A Look Back: June 2003

By Drew Hammell

Summer 2003: Beyoncé, Lil Jon, Lumidee, and 50 Cent were heating up the music charts, while The Matrix Reloaded, Bruce Almighty, and Finding Nemo were hits at the Box Office. The era of baggy/bootcut jeans was coming to an end, with the skinny jeans trend on the horizon. Meanwhile, on the sneaker scene, Nike and Jordan Brand were sizzling with a ton of hot summer releases. There were plenty of brand new models, along with some classic retros. Here’s a look back at some of the highlights from fifteen years ago.

Air Jordan 18 1

Back in April of ’03, Michael Jordan wrapped up his final season in the NBA by playing in all 82 games as a 40-year-old. He would wear several different Jordan models that season, including the Air Jordan 18 Mid. Featuring double-stacked Zoom Air units and a magnetic shroud, this model is not one of his most famous. In the past year, however, Jordan Brand has been bringing back the 18 in both OG and new colorways, and the reception has been strong.

Jordan Retro 8

During the ’02-’03 season, Jordan was also seen on the court wearing the Jumpman Team FBI, which was also featured in this catalog – one of the few times in his career he didn’t wear an Air Jordan model.

That year, some famous retro models would return for the first time, including the Air Jordan 8 in white/black/red, which he wore during his third championship run with the Bulls during the ’92-’93 season. This was the first time the AJ8 would retro in the OG white/red colorway. Jordan Brand also released a new black/chrome version as well.

In addition, there was a retro version of the Air Jordan 11 IE Low for the first time. MJ rocked the black/red colorway for a few games in the ’96 playoffs.

Air Jordan 12 Cleat

Also of note for football fans, Jordan released the Air Jordan 12 cleat in two colorways – one for now Hall of Famer Warren Sapp and one for future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson. Cleat versions of the Air Jordan 12 have been one of the most popular over the last 15 years for both Jordan Team football and baseball players.

Nike Basketball 1

As for Nike Basketball, this catalog was packed with a wide variety of sneaker technology options for every type of player. From high flyers, to power forwards, to flashy guards, there was a shoe for everyone. For example, there was full-length Shox cushioning, as seen with Vince Carter’s signature Shox VC 2. There was full-length Max Air cushioning, featured in the Nike Air Max Finisher worn by the Celtics’ Paul Pierce. There was full-length Zoom Air cushioning in the Nike Air Ultraposite, and there were ultralight models that also featured Zoom Air, like the Zoom Flight 2K3 worn by LeBron James, Jason Kidd, Tony Parker.

Also of note was the Air Zoom Ultraflight, which was worn by Gary Payton and Steve Nash and came in nine different colors.

2003 is by no means known as a “Golden Age” for sneakers like the mid-‘90s, but there was definitely a lot going on in terms of technology and fashion. Jordan Brand was pushing the boundaries in terms stylish footwear, and Nike Basketball was introducing some very futuristic designs. Though Nike’s Shox technology has already become a relic and is largely scoffed at by athletes now, it was quite a revolutionary concept 15 years ago. The fact that Nike was able to make a shoe with full-length “springs” underneath, and the fact that Vince Carter wore them, and actually excelled in them, while playing basketball at the highest level was quite a feat in itself. Looking back, it’s incredible what a career he’s had considering he was playing in some pretty risky sneakers back then.

It’s going to be interesting to watch the next five years to see if the sneaker world takes more interest in some of these forgotten models. Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, LeBron James, Gary Payton, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, and Tony Parker are all beloved players, and sneakerheads are already calling for some of these Nike Basketball gems to retro. Generally speaking, we see models regain popularity after about 20 years which is why we’re so obsessed with the ’90s right now. However, the early ’00s are quickly approaching, which means we could be seeing a lot more Shox and some of these other influential models soon.


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