Sneak Peak Golden Years: Air Shake Ndestrukt
The ‘Ndestrukt’-able Worm
(Every year, hundreds of basketball sneakers are produced, issued, sold and played in on the hardwood worldwide, and for every year in the NBA, at least one star player has a special season that is the peak of his career–and the signature shoe that shares in his glory. That’s what Sneak Peak is all about–highlighting players and their sneakers from the past 25 years who shared the spotlight with iconic play and iconic style.
For the time being, the Sneak Peak series will focus on the golden era of the top sig shoes, players, and their best overall seasons, which was approximately between 1994-1997, which we are dubbing “The Wonder Years”.)
You remember the press conference, don’t you?
The media frenzy in breezy Chicago. Was he coming? Was hecoming? The Worm showing up with a red bull dyed and cut into his hair was just the beginning for the newly-formed Chicago Bulls. Remade in the re-vision of head coach Phil Jackson, The G.O.A.T. was making his full season’s return to the United Center, Scott Pippen was in tow, but where was Horace Grant? Where was Will Perdue? Stacey King? Ahhhhh, they were all gone and onto other green pastures (well, kind of). Luc Longley was there in the middle, but what had he accomplished? A few lackluster years in Minnesota wasn’t a ringing endorsement for championship success. The Bulls needed a four-man, but why was San Antonio so eager to get rid of Dennis Rodman for crying out loud? Wasn’t he a rebounding champion? Didn’t he provide some good balance to David Robinson? Wasn’t the player they took back in Perdue an inferior player?
Well, it didn’t seem that it mattered much to the boys in red and black. MJ was civil about it. Pip was cool with it (aside from the whole Detroit Pistons rivalry fiasco and the cheap shots that Rod gave him). The Worm was all Chicago needed to complete the formula for success. Just rebound, play hard and follow through–it didn’t matter what dress he’d get paid to pose in or what color his hair was. Madonna or Carmen Electra, it didn’t matter. Sure he was weird…but then again, so was his shoe.
It’s pretty much known that the Chicago Bulls reformed their dynastic reign over the NBA starting in the legendary ’95-96 season, known for being arguably the greatest NBA team in history withits record-setting win total and chant, “72-10 ain’t a thing without a ring.” That the ring was won is almost a moot point. Dennis was a key cog, starting as the Bulls’ power forward and literally worming his way to another rebounding title for what was then his fifth-consecutive title, in the midst of a seven-season streak. His play restored an enthusiasm that was somewhat absent from the Bulls in prior seasons, and Rodman can be equally credited with Pippen as one who helped restore Michael Jordan’s reign as the greatest player to ever live.
Aside from the accolades, Rodman had this shoe. It was a weird shoe, a different shoe, a fairly elegant, yet strange shoe. Nike constructed for No. 91 the Nike Air Shake Ndestrukt. With eyelets literally on the inside (medial side) of the sneaker, plush leather or suede (depending on the colorways) wrapped the entire foot over for full protection, and taking cues from the Nike Air Jordan XI, a full-patent leather rand (on specially selected colorways, yet again) lined the shoe’s perimeter. Built upon a super-dense and substantive polyurethane midsole, encasing a basic Air-Sole unit and then that sitting atop a special DRC (Durable Rubber Compound) rubber outsole (now called XDR in the Zoom LeBron and Zoom LBJ Ambassador–”Xtra Durable Rubber”), it was the perfect shoe to get your basketball hustle on in.
(S. Dot Timeout: I owned this shoe. I bought it when me and my 7th grade classmates went to Chicago for about three days, and I went bonkers at the downtown Niketown. Unfortunately, I had gotten into an unfortunate car accident [caused by a drunk driver] months before in the ’96-97 school year with my aunt, my grandma and my cousin, and lucky for me, I collected on that insurance money. Soooooooooo…after begging my mom to give me several hundred ducats to go crazy with in the Windy City, I stepped inside Niketown and lost my mind. NYC white/white Air Force 1 Mids with clear rubber bottoms! Nike Air Way Ups in the signature white/red Scottie Pippen/Toni Kukoc colorways! The white/navy patent leather Air Shake Ndestrukts!!! I bought those suckers in a size 10, got a fresh Nike tennis visor and then picked up a full replica NorthCarolina Vince Carter home uniform–the jersey and shorts both. Those Rodmans are literally the most durable shoe that Nike’s made that I’ve worn, save for the Air Jordan XVIIs, which are practically built tougher than a Ford truck–literally. I wore those those Ndestrukts from 1997 to about 2001, wearing them everywhere and every place that I was gonna really ball–like Wittenberg University and Ohio State’s summer basketball camps [caught a glimpse of a pre-freshman year Michael Redd in the summer of '97, and I thought he was gonna be horrible]–and then I retired them…only to ressurrect the shoe in the latter part of my sophomore year in college in 2004 and started to get heavily involved in full-body weight training. I wore them for another two years until the polyurethane midsole finally started to crack away, but I have a feeling that if never stopped wearing them in the first place, they wouldn’t have degraded the way they did.)
As I was having a ball in Rodman’s signature Nikes, he was busy winning two more championships to complete the second three-peat in Bulls franchise history. Of course, Jerry Krause, the architect of the Bulls roster, was pushing for Jordan to leave (?!?!?!), Pippen was unhappy about being underpaid after so many years, and Coach Jackson was tired of the chicanery on Krause’s part…and he needed to take his periodic sabbatical in Montana, as is self-prescribed. The Worm, unfortunately, was left fending for himself with no real contender looking to add him as an essential piece, despite his great rebounding prowess at his advanced age. He spent the ’99 season with the Los Angeles Lakers, acting as a part-time sideshow with Shaquille O’Neal, and then bowed out of the league totally after a failed (but still very productive) stint with the Dallas Mavericks in ’99-00. A few other nonsensical media set-ups and hookups later, and Rodman was out of total consideration for league jobs (appearing on “Judge Pirro” doesn’t help, Dennis). He has yet to be nominated for the Hall of Fame.
I, on the other hand, enjoyed the latter days of my Rodmans fully. I’ve moved on from those shoes to other exclusive Nike Dunks, Jordans and my other boyhood shoe that I cherished in Gary Payton’s Nike Air Hawk Flight (the lightest shoe I ever wore–with Zoom Air!), but I’ll always remember those Air Shake Ndestrukts.
It might be sort of sad to say, but I think I came out on the better end of things (more so than Dennis, at least).
Sandy Dover is a novelist/writer, artist, fitness enthusiast, as well as an unrepentant Prince fan (for real). You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline, as well as at Associated Content and Twitter.