words // Nick Engvall
It may come as a surprise that Eastbay Memory Lane posts are a bit of a challenge. Not because of a lack of choices, it’s actually just the opposite. There is always too much good stuff to choose from, which I guess is also the nature of sneaker collecting. This weekend though, Gilbert Arenas made it easy by dropping 20 points in for the Orlando Magic in one of my favorite sneakers, and I think it’s safe to say many others, the Nike Air Go LWP.
The return of the Air Go LWP, short for Light Weight Performance, has been a long time in the making, as pointed out in our conversation with Mark Dolce. For many of us that often experienced the budget constraints of our parents as youngsters, the Air Go LWP in 1994 was out of reach at $115. Waiting years for its return, like many are familiar with due to their own personal sneaker favorites, is what seems to keep us interested in these classic sneaker designs.
The Nike Air Go LWP stood out from the rest of the sneakers introduced in the mid-nineties, not necessarily aesthetically, but more so because of its cutting edge performance and groundbreaking technology. While the basketball sneakers of today have taken an approach weight-loss that rivals Lindsay Lohan’s, the Air Go LWP, was miles ahead of its time in the weight category, and cushioning technology. As the Kobe VI nears the single digits in ounces, the Air Go LWP was doing the same over 15 years ago. The Max Air heel and Zoom Air forefoot combo, coincidentally being used in the Nike LeBron 8 PS, was also way ahead of its time, and is arguably one of the best cushioning combinations that Nike Basketball has ever used. The recent Air Go LWP Performance Review can also attest to the fact that the design of the Air Go LWP was one that could stand the tests of time.
Although memories of the Air Go LWP from recent retro colorways are easily induced for most of us, the White and Navy colorway from this 1995 Eastbay Catalog might be a welcome surprise to some. Of course, we can’t possible look at one shoe in a past catalog without having an “oh snap!” moment about another. The early Air Uptempo model and Air Tenacity Plus are a couple of blasts from the past that most of us would love to see added to our collections but I guess, like we have for the Air Go LWP, we’ll have to wait for the next time they return.
Available now: Nike Air Go LWP Retro
words & images // Nick DePaula
The Air Go LWP has been an interesting, and for the most part, generational shoe, which I’ve gathered in the couple of months since it first saw a return. A return that for 15 years – to my generation, at least – was long overdue. While it’s an undeniable basketball classic to anyone over the age of 25, and in the top 10 for many even, the very first shoe to feature Nike’s Zoom Air and usher in a new era of lightweight performance hasn’t exactly lived on as a must-have for newer consumers and people less familiar with the shoe.
It’s a shoe that in its day was without a doubt the top performing basketball shoe on the market. Worn by the likes of both Penny and Tim Hardaway, my main man Mookie Blaylock and a sizable percentage of the rest of the league, it was light, sure, but also supportive, excellently cushioned and ideally speedy for guards. Just two summers ago, I routinely was even playing in an original pair.
It was around that time, as the Hyperdunk hype and foot-hugging Kobe line began to take shape, that I began to realize that much like the current fanfare for the Go LWP, the shoe’s performance was also perhaps a generational thing. It was no doubt a thing of equal parts beauty and tuned innovation in 1994, but as all things evolve, what was once a great on-court option then is merely a nostalgic and above average performer by today’s standards.
The LWP is still a fine basketball shoe, and even in our hyper-era of light, lighter and lightest, it’s still extremely light, but indeed there’s a case of looking through rose-colored glasses when playing in it. I remembered a shoe that was plush through the upper and both low to the ground and cushioned underfoot, with a heel Max Air unit and forefoot Zoom Air bag. After once again playing in the LWP in its Retro form and keeping in mind today’s top shoes, I began to notice that the forefoot has a bit of a flat feeling, as compared to the more sculpted toolings of today that promote better transition and flex. If you’re an open-court player, the LWP can at times feel a bit less than smooth when rolling from heel to toe.
Another noticeable difference between what made for a great shoe in 1994 and a standout in today’s modern world can be found in the LWP’s tongue construction. A full-length neoprene inner sleeve engulfs your foot upon entry, and is damn comfy to the touch. But while the plush fabric makes for a nice feel, the sleeve also lacks the shape and contour of today’s shoes that can tend to offer so much more in terms of fit, lockdown and that ideal feel of your foot and the shoe acting as one. Because of the excess fabric and ghilley eyelet setup, when lacing the shoe snuggly, the upper doesn’t exactly then pull closer to your foot. I could also use a traditional punched eyelet at the very top, rather than lacing through a ghilley, to lock in the lacing and fit just a bit more. If you’re used to the way that eyelets of today are anchored down to fully engage a shoe’s upper and offer more contour, the LWP may be a disappointment. At the time, the neoprene sleeve was a great solution for simple comfort, but as the years passed, we’ve seen less and less of a reliance on it, and mostly because it’s a less breathable and less fit-friendly material. Without question, it heats up immediately.
While the lack of toe spring through the forefoot and the less-than-locked-in inner sleeve were a bit of a letdown, the other highlights that made the LWP a great shoe in 1994 still hold true today. The shoe’s full-length herringbone pattern offers up outstanding traction on hardwood, and the heel Max Air unit is great for impact protection on landings and plants. The Zoom Air unit through the forefoot would have a better feel with a more sculpted tooling, but still gives that nice responsive pop that we all crave. Coupled with the shoe’s low stance is a great level of court feel and control, and as mentioned, the LWP still feels lightweight even after all these years of the industry taking us even lighter.
One simple note to mention is that I enjoyed playing in the grey and black synthetic leather-based colorway, but it might be worth a look at the black-based nubuck pairs if you plan to play in them, as the materials may flex better during play and require less of a break-in period.
Overall, the Air Go LWP is still a very solid option for guards and swingmen alike, and it’s currently being worn in the NBA by Anthony Morrow of the New Jersey Nets and a few other players. If you’re after a lightweight, cushioned shoe that offers court feel and dependable traction, it should make for a great choice. If breathability, heel-to-toe transition and a lockdown fit through the collar and midfoot rank higher on your list, the LWP might pose a couple problems for you. It’s hard to truly fault a shoe that was ahead of its time in 1994 and at the forefront of a new era of performance basketball shoes, now that two decades later we have the luxury of more form-fitting heel counters, more sculpted midsoles and synthetic materials that can get the upper even lighter and closer to the foot. All in all, the LWP remains a solid basketball choice all these years later, and for guys like me, sometimes I’m willing to look through rose-colored glasses for the chance to re-live the performance of yesterday’s hoops classics.
designer: Eric Avar
best for: Guards & swift Forwards
colorway tested: Wolf Grey / Black
key tech: Heel Max Air, forefoot Zoom Air, full-length herringbone traction pattern and full-length neoprene inner-fit sleeve
pros: awesome lightweight comfort through upper and cushioning; nostalgia
cons: heel-to-toe transition is less smooth than ideal; ghilley eyelet system can loosen up during play
improvements: Add a little more toe spring to forefoot for better transition and less flat feel. Also, change top eyelet to punched eyelet for more secure lacing and fit.
buying advice: The Air Go LWP was in its a day a performance monster, breaking the 13 ounce mark and still offering outstanding cushioning and support. Unfortunately, that day was 1994, and the industry has since evolved to offer up even better lightweight options with even more cushioning, transition and lockdown. Still a solid choice for active players, the LWP is probably best suited for players who want to re-live an era of yesteryear with this re-issue of a classic Eric Avar design. If you’re after the best possible shoe on today’s market, you may want to look at the Hyperfuse, Air Jordan 2011 or adidas adiZero Rose.
The Nike Air Go LWP has been one of the most anticipated retros in a long time for many sneakerheads. Originally released in 1994, it has held a place near the top of many collectors’ wish lists. It could be the fact that it has Max Air in the heel and Zoom Air in the forefoot, or perhaps the fact that it’s still incredibly lightweight even by today’s standards, that makes this one such a classic.
It doesn’t hurt that it was worn on court by a couple of the most exciting players to watch throughout the mid-nineties; coincidentally, both shared the same last name. For collectors, this colorway should be an easy fit in the collection thanks to the LWP’s legend and a timeless combination of Black, White and Varsity Red. For those looking to hoop in an iconic shoe, at just 12.9 ounces, the Air Go LWP can still run with the best of them.
For more details on the return of the Nike Air Go LWP, check out our interview with Nike’s Mark Dolce, where he details the process of its return and lets us know of more classic shoes set to return for the first time.
Available now: Nike Air Go LWP
You could make an argument for any era of basketball sneakers as being the greatest time period for sneakerheads. Thinking back always has a way of bringing up the debate but only when you start to look through the Eastbay Memory Lane can you really recall all of the shoes that may or may not have become classic from one collector to the next.
These two pages from the February 1995 catalog do a pretty decent job for arguing the case for the basketball shoes of the 1994-1995 NBA Season. We’ve seen some of these originals return in retro form many times like the Charles Barkley worn Nike Air Max 2 CB 94. While some like the Nike Air Go LWP made its first retro appearance ever this year. Still some, like the Nike Air Up or Nike Air Gone remain locked away in the Nike vault awaiting their chance to return once again.
One thing that was interesting however about the 1994-1995 NBA Season was the return of Michael Jordan from his short-lived minor league baseball career. For sneakerheads this year also marked a turning point in the sneaker culture in many ways as it was the first time that any of the Jordan shoes were brought back in retro form. The iconic Air Jordan 1 that started it all returned for the first time in classic Chicago colorways in late 1994 and changed the direction of sneaker culture forever.
Check out some of the memorable shoes from the February 1995 Eastbay Catalog below.
Before Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway was blessed with his own Nike signature shoe line, he was creating memories in 1994’s Nike Air Go LWP. Also worn by stars like Tim Hardaway, Reggie Miller, Jason Kidd and Gary Payton, the Air Go LWP was one of the lightest hoop shoes on the market at the time. The reason the shoe is so strongly tied to Penny Hardaway is because of the Orlando Magic inspired colorway that became an instant favorite amongst consumers. That colorway is making a return this year, and is available to pre-order here at Eastbay.
Black nubuck and mesh make up majority of the upper, with a white leather underlay running from heel to toe. Varsity royal blue works the inner liner and various branding marks throughout. A speckled lace secures things above, while a black and white rubber outsole offers support below.
Pre-Order: Nike Air Go LWP – Black/Varsity Royal-White