Nike Air Penny, 1995
How do you cater to the player who can’t be defined by an existing category? You create a new lane. Penny’s Hardaway’s strength and athleticism preempted a contemporary style — so much so that his debut Nike signature model, the Nike Air Penny, birthed the Uptempo line. Speed and strength couldn’t be pinned down to a solitary technology, so Penny got a pair of performance aids — a Max Air bag for impact protection and the newly-developed Tensile Air, later renamed Zoom Air, for court feel. The former at the rear and the latter at the front delivered the best of both worlds for a proven combination that’s echoed in contemporary Nike Basketball designs. That 1Cent logo and crystal swoosh exuded confidence, hinting that this was just the start of a relationship rooted in expression and experimentation.