Shox and Awes
How Nike Shox changed basketball.
by Rudy Raya / @rudy_raya
The evolution of the basketball shoe isn’t something you can just chart on a timeline. While just about anything can be considered an upgrade from the original, flat-footed Converse Chuck Taylors, there has never really been a distinct line of progression. Sorry to take you back to Anthropology class, being that it is summer and all, but basketball shoes have had a sort of Mosaic evolution. Different traits developing at different rates. Whether it was the Reebok Pump, the Nike Air Max, or any other added piece of rubber or plastic paired with some made-up name, there seems to be a never-ending nest of new technology that can be put into an athletic shoe. Some go unnoticed, others are somewhat obvious, but none were as blatant or as intriguing as the original Nike Shox.
When the Nike Shox BB4 first appeared on the shoe scene, many didn’t know what to think. Most companies wouldn’t dare to venture outside of their normal formulas, but Nike has always been the brand to push forward with new ideas and let the others straggle behind. Whether you thought they were ugly or amazing, the Shox design immediately caught your attention. There was nothing like it at the time. Actual springy thingies in a pair of shoes! “But what do they do?” These space age things looked like rocket ships ready for lift off; finally freeing the floor-bound masses. Hope for the hop-less. But certainly, Nike wouldn’t put millions of dollars of time and energy into a pair of moon boots, would they? With so much mystery, skepticism ensued. Nike has pulled some fast ones on the public before— No offense to Scottie, he was a great player and everything, but any shoe possessing the name “Pippen” was the footwear equivalent of his face: not very pretty. With the BB4s having such an outlandish look, the company couldn’t just stay quiet.
Being the ingenious marketers that they are, Nike managed to address their newest design with the brilliant series of “Boing” commercials. The concept for the commercials was rather simple: Vince Carter dunking over Gary Payton. Each step Vince took was followed by a “boing”, emphasizing their shoe’s bouncy appearance. Payton played his usual abnoxious self, somewhat paralleling the outspoken and always critical sneakerhead community. And Vince played Vince, doing what he did best: dropping people’s jaws while simultaneously shutting them up. Vince played the game with a tenacity that you could barely wrap your head around. Perfect for a shoe of the same puzzling nature. Who better than VC to represent this revolutionary shoe?
But this wasn’t the vagabond Vince Carter that you see today, limping his way from team to team, town to town. This was Vinsanity. ½ Man, ½ Amazing. In his prime, and what a prime it was. Able to leap 7-foot Frenchmen in a single bound! He may not have been Superman, but Vince could fly. He would hang up 30 points on the visiting team, perform at halftime in the Raptor suit (without a trampoline, mind you!), and then edit his own highlight reel before Sportscenter at 10 o’clock! If the way they looked didn’t make you want the shoes, Vince did.
The colorways weren’t overtly “in your face”, but they were attractive. These weren’t like the ballet shoes that Kobe and D Rose are currently trying to pass off as their own signature shoes. The Nike Shox BB4 were pretty massive, mountainous even, with the added springy midsole. With a new look, entertaining commercials, and a superstar spokesman, the shoe was ready to take over Nike’s athletic empire. The only problem was that they didn’t really do that. The shoes didn’t really do anything. The springs in the back were hollow, empty of anything special. The Shox technology provided cushioning more than anything else. Sure they’d give you and extra inch and a half in height, but if you were expecting some kind of spring-board effect to launch you through the air and towards the heavens, keep dreaming. As with any new Nike concept shoe, they weren’t exactly the most affordable thing on the market. Coming in at around $150, unless you were selling all of your Pokémon cards- Yes, even your Holographic Charizard- chances are that you weren’t copping a pair.
Nike Shox BB4 can in no way be proclaimed as the greatest basketball shoe of all time, but it should be applauded for the way in which it challenged the tradition of sports shoes. It was an idea and a look that captivated the imagination of young people everywhere. Whether the springs worked or not is now irrelevant. The ability they had to spark interest in the consumer was all that really mattered. Were the Nike Shox a landmark creation in the world of athletic shoes? Probably not. But it was a statement. It was a statement about how far basketball has come since its early days and about the awe-inspiring athleticism that many players possess in the current day. It was also a nod to the future of the game, its style, and the possibilities that it may hold. Inundated with subtle stripes and lace-shredding straps, the bland landscape of basketball shoes needed an injection of life, and the Nike Shox were just that.