and brilliance of both Black athletes and designers as we look back through the complete history of The Swooshes’ BHM collections.

  • Nike BHM Collection 2011

Revered for its simplistic yet premium design, the 2011 Nike BHM Collection stands atop its own mountain as arguably the best comprehensive collection to date while featuring the first appearance of basketball silhouettes. Celebrating the 35th anniversary of the holiday’s first official recognition in 1976, the enormous slate of silhouettes gazed at the impact of three hoops visionaries; Kobe Bryant, Julius Erving and Michael Jordan.
Dedicated to basketball’s earliest pioneers whose game shoes were predominately black, each silhouette featured lavish golden Swooshes and accents harkening to the NBA athletes “Call to Greatness”.  Whether it was the Nike KD 3, Zoom Kobe 6 or Air Jordan 3, a consistent sock liner dawned each silhouette within the entire collection reading, “Overcome The Odds. Make An Impact On Your Sport. Change The World.”
Featuring the first official appearance of the now synonymous BHM Lignature, eight different Nike silhouettes including the Nike Hyperdunk and Hyperfuse were crafted alongside eight Jordan models and six Converse offerings for the slew of brand athletes suiting up for the NBA’s 13 Martin Luther King Jr. Day games.
  • Nike BHM Collection 2012

The following year saw The Swoosh commemorate the success of three iconic sports teams – the 1996 Gold Medal USA Women’s Basketball team, the 2002 World Cup Champion Brazil Men’s Soccer team and the Gold Medal winning 2008 Kenyan Long-Distance Running team.
Utilizing a synonymous pattern of red, green and yellows, each silhouette came clothed in a tonal inspiration to the aforementioned country’s international cultures. Coordinating a colorful cross between the beads of Kenya, Brazil’s bright Carnival holiday and the African-American quilt-making tradition from the South, the greyscale collection with vibrant accents featured the brand’s three signature silhouettes in the Nike LeBron 9, Kobe 7 and KD 4 alongside a slew of lifestyle releases including an Air Force 1 Low, Air Max 1, Huarache Free Run and Blazer High.
  • Nike BHM Collection 2013

In the same year that brought us the famed Nike Chukka and a bevy of Flyknit constructions, Nike Basketball was churning out some of the best signature silhouettes of the decade, featuring the iconic Kobe 8 System, LeBron X and KD V. Headlining the ensuing BHM collections return to the hardwood with a lively array of “Sport Grey” and “Total Orange”-tinted efforts, a black and grey African-inspired print unified the initial assortment of propositions.
Currently enjoying its 10th anniversary, the “Be Bold, Be True” collection was accompanied by a short film featuring a spoken word piece by author Joekenneth Museau and produced by 9th Wonder. As a dual endeavor with the brand’s sportswear division, the Nike Lunar Force 1, Foamposite Hi, Dunk Sky Hi and Nike Air Force 1 Downtown accompanied the on-court silhouettes for a total of seven inclusionary models.
  • Nike BHM Collection 2014

Honoring the kings and queens of sport that have unilaterally been inspired by the legacy of Pan-African achievements, five total athletes – LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Allyson Felix, Maya Moore and Ishod Wair – served as the main inspiration behind the 2014 collection.
Anchoring its on-court models with royalty-infused shades of purple and metallic gold, the presiding athletes crowning attainments are represented within the Nike KD 6, LeBron 11, and Jordan Melo 10 while being joined by a nubuck-treated Dunk Low and Lunar Air Force 1 High. Continuing the inclusion of lifestyle-extensive offerings, the LeBron 11 NSW, Air Max 1 and Revolution Sky High were brushed with a boastful golden arrangement and crimson accents.
  • Nike BHM Collection 2015

Following an assortment of colorful exhibitions, the halfway point of the decade enjoyed a curtailed, monochromatic theme playing on the notion of an optical illusion while reinstating the 10-year anniversary of the AF1 that started it all. In keeping with the latter year’s expanded roster of honorary athletes, 2015 paid tribute to Hall of Fame coach John Thompson, Inglewood skater Theotis Beasley, soccer star Kevin-Prince Boateng, two-time track and field Gold Medalist Brianna Rollins, NFL wide receiver Jerry Rice and legendary women’s basketball head coach C. Vivian Stringer.
Featuring the return of Kobe Bryant’s signature silhouette to the collection alongside the first appearance of Kyrie’s debut model, the Nike KD 7, LeBron 12, Kobe 10 Elite and Kyrie 1 rounded out The Swooshes on-court solutions in a black, white and grey kente-cloth style print inspired by the unassailable strength and determination exuded by the latter six athletes and coaches.
  • Nike BHM Collection 2016

Incorporating a similar cloth-inspired digitized print, the 2016 collection celebrated both Black heritage and excellence by looking through the impactful lens of Serena Williams, Sanya Richards-Ross, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul. Releasing their four-headed monster to lead the way – comprised of the LeBron 13, KD 8, Kobe 11 and Kyrie 2 – a repeating titular tribal theme of customary patchwork and textiles cohabitated across each silhouette to celebrate the collective harmony crafted through sport and ” The Power Of One.”
  • Nike BHM Collection 2017

It would be three years before the regal attribution of golden hues returned to the commemorative collection, with 2017 infusing the shimmering metallics from 2014 with the greyscale ensemble from 2015. Attributing a total of nine silhouettes, the formers abundant assortment of options transitioned to a more reserved assemblage including the Nike KD 9, LeBron 14 and Kyrie 3, while models new and old, like the Nike Flare and OG Jordan Trunner, joined the fold in tandem with a duo of Air Jordan 1’s and a dyad of Air Force 1’s.
Coated in a decorative marble aesthetic, the monochrome inclusions elegantly blended black and white in reference to the strength of harmonious movement while punctual golden accents symbolized the power of unity. The seventh collection in the greater BHM series marked a quintessential change within the targeted messaging, evolving from honoring the achievements of Black athletes and coaches to the wider celebration of the diaspora and sports’ role in provoking change within society.
  • Nike BHM Collection 2018

The Pan-African flag was initially called upon to serve as the very first celebration of Black History month from The Swoosh with an aptly colored Air Force 1 in 2005. 13 years later, the empowering red, black and green combination played a pivotal role in the brand’s 2018 “EQUALITY” collection.
Accompanied by a short film narrated by Michael B. Jordan, the ensuing collection tasked the sporting world with extending the same respect and fairness in and off their respective fields, fueled by the notion that no matter the playing field, equality should have no boundaries. Incorporating the trio of tones across the Nike LeBron 15, KD 19 and Kyrie 4, a consecutive lineup of lifestyle offerings included the Nike Vapromax, an “EQUALITY” branded Air Force 1 and Air Jordan 1 featuring the appearance of Carmelo Anthony’s insignia.
From a full-fledged line of branded apparel to the latter nine silhouettes, the 2018 collection has since proffered into one of the Beaverton brand’s most influential initiatives that continues to recognize communities and equality-driven organizations to this day.
  • Nike BHM Collection 2019

Diminishing its number of offerings to a tightened lineup of seven silhouettes, 2019’s troupe concentrated on the incalculable impact of the vast amount of cultures presiding within the African continent. As such, each signature silhouette shouldered the rich traditions and history of three African countries.
Coated in a blissful, oceanic wash of blue, the Nike KD 11 honors the heritage of Sierra Leone with a traditional-inspired patterned print proclaiming the sock liner. Rendering the first appearance of Paul George’s signature series, the Nike PG 3 honored the Democratic Republic of the Congo with its affluently colored woven pattern while the Kyrie 5 paid tribute to Kenyan customs with shimmering embellishments.
Alongside the inclusion of two opposing renditions of the Nike LeBron 16 “Equality”, an Air Force 1 Utility and Serena Williams’ Nike Flare 2, a recurring golden accent pushed forward the collection’s theme of Afro-futurism.
  • Nike BHM Collection 2020

While the past nine years’ worth of collections received official releases, the year of the Nike Dunk’s revival saw The Swoosh render its on-court signature roster in Player-Exclusive renditions for the first time in the collection’s history. Blending the influence of 90’s street culture and African heritage, the KD 12, LeBron 17, PG 4, Kyrie 6 and Zoom Freak 1 all dressed in a barrage of disparate tones for January’s MLK Day games.
Instead of conjoining both its basketball and lifestyle propositions into a collective slate of drops, 2020’s BHM selection was anchored by an Air Max 95 and Air Force 1 Low possessing a uniform pre-worn aesthetic featuring loose, hanging threads as a representation of the connections we share through sport.
With the turn of the decade came the final installation in a near-decade-long run of Nike’s basketball models directing the ensemble of BHM efforts each February. While a return to the famed assembly is far from likely in the new year, the recent additions of Ja Morant and Jayson Tatum to Nike and Jordan’s signature roster could proffer the Beaverton brand to enact a resuscitation. In the meantime, we’ve got a near hundred efforts to gawk at while the sportswear behemoth has put forth a $140 million donation over the next decade towards the Black community and the organizations advancing social justice, education and economic opportunity.