A Look Back: 10 Nike Air Max Running Shoes You Probably Forgot About

A Look Back: 10 Nike Air Max Running Shoes You Probably Forgot About

Happy Air Max Month! A time when we look forward to fresh new releases from Nike and reminisce about the great Air Max running sneakers from years past. Personally, I love flipping through my old Eastbay catalogs to look for models most of us have forgotten about. The ‘90s and early 2000s were chock full of breathtaking new designs and colorways. There were so many great sneakers dropping, a lot were overlooked as the years passed by. I asked some friends what they thought of some of these models, and it’s clear I’m not the only one who would love to see some of these gems come back. Here’s a list of 10 you probably haven’t seen in a while. None have ever retroed, but hopefully we can change that over the next few years.

Drew Hammell A Look Back Nike Air Max 2002

10. Air Max 2002

As time goes by, I find the Air Max 2002 more and more intriguing. Though the upper was nothing all that special, that Tubular Air sole was very different.  The Air Max 2002 was definitely polarizing, however.

“I’d love to see Tubular Air return somehow even if it’s just as a one-off. To me, it symbolizes a time where experimentation was at an all-time boom and Nike was pumping out some incredible looking models. The quality was there and most importantly, the care was there too.” – @airmaxarchives

“These were horrible then and horrible now lol The tubular Air was funky/cool, but those uppers always killed it for me. That entire early 2000s Air Max era was kind of rudderless in my opinion. I think many ignored that era, it’s funny but there are very scarce DS examples of sneakers from that era.” – Complex Associate Creative Director @kevonmylevel

Drew Hammell A Look Back Nike Air Max Slip On

9. Air Max Plus Slip On (2002)

I don’t know why Nike hasn’t brought the Air Max Plus Slip On back yet, but it seems like a no-brainer to me.

“Slip-on TNs would go crazy. Those Stussy/Kukini/Spiridon hybrids ended up being one of my most worn pairs last year. It’s so good to have a slip-on with real cushioning/tech in the rotation.” – collector @jackzurier

I couldn’t agree more, especially since the Air Max Plus continues to be a sneakerhead favorite.

Drew Hammell A Look Back Nike Air Max 2001

8. Air Max 2001

After switching to a Tuned Max sole for the Air Max 2000, Nike reverted back to the traditional dual-pressure, full-length Air-Sole unit for the AM 2001. The Air Max 2001 is definitely not one of the more memorable Air Max models. I completely ignored this shoe when it released, as I wasn’t really feeling the design. Seeing OG pairs 20 years later makes me wish Nike would have brought them back for their anniversary, though. The white/orange/silver pair would definitely stand out today. Maybe we’ll see them in 2026 for the 25th anniversary.

Drew Hammell A Look Back Nike Air Max 2000

7. Air Max 2000

Talk about pressure. It’s 1999. Nike’s been crushing it with Air Max running designs for over a decade. Everyone is waiting with anticipation to see what they’ll come up with for the 2000th year of the Common Era and they drop….this? The Air Max 2000 was another underwhelming design with zero new breakthroughs. The only interesting feature was the fact they swapped out the Air Max sole for a Tuned Max one. As with all these models, I kind of like it now and would be intrigued to see how it would do in today’s market.

Drew Hammell A Look Back Nike Air Max 98 TL

6. Air Max 98 TL

Whenever I post these on Instagram, they are by far the most beloved. This was my first pair of running shoes back in high school, and I was obsessed with them. So much so, I wore them to gym class and ended up severely spraining my ankle while playing basketball in them. Never play basketball in Air Max sneakers.

“The Air Max 98 TL has always been one of my absolute favorites. The colorways were bright, the Air unit was massive, and the mini swoosh always caught my eye. They always stood out to me at that time as the most comfortable pair of Air Max I had/that was out. Even the insoles were different and gave additional cushioning. I think these were overlooked at that time, making them a nice change from a lot of the more mainstream pairs. Need to push that pair, and we can’t settle for AM97 soles lol.”@lemon_diesel

Drew Hammell Look Back Nike Air Max TL 99

5. Air Max 98 TL (1999)

This sneaker is near and dear to my heart, as well, because I also owned this one. Nike pumped out three different Air Max models in 1998, and to make it super confusing, they all had the same name: the Nike Air Max. This particular model released at the end of ‘98 and during the first half of ‘99, but it is still known as the Air Max 98 TL (or Total Length). I wore this sneaker to school and during my shifts at Foot Locker back during my senior year of high school. I beat them into the ground, and I’m kicking myself for throwing them out years ago.

Drew Hammell A Look Back Air Max Tuned Precision

4. Air Tuned Precision (1999)

The Air Tuned Precision was the ladies’ version of the Air Tuned Max, which dropped in 1999. While we are definitely excited to see the return of the Air Tuned Max this year, it would be cool to see the Precision return as well. 

“The Air Tuned Max is my favorite Air Max running model from the Alpha Project Era. Everyone is excited for the celery colorway, but I’m hoping for a retro of the firefly/storm grey colorway. Not to mention the shoe had one of the most controversial/memorable print ads of all time. The shoe is just criminally underrated, which speaks to the Alpha Project era in general.”@nikealphaproject

Drew Hammell look Back Nike Air Max Light

3. Air Max Light III (1997)

A sneaker that was highlighted in both the men’s and women’s colorways on the iconic Nike phone ads, the Air Max Light ‘97 has a cult following and would certainly do well if retroed properly. I always thought it was cool that the Air Max Light featured Zoom Air in the forefoot and an Air Max sole in the heel. It also has a similar upper to another favorite of mine – the Air Zoom Pounce, which was worn by tennis star Andre Agassi. In my opinion, this is the coolest Air Max Light that ever dropped.

Drew Hammell Look Back Nike Air Max Tailwind II

2. Air Max Tailwind II (1997)

A nice, clean runner with plenty of cushioning and a solid follow-up to the ‘96 Tailwind. Unfortunately for this model, it dropped the same year as the super-iconic Air Max 97, so it easily got overlooked. In the current dad-shoe era, I feel like the Tailwind II would thrive – especially in that crispy white/citron/black colorway. There was also a great matching track suit that paired perfectly with this model.

Drew Hammell A Look Back Nike Air Max Tailwind

1. Air Max Tailwind (1996)

I really have no explanation as to why this Tailwind hasn’t come back yet. Nick, aka @ogorbust had a pair and loved them.

“They were technically my first ‘Air Max’ I got for track. Previous years were always the Pegasus or Icarus. I was really excited to see larger open Air units and would push on them quite a bit lol. (I got them when) they were a year-old model and colorway in blue/yellow hitting the sales rack, but I loved them nonetheless.”

Also of note is that there is an iconic photo of The Notorious B.I.G. rocking them. So if Nick and Biggie were wearing them, you know they were dope.

Drew Hammell A Look Back

Drew is the creator of @nikestories on Instagram. Growing up in the ’90s, Drew loved playing soccer, basketball, tennis, and even dabbled in cross country running. He ended up focusing on tennis in high school and helped lead his team to multiple state titles. His favorite athletes growing up include Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Andre Agassi, and Ken Griffey, Jr. He was smart enough to save all his old Eastbay catalogs from the ’90s and loves sharing them with the sneaker community. Follow him at @nikestories

A Look Back: The Creation of Nike Dri-F.I.T.

A Look Back: The Creation of Nike Dri-F.I.T.

If you’re an athlete, chances are you’ve worn Nike Dri-F.I.T. apparel at some point in your life. And if you haven’t, you’re missing out. From base layer tees, to running shorts, to socks, to track jackets, to slacker tights, to sports bras to hats – the lightweight, moisture-wicking Dri-F.I.T. material has been a staple for athletes young and old for 30 years now. I’ve been wearing Dri-F.I.T. clothing since the late ’90s, and I fondly remember how great that microfiber material felt. The functionality of Dri-F.I.T. was unmatched, and I remember how well it was marketed by Nike. I’ll never forget seeing tennis star Andre Agassi rocking a royal blue long-sleeve zip polo at the US Open during a night match. I couldn’t believe it – it was 80 degrees and he was wearing long-sleeves? What was he thinking? But that was the point. Dri-F.I.T. fabric was moisture-wicking, unlike your standard cotton tee shirts. It worked so well, you could stay cool like Andre on a hot, humid night in New York. I was hooked.

Drew Hammell Look Back Nike Dri-F.I.T.

In case you didn’t know, F.I.T. stands for “Functional Innovative Technology”. In the late ’80s, Nike Apparel was known mainly as a tool for branding and promotions. Think big Nike logos plastered on the chest of tee shirts and hoodies. Heading into the ’90s, however, Nike’s new objective was performance innovation, with a reinvigorated focus on materials. This focus was based, as always, on the needs of athletes.

As Nike was perfecting their Dri-F.I.T. material, their ACG line was also taking off. In the ’80s, layering was necessary for hiking in the mountains and other outdoor activities. Athletes preferred a base layer and then a thermal layer that provided insulation when the temperatures cooled down in the fall and winter. For the extremely harsh elements like wind, rain, and freezing conditions, there was also a need for a waterproof layer. And that, essentially, is how the F.I.T. line was created.

Drew Hammell Dri-F.I.T. Running
Drew Hammell Nike Dri-F.I.T. Training

Along with Dri-F.I.T. were three other key materials that each served specific functions to aid in the athlete’s performance. Nike designed materials that were versatile enough to handle a wide range of temperature and climate variables. Here is a breakdown of the core four F.I.T. categories:

Dri-F.I.T.

Quickly wicks the sweat away from your skin to keep you dry and comfortable. This unique fabric was designed to keep you cool and dry or warm and dry in a wide range of conditions. The construction of the inner layer transports moisture from the body to the outer layer for rapid evaporation.

Clima-F.I.T.

Fabric better than waterproof – allows excess body heat and moisture to escape while keeping water and wind outside. The dense weave of the Clima-F.I.T. microfiber eliminates the need for special laminates or coatings, making it breathable and comfortable in a wide variety of conditions.

Storm-F.I.T.

Totally waterproof but incredibly breathable laminate fabric. Lightweight, soft, and supple – this seam-sealed fabric was designed for the athlete. It will keep you dry and comfortable from the inside out – no matter the weather or activity.

Therma-F.I.T.

Engineered to keep the body warm in cold conditions. The tiny spaces between fibers trap air within the material while blocking wind from the outside to provide the utmost comfort for any cold-weather activity.

Drew Hammell Therma-F.I.T.
Drew Hammell Therma-F.I.T. 2
Drew Hammell therma-F.I.T. 3

Nike launched their F.I.T. line beginning in the spring of 1991 after years of research. Soon, the line accounted for nearly 40 percent of the total material Nike used in apparel manufacturing. They even designed special sewing machines to ensure the fabrics were super-thin yet durable enough not to tear.

Prior to F.I.T. technology, Nike utilized outside products such as Lycra, Coolmax and Thermax for apparel construction and components. John Notar, former VP of Apparel Categories, led the F.I.T. project and remembers, “We decided to name each layer by its function, so on simple terms, it was Dri-F.I.T. keeps you dry, Therma-F.I.T. keeps you warm, Clima-F.I.T. protected you from the elements. A few years later we added Storm-F.I.T., where our thinking was around waterproof fabric. That was really the birthing of Nike F.I.T.. When we went to market, we even had a F.I.T. manual. (source: www.swell-graphics.com) 

Like most things Nike did in the ’90s, the results of the F.I.T. line were ground-breaking and have had a long-lasting impact on the sports industry. Those early tees, shorts, and jackets set the standard for what athletic apparel could become. Not only did Dri-F.I.T. tees look and feel cool, they actually helped you perform better. Granted, Nike was not the only company utilizing polyester microfiber in their apparel back then, but in my opinion, they definitely made the coolest stuff (both literally and figuratively).

Drew Hammell Dri-F.I.T. spread
Drew Hammell A Look Back

Drew is the creator of @nikestories on Instagram. Growing up in the ’90s, Drew loved playing soccer, basketball, tennis, and even dabbled in cross country running. He ended up focusing on tennis in high school and helped lead his team to multiple state titles. His favorite athletes growing up include Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Andre Agassi, and Ken Griffey, Jr. He was smart enough to save all his old Eastbay catalogs from the ’90s and loves sharing them with the sneaker community. Follow him at @nikestories

A Look Back: A Brief History of Zoom Air

A Look Back: A Brief History of Zoom Air

If you’ve ever run, jumped, zigged, zagged, cut, or just plain walked on Zoom Air, you know the feeling. If you’ve tried on a sneaker designed for KD, or Kyrie, or PG, or Giannis, or the Brodie, you’ve felt it. You’ve experienced the ultra-responsive, super-lightweight cushioning cradling your foot and then springing it forward with every step. It’s been over 25 years since Zoom Air first made its way onto the sneaker scene, and it’s pretty impressive that a once radical technology we now take for granted has been so prevalent in sneaker design for this long. Zoom Air was certainly a risk when Nike started utilizing it in 1995. After all, everyone wanted Air Max sneakers – and the more Air, the better. Why would I want a skinnier Air bag that you couldn’t even see? Why would I want my foot lower to the ground?

Like everything else Nike does, Zoom Air came as a response to the athlete’s needs. Sure, Nike Air Max cushioning was great, but it was also bulky and heavy. Smaller, quicker athletes needed something lighter and more responsive – something that would give them an edge over their competitors. Zoom Air solved that problem by introducing an ultra-thin Air bag with hundreds of tiny synthetic springy fibers inside that cushioned the foot and provided better responsiveness than Air Max. The thin yet bouncy Zoom Air allowed the athlete’s foot to be closer to the ground for quicker movement.

At first, Zoom Air was called ‘Tensile Air.’ I was first introduced to the new technology in 1995 with sneakers like the Air Go Flight LWP (for basketball players like Penny Hardaway and Mitch Richmond), the Air Challenge LWP (for Andre Agassi), and the Air Zoom LWP running sneaker. LWP stood for Lightweight Performance and featured Tensile Air cushioning inside rather than the bigger Nike Air bags. Another early basketball sneaker that featured Tensile Air was the incredibly popular Air Zoom Flight 95, which was worn by players like Jason Kidd and Tim Hardaway. Clearly, implementing the word “Zoom” in the shoe’s name was a hit, and Nike quickly changed the name of the cushioning from ‘Tensile’ to ‘Zoom.’

In 1996, Nike released models like the Air Zoom Alpha for running and the Air Zoom Flight 96 for basketball. With the ‘96 Summer Olympics in the USA, it was the perfect opportunity for Nike to showcase their newest technology with models like the Air Zoom Flight ‘96 (worn by Penny Hardaway).

In 1997, Zoom Air was incorporated into pretty much every sneaker category – from Ken Griffey, Jr.’s cleats, to Andre Agassi’s Air Zoom Ablaze, to Barry Sanders’ turf trainers, to Penny Hardaway’s Foamposite. Zoom Air was even featured in soccer shoes and hockey skates. Because you couldn’t actually see the Zoom Air through a window like you could with Nike Air Max, designers got creative and added hypnotizing circular patterns on the bottom of the sneaker soles to give you a visual idea of what Zoom Air looked and felt like.

The Air Jordan line actually took a few years to incorporate the low-to-the-ground cushioning into the soles of their shoes, but once MJ started rocking Zoom Air, he never went back. Starting with the Air Jordan 12, designer Tinker Hatfield swapped out full-length Air soles for Zoom Air. Jordan loved the cushioning so much, he convinced teammate Scottie Pippen to try them out. Scottie also loved the cushioning so much, he asked Nike to swap out the Air Max cushioning in his Air Pippen 1 for Zoom Air, which they did for him during their ‘97 playoff run.

In ‘99, Nike began incorporating visible Zoom Air into their sneakers. This way, we could see the ultra-thin fibers that were packed inside and provided the springy feel. By this time, Nike’s Alpha Project was well underway. Alpha Project was an opportunity for Nike to further test and experiment with new designs and technologies like visible Zoom Air in sneakers and DRI-F.I.T. in clothing. Some of the more popular sneakers featuring visible Zoom Air were the Air Vis Zoom Uptempo (worn by Allan Houston and Patrick Ewing), the Air Zoom Citizen running sneaker, and the Air Zoom Beyond (worn by Agassi).

For the next 20 years, Zoom Air would be incorporated into the Air Jordan line, as well as Kobe and LeBron sneakers. Basically, all the signature basketball sneakers today – from the PG’s to the KD’s to the Kyrie’s – feature Zoom Air. For running, Nike continues to tinker and improve upon Zoom Air from modest running sneakers like the Air Zoom Pegasus line to flashy and aggressive runners like the Air Zoom Alphafly Next%. Zoom Air is simply the best cushioning money can buy and has more than lived up to the hype it created over 25 years ago.

A Look Back: Holiday 2000

A Look Back: Holiday 2000

Back in 2000, the Eastbay Holiday catalogs were very, very lit. 2000 was a pivotal year in sneaker history, as we were beginning to see Nike retro some of our favorite shoes like the Air Jordan V, VI and XI for the first time. On the flip side, sneaker brands were dropping innovative new technologies and designs. Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson were dominating the NBA, but Air Jordans were still as popular as ever. Flipping through the old holiday catalogs, there are way too many sneakers to write about in just one blog post, so here are some of the highlights I think are the most memorable from the three Eastbay Holiday catalogs that dropped back in 2000:

 

Air Jordan XI Retro

It has become a yearly tradition for sneakerheads around the world to pick up the latest Air Jordan XI retro that drops every holiday season. Back in 2000, the Air Jordan XI returned for the first time since its debut in ‘95-’96. The classic ‘Concord’ colorway dropped in late October that year, and then the ‘Space Jam’ color released December 13th. I was extremely hyped, and I made sure to secure a pair of the Concords. It’s my favorite sneaker ever, and the retro was as nice as the OG in my opinion.

Air Jordan VI Retro

Along with the AJ XI retro came the first retro of the Air Jordan VI in both the black/infrared and white/navy colorways. The sample pair of black/infrareds featured in the Eastbay catalog is notoriously nicknamed the Butchered 6,’ because it features reverse infrared colorblocking on the outsole. The white/navy color was not an OG colorway, so it was the first time this version released.

Air Jordan V

As you can see, it was quite a season for Air Jordan retro releases, as the AJ V returned as well in a new white/silver/black colorway and a white/maize/royal color, which was inspired by Michael Jordan’s high school jersey. Before the ‘Laney’ 5’s came out, I had no idea where MJ went to high school, so this was a great storytelling colorway for Jordan Brand.

Jordan Jumpman Super Freak

One of the greatest wide receivers of all time – Randy Moss – was one of the first Jordan Team members. His sneaker, the Super Freak, featured a full-length Zoom Air sockliner and a zip-up upper. It was a gorgeous sneaker that a lot of people would love to see retro.

adidas The Kobe

By 2000, Kobe Bryant was a massive star in the league and had his own sneaker line with adidas. Designed by Eirik Lund Nielsen, the sneaker was inspired by the sleek, sporty Audi TT. At the time, adidas utilized adiPRENE+ cushioning and a 3D Torsion system for stability. The Kobe released November 3rd for $124.99. Sadly, the Kobe 2 would not fare as well and ultimately led to Bryant leaving adidas and eventually signing with Nike.

Reebok The Question

Even though Allen Iverson’s first signature sneaker had dropped four years earlier, it was still as popular as ever in the year 2000. High school and college teams could get the sneaker for a discounted price of just $79.99, and the Question came in basically every colorway imaginable. There was also a low version available for $69.99. 

Nike Shox

One of the greatest advancements in technology was Nike’s Shox line, which debuted in 2000. Nike unveiled a running sneaker called the Shox R4, a basketball sneaker called the Shox BB4, and a training sneaker called the Shox XT4. All three silhouettes featured urethane columns, aka “Shox,” for impact protection and energy return. Most notably, they were worn by Toronto star Vince Carter initially, and over the next few years most college and pro players rocked them at some point. 

A Look Back: the Evolution of the Air Max 90

A Look Back: the Evolution of the Air Max 90

As sneaker social media continues to grow and evolve, the month of March has been dubbed “Air Max Month” by sneakerheads around the globe. The main reason for this phenomenon is “Air Max Day” on March 26 – a day Nike has chosen to commemorate the cushioning technology that changed everything. 

A single page of an old Eastbay catalog showing Nike Air sneakers, including the Air Max 90.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the fan favorite Air Max 90. Thirty years ago, Nike launched a white, black, and bright red sneaker with a big Air Max bubble and a semi-covered Swoosh on the side. On the heel was a thermoplastic, heart-shaped tab with the patented NIKE AIR branding. Yet another stunning design by the young legend Tinker Hatfield, this third Air Max running sneaker quickly became a classic.

In 1990, the Air Max 90 originally retailed for $110 in several eye-popping neon colorways like ‘Laser Blue’ and ‘Radiant Red’. As the story goes, the sockliner featured an Air Max 1 outsole print debossed in it because Tinker Hatfield thought it was going to be the last shoe he ever designed. Like most of Hatfield’s designs, the sneaker was radical in every way and certainly was going to raise some eyebrows at first.

Over the years, Nike has re-released original colorways along with new AM 90s featuring a myriad of colors, different types of uppers, and a variety of sole swaps. Eastbay has always been the source for the Air Max 90, so here’s a look back at some of the colorways and model variations that helped make the AM 90 the cult classic that it is today.

After the initial drop in 1990, it took 12 years for the Air Max 90 to return. In ’02-’03, the AM 90 returned in the classic ‘Infrared’ colorway. Interestingly, the OG was never known by that nickname; it wasn’t until the first retro that they were referred to as ‘Infrared.’

In 2005, the Air Max 90 returned as part of the “History of Air” collection, which included the first official retro release of the AM 90 in the US. 

An old page of an Eastbay catalog showing different Nike Air sneakers and boots including Air Max 90.

In 2006, Nike released a completely new version of the Air Max 90 called the Air Max 90+ with a Max Air unit in the heel. It looked nothing like its predecessor but went along with the concept of the Air Max 180+ and Air Max 360 which were also launching that year. Additionally, the Air Max 90 ‘One Time Only’ featured the AM 90 upper with an Air Max 360 sole.

From this point on, the Air Max 90 became extremely popular and featured tons of different colorways along with updated all-leather uppers.

[sp_wpcarousel id=”73434″]

In 2008, Nike dropped a premium version of the AM 90 with an ‘Ostrich’ print. They also released the Air Max Wright, which bore a clear resemblance to the AM 90 along with an Air Max LTD sole. Additionally, Nike dropped the AM 90 Current Hybrid, which combined the popular aesthetics of the Air Max 90 with the popular Nike Free sole and a full mesh build.

In 2012, Nike revamped the upper of the AM 90 again with the ‘Hyperfuse’ and ‘Engineered Mesh’ models. Both utilized the same sole with a modern twist of the upper.

[sp_wpcarousel id=”73449″]

In 2015, a full winterized sneakerboot version of the AM 90 emerged, which was perfect for the cold and snowy months. In general, Nike has given the sneakerboot treatment to plenty of classic sneakers. It worked well with the Air Max 90, but many people in the sneaker community believe this model was slept on.

In 2017, designer Virgil Abloh partnered with Nike to release perhaps the most popular Air Max 90 of all time as part of his Off-White “The Ten” collection. The deconstructed model featured premium materials and plenty of interesting details that made it a new grail for many collectors.

[sp_wpcarousel id=”73465″]


This year, Nike has brought back several OG-inspired colorways along with a new FlyEase model that features a flexible heel that collapses to allow for easy on and off access. They are also launching a brand-new sneaker called the Air Max 2090, which is inspired by the DNA of the Air Max 90. 

Over the past 30 years, the Air Max 90 has been retroed and reinvented time after time, which shows how beloved the model has become for sneakerheads around the world. It’s exciting to see that after 30 years, the AM 90 is still as fresh as ever. And to think, Tinker Hatfield thought it was going to be the last sneaker he’d ever design.


Check out Drew’s other Sneaker History blog posts, and don’t forget to follow his @nikestories Instagram account for more sneakerhead content.

A Look Back: Q&A with ESPN’s Nick DePaula

A Look Back: Q&A with ESPN’s Nick DePaula

Whether it’s the latest athlete sneaker signing or breaking sneaker news from around the NBA, feature writer and creative director Nick DePaula has been the industry’s trusted source for sneaker stories and information for years. From his time at Sole Collector, Nice Kicks and Yahoo’s The Vertical, to his current gig with ESPN, I’ve always enjoyed reading Nick’s articles, and he’s one of the first sneakerheads I started following on Instagram.

Nick and I share a similar passion for sneakers, especially kicks that released in the ‘90s. We grew up in an era when print catalogs and TV commercials were the main ways to get a good look at the hottest new sneaker releases. Back when the internet was young and rudimentary, we looked to Eastbay for images, pricing and tech info for every single sneaker. I thought it would be fun to ask Nick a few questions about his childhood and the influence Eastbay had on him growing up:

DH: First of all, where did you grow up?

NDP: Sacramento is home! The Kings meant everything to me as a kid, and are definitely responsible for my love of hoops early on. Purple has been my favorite color ever since. I’ve been throwing ridiculous behind-the-back passes since middle school ’cause of Jason Williams. I’d even go as far as labeling ‘How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days’ a classic movie – it’s the one time the Sacramento Kings ever made the NBA Finals.

DH: What were your favorite sports to play as a kid?

NDP: We played literally everything as a kid – that’s what kids should do. Baseball. Football. Soccer. Tennis. Golf. Street hockey. Volleyball. Ping pong. Aggressive in-line skating even, if you’re old enough to remember that phase in the ‘90s. You name it, and we probably tried it.

Nothing compared to hoops though. You could find us at 10th & P in downtown Sac every Saturday from Noon to 4 getting runs in. My brother Eric and I had a Friday night ritual growing up too: 1-on-1 on the hoop out front. First to 100, by ones.

DH: How did you get introduced to Eastbay and their catalogs and when?

NDP: The first time I saw an Eastbay magazine (we didn’t call it a “catalog!”) was at Foot Locker at the Downtown Plaza around late 1996. I excitedly signed up for a free subscription and never looked back. All through elementary, middle and even high school, I’d read the latest Eastbay and that day’s Sacramento Bee sports page with my cereal, every morning before heading off to school.

I might not have had the craziest sneaker collection growing up, but over the years, I was able to learn about every company’s technologies, design approach, stable of players and their newest innovations, all from the Eastbay pages. I’d read up on sneakers from all sports, and try to memorize the tech descriptions and even the weights listed, whether that was a pair of Mizuno volleyball shoes, specialty runners, cheerleading kicks, or the latest signature sneakers.

Checking out the latest issue with LeBron on the cover still gives me that same feeling. It’s fun to turn each page and find out what new running designs are launching, what NBA shorts Nike has in store, what gear each brand has coming out, and see all the latest lineups for every sport.

DH: What did you order from the catalogs?

NDP: I had a $40 sneaker budget in elementary and middle school, and that got upped to $50 in high school, so I had to get real nice at finding deals. I always kept tabs on the “Final Score” issues that would cycle through the mailbox every so often. Whenever I came to a page with smaller shoe pictures and red circles all over, that’s when I’d get real hopeful that my size 13 or 14 was still listed as available somewhere on the “Great Buys on Large Sizes!” page.

Early on, I was typically ordering signature gear that my favorite players wore, like Allen Iverson’s Reebok collection, 3 Stripes tees that were Kobe-approved, or a variety of Nike Basketball tees that had guys like Kevin Garnett, Penny Hardaway or Scottie Pippen pictured alongside them. This was all back in the pre-internet days, where your mom would literally call Wisconsin and read off the product number to place an order.

Something I loved about Eastbay during the turn of the millennium was how many new brands started appearing in the mag too. I remember buying a few Goat Gear tees to hoop in during high school practices, after reading up on the legend of Earl “The Goat” Manigault. Even though I lived in Sacramento, it felt like I had access to all of the best basketball gear around through Eastbay.

In 2002, I damn near had the entire Jordan two3 beach collection – yes, even the towel! I rocked the two3 Cavvy dress shoe in black to my senior prom. Durasheen dazzle and NCAA replica team shorts were a practice staple for me. Eastbay finds pretty much made up my closet all throughout my school days, even into college at the University of Oregon, once ordering online changed the game up.

DH: What is a grail shoe that was featured in Eastbay that you were never able to pick up?

NDP: Tons – tons of pairs. The first shoe that immediately captivated my attention in the pages was the neon blue Foamposite One. It looked unlike anything else out there. Back then, my boy Austin Hicks and I would take pens and just circle everything we wanted in the mag. Every once in awhile, his mom would surprise him with pairs he was after, but it took me another decade to finally track down the Foams.

The late 90s had so many amazing runners that I was never able to grab at the time. The Tailwind IIs and Zoom Citizens were incredible. Adidas had a great run with the EQT Salvation, Galaxy and Ozweego lines too. Reebok’s DMX runners were instant classics. Every so often, Eastbay would also have exclusive team bank colors for basketball models like the Air Jordan XV, Team Max Zoom or even the Flightposite II, that you just couldn’t find anywhere else.

DH: Who are some of your favorite people you’ve interviewed over the years?

NDP: So many people immediately come to mind! Penny Hardaway was one of my very first cover interviews way back in 2008, and I’ve been able to follow the design process of all of his sneakers since. We worked on a huge ‘Penny Pack’ collaboration for an amazing Sole Collector event in Las Vegas in 2011 that I’ll never forget. He’s literally the best, both with his time and access, and also his passion for the sneaker industry and input. I just was out in Memphis a few weeks ago to see him again, and it’s been amazing now to see how he’s evolved into Coach Hardaway and the impact he’s having on his hometown.

There’s an endless amount of designers that’ve also been great to talk to. Tinker Hatfield and Eric Avar are each the best designers in footwear history, and so great at storytelling around innovations, athlete insights and performance solutions. Gentry Humphrey at Jordan Brand has legendary stories for days and is a hilarious guy. Both Marc Dolce and Denis Dekovic at Adidas are great dudes as well and I love catching up with them to see all that they’re working on at the Brooklyn Creator Farm.

DH: What are you up to these days?

NDP: I’ve been super fortunate to be writing about sneakers and basketball over the past thirteen years. I helped to run Sole Collector Magazine back in the print days and got to work on almost 20 collaboration sneakers in the span of 7 years that I was there. The awesome co-founders Steve Mullholand and Alex Wang gave me a shot to write for the Mag when I was still in college and really helped shape how I view content and storytelling ever since. 

After that, I joined Matt Halfhill, Ian Stonebrook and an amazing team of people passionate about footwear and the culture around it over at Nice Kicks. I spent a couple of months working on a comprehensive Allen Iverson feature about his rise with Reebok in advaance of his 40th birthday that I’ve been pretty proud of since. (Make a couple sandwiches and give it a read…)

Now, I’m writing about the footwear industry at ESPN. It’s been amazing to see how sneakers have grown to be highlighted on a platform of that size and legacy. It’s a best-in-class team across the board. With the vision of OG Bobbito Garcia, we even recently launched a new footwear show on ESPN+ called SneakerCenter that just dropped its latest episode this week.

All along, one of my career highlights was definitely working on a few interviews and special sidebar sections for Eastbay’s 25th Anniversary issue. I really do credit all of those Eastbay magazines that I grew up reading for powering that base of sneaker knowledge that I was so excited to learn more about and add to. Once SLAM dropped the first issue of KICKS in 1998, I kind of realized that writing about sneakers could become a real thing, and have been at it ever since.