by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
Rasheed Wallace’s playing days may be over—emphasis, of course, on may—but his impact on the NBA will forever be felt. From popularizing the phrase “Ball Don’t Lie” to his penchant for technical fouls, Sheed’s place in NBA lore won’t soon be forgotten, or replaced. And in every photo, every YouTube clip, every memory of Wallace, there is a common thread: Air Force 1s.
The Air Force 1 High with the strap hanging off the back of the shoe became Sheed’s signature, well past the sneaker’s prime as performance footwear. While other cats were testing the limits of modern technology to try to get an edge, Wallace wore just one shoe, over and over.
Nike celebrated that loyalty to the AF1 on Wednesday night, inviting Sheed and about 50 of his biggest fans to 21 Mercer in SoHo, New York’s Nike Sportswear headquarters. There, Sheed was in the building to launch a special Lunar Force 1 with his name and silhouette on it. The 6-11 Philly native, who became a Knick fan favorite over the past year, did a Q+A session for the fans before the kicks went on sale, then posed for photos and even autographed a handful of pairs before they were sprinkled in among fan purchases at the event.
Why didn’t Wallace ever consider a change in footwear?
“Can’t. I can’t. It represents too much,” he later told SLAM. “To me, it’s like the shoe of the people. It’s not one of those $250 shoes. It’s still a reasonable price, the way the times are now. It represents too much to change.”
Wallace added that once he felt comfortable in the AF1, he knew he’d never switch kicks again for the rest of his career. Now, with modern sneakers evolving faster than ever, and Air Forces relegated to the streets, he could very well be the last NBA player in League history to ever wear the Air Force 1 on the hardwood. As for the signature strap-hanging-off-the-back-heel look?
“Oh, that’s a Philly thing,” Sheed said. “That’s something we always did in Philly growing up. Where it came from, I couldn’t tell you. I started rocking it because my older brothers were doing it. So, of course, younger brother trying to be like the older brothers.”
Only 100 pairs of the Lunar Force 1 Sheed were released in-store, in each of the white/blue/orange and black/blue/orange colorways. Sheed, who has always said he wore the Air Force 1 Hi for its supreme ankle protection and classic street look, noted that the Lunar Forces are far lighter (the exact quote something more like, “these are light as I don’t know what”). That’s due in large part to the addition of modern materials, like Nike Hyperfuse in the upper. And, in true fashion, Wallace made sure to mention that the breathable mesh was not only good for ventilation, but also great for dudes with smelly feet.
Never change, Rasheed.