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Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 at 5:14 pm  |  44 responses

Sneak Peak: Nike Air Maestro

The shoe that embodied Pip’s sneaker legacy.

Scottie Pippen & the Nike Air Maestro

Every year, hundreds of basketball sneakers are produced, issued, sold and played in on the hardwood worldwide. And at least one star NBA player has a special season at peak of his career, and a signature shoe shares his glory. That’s what Sneak Peak is about—highlighting players and their sneakers from the past 25 years who shared the spotlight with iconic play and iconic style.

by Sandy Dover

The ‘lost season’ is memorialized in many ways.

It was when the G.O.A.T. spent his time toiling in baseball mediocrity, away from the newly built United Center. It was the season Anfernee Hardaway became the league’s shiny Penny. The year Chris Webber wrapped a basketball around his waist and dunked on Sir Charles. The year the Houston Rockets took NBA glory while the bison of the Second City were left utterly defeated by a pack of blue-and-orange Knickerbockers.

The season was ‘93-94. It was the year of Pip and the breakout of the Nike Air Maestro.

In the absence of the Black Cat, Pippen took the former Jordanaires, placed them upon his broad, angular shoulders, laced up his Nikes and took off to take over the League. In what was to become his strongest season without MJ, Pip went about the ’94 season like a man on a mission, averaging a career-high 22.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.9 steals per game.

Pip led the Bulls in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, doing the vast majority of his work in the basic black/white and white/black Air Maestro colorways for his home and away games. While the long-armed swingman (long thought to be the first NBA player to literally swing between guard and forward on a consistent basis) is remeScottie Pippen & the Nike Air Maestrombered as a whiner when then-rookie Toni Kukoc was drawn up for a last-second game winner instead of Pippen himself, he nearly led the Bulls to the Finals, save for the referees’ ‘brilliance’ (*cough mistakes cough*) in the 1994 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New York Knicks.

While the 6-7… 8-ish… 9-ish guard/forward (former coach Doug Collins swears Pippen is two or three inches taller than him—Collins is 6-7) was having the year of his life, his shoes took on another life. While using a primarily low-key color scheme, the Air Maestro got white-hot for the MVP candidate. Utilizing a seemingly-simple visible Air cushioning package, a high-cut upper and Huarache-like panels, the Air Maestro was the de facto sneaker of choice for many a hoophead, and things only got more interesting in the annual All-Star Weekend.

Voted on as an NBA All-Star for the fourth time of his career, Pippen made the most of his experience, tallying 29 points on 60 percent shooting, connecting on 5-9 three-pointers and winning All-Star MVP. Most fans don’t remember his point total or the fact that he muscled down 11 rebounds in the affair—no, Pip saw to it that everyone would know he was wearing all-red Maestros. Setting him apart in function and fashion, the Air Maestro became nearly as legendary as the man himself (and I have the Fleer basketball card to prove it!).

While the Air Maestro was seemingly plain, its mythic standards (to sneakerheads) remain in its achievements and the popularity of the basketball players that took to the blacktop and the rec center gyms to for hoop time. Henceforth, the Air Maestro marked the start of a future beautiful relatioNike Air Maestronship between Pip and his sneakers, allowing the swingman to gain enough steam individually to get his own featured sneakers series with the Swoosh under his namesake—the Nike Air Pippen.

What followed was an assembly line of five Air Pippen shoe sets, and three of those annual sleds (the Air Pippen I, I, and III) have become classic Nike basketball releases. Alongside the shoes, Pip himself won another three championships with Money Michael Jordan and nearly won a fourth in his first season with the Portland Trail Blazers in 2000.

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  • yaway

    First!

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    I don’t even remember these kicks, but that’s not surprising considering I wasn’t a kicks fiend.
    When I think of Pip’s shoes, I think of the Nike’s with the big AIR across the side.

  • Clipp Show 714

    Nice story. Brings back nice momories. The first pippen shoe in black was my fav.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Those red All-Star kicks are so sweet.

  • Captain Jean Luc-Picard

    Pip had chicken legs

  • The D Train

    my favorite shoe of all time that wasn’t an Air Jordan. i actually had parents that wouldn’t pay $125 for shoes, so my paper route money went to Jordan’s instead, but those are some mighty sweet-ass looking kicks. i know what i’m tellin’ the wifey i want for xmas this year.

  • http://www.shoenut.blogspot.com ShoeNut

    Those are ok. I think the best Pippens were the Air More Uptempos.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    I must be in the minority, but I think those kicks are butt-ugly. Maybe it is the Ronald McDonald red?

  • larrylegend

    the red is horrible, but they are so fly! my friend had those, couldn’t ball, but looked thight in those.

  • ENDS

    They were the First (to my recolection) All star game kicks with the Prevelant color of the players Team. Thats all anyone talked about that following monday. That and Shaq’s Horrible Performance. Anyone who doesnt remember these has to b like 18 yrs old

  • http://slamonline.com Brad Long

    Allenp:I had three different colorways of that shoe in Jr. High. Classic.

  • Tommy Patron

    I would have to insist that Pip was not the first player to swing between guard and forward. I’m sure there is someone earlier, but Paul Pressey came to mind right away.

  • http://www.associatedcontent.com/sandydover Sandy Dover

    Tommy Patron: It’s not that he was the bonafide first, but he is considered by NBA historians to have been considered a true swingman and dubbed such, since within the Bulls’ offense, he matched up at forward and point guard throughout the entire 48 minutes. Really, the triple post offense (the triangle offense), Jordan played small forward, B.J. Armstrong and Ron Harper were shooting guards and Pippen was usually always the point guard.

    And actually, that’s where Kobe plays these days in the same offense–small forward (the “attacker” spot) and point guard (the “distributor” spot).

    But to answer your question thoroughly, the real first legitimate swingman was probably Oscar Robertson or Magic Johnson, in his first couple of years.

  • Tommy Patron

    I wasn’t asking a question, really, and I wouldn’t say that he “matched up” at forward and point guard throughout. Only occasionally was he guarding/being guarded by the opposing point guard. Working as the point on offense, yes, but I don’t remember Paxson or Armstrong guarding too many 2′s or 3′s.

  • http://www.associatedcontent.com/sandydover Sandy Dover

    Patron: Well, it still counts that he played between those spots much of the time and is acknowledged in that swingman role, whether it was offense and/or defense; you have to remember, too, that even if those smaller points on those Bulls teams were defending adequately-sized players, neither B.J. nor John were just exceptional defenders (though B.J. was quite good when he wanted to be), and that the Bulls would sometimes shade other teammates’ opponents to Pippen, Jordan or Horace Grant as a last defense. In other words, it didn’t matter much of there was a mismatch for those other guys, because MJ, Pip and Grant were going to be the last guys you see while you were trying to score, most of the time.

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  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Blinguo

    Good stuff, but from the retros that still come about on eBay and the rarer originals sometimes, they don’t look like they have any Vis(ible)-Air bubbles going on. Also strange how Nike re-used the Air Maestro name several times after Pip’s version here, without adding on like the year in the name or a numeral to make it distinct which one is which.

  • http://www.associatedcontent.com/sandydover Sandy Dover

    You’re right, the correction to the visible Air didn’t get in, in time (that was my bad). It’s interesting, too, because Pippen also wore the later versions of the Air Maestro in ’97 and ’98, too. Pip floated between wearing his signature Pippens and Uptempos and Jordans in those last Bulls seasons, so he mixed it up pretty often.

  • backboard

    ha, i had those….

  • Tanoy Biswas

    THOSE ARE DIRTY!!!!

  • http://allanzuss@yahoo.com Mendel

    Illness to the max

  • j.meezy

    i have these in black and white, still rocking them if i’m playing outside (i got them taped up just to keep the shoe together!) my fave shoe…nike bring these back out i need a new pair!!!!!

  • Razilla Tha Beast

    i dont remember these, but thats probabli becouse i was seven years old and what not

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    This feature/section is gonna bring tears to my eyes, guaranteed. I had these back in 94, had to beg, threaten and curse till a buddy who was traveling to the US could bring me back a pair (this was pre-eastbay, people). I LOVED them, had only been balling 6 years up to that point and apart from the AJ VI, these were my favorite Kicks to play in. That is until Penny and Timmy Hardaway broke out the Air G.O. LWP a season later. http://www.pickyourshoes.com/vintage/nike_air_go.htm My quest to get THAT shoe is nearly on par with one of Odysseus’s, Homer would have been proud. Till today, the LWP is THE Shoe i wish Nike would bring back. Never played better in any other shoe.

  • jk_light

    The red ones where the first expensive shoes I bought by myself and I got them still in the basement somewhere. Great Shoes.

  • Yassi

    very VERY nice write up………
    thx from Germany

  • pennydunk_1

    Cheers for quoting Penny

  • http://www.2girls1cup.com Boing Dynasty aka Free Lester Hudson

    Real talk B long them more tempos still break necks to this day. Top 5 nike kick ever.

  • Fat Lever

    DAMN those Sixer uni’s were disgusting. No wonder they never retro those uniforms, ever. Not to mention, those were the years of Shaun Bradley, Sharone Wright, and Dana Barros. As Pusha T would say, “Yuk!”

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Glad y’all know the name of those kicks. My folks didn’t buy expensive shoes, so my brother and I had to get our own kicks and we couldn’t afford the Pippens so we had the cheaper version, I forget the name. Anyway, EVERYBODY who was fly in New Orleans had those kicks back in the day. Those shoes, those Old Deion Sanders, the old Junior Seaus and the Huraches were the most popular shoes of my childhood.

  • http://www.another48minutes.blogspot.com Gerard Himself

    Bulls Pippen is my favorite player of all time. I’be got nothing to add, besides the fact that i dig the shoes

  • Mario

    I’m a Croatian and i know what Kukoc said when he made that shot!he said f**k you,Pippen.the secret is finaly solved.

  • Big D

    the reds are ugly, but the all black-with white accents are classic.

  • DS44

    He was rocking these when Patri…just youtube it

  • http://Www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    DS: if you meant his monster dunk on Ewing, no he wasn’t.

  • BigShotBob

    Pip had some great sneaks. There were some years I preferred his to MJs. A lot of years, actually.

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    SOMEONE JUST DOGGED Dana Barros….fool.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Blinguo

    No one said it yet, better say it, for at least archive sake in another Pippen write up. Not as strange as the one that gets posted with Deke too, “who wants to — Mutumbo”
    -
    “Pippen ain’t easy”

  • love life

    HHHHHHHHHHHHOT!!

  • GLB

    Another fine piece of writing..Keep up the looks backward..this series of articles brings back a lot of really good memories.

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  • shotyme

    well my fav player of all time….do anybody rememmber the commercial of the silent asassin…with pip…when hes running down the court and hes turning into a cheetah…wow….well i still got those air maestro…in great condition….i wear a size 11 if interested! sike…but everytime i wear them people go crazy…and when i tell them they the pip…they dont believe me…thanks 4 the article…peace

  • Phildo

    Scottie’s best kicks ever is undeniably the Air Pippen I that he used in the 1997 playoffs. I capped it about 6 months ago, and damn, these are more comfortable than any of the MJ’s in my collection.

  • http://www.slamonline.com peter lopez

    First to wear red shoes on a worlwide stage was Santa Claus…though the blazers in the 80′s rocked in red as well, but were hovering under the radar, peeps hardly noticed…notably the Glide in his Avias & Roos afterwards… then PIP came in next at the ’94 ASG…intial reaction to the shoe was horrendous, but Scottie had the game to match them revolutionary kicks…made it acceptable to lace up ‘em crimsons…just as long as you bring your A-game with it…see the T-Macs a decade later… leather in full patent leather splendor

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