Produced by: Dan Hwang
Written by: Jesse Carr
After detailed investigations of the highly technical Air Foamposite 1 (1997) and the Air Flightposite 2 (2000) in our last two Re-Fresh segments, it’s time to go back to the start of the 90s, the period many still herald as the golden era of sneakers. In 1992, Nike introduced the Air Force 180 basketball model in its low top form, though the construction looks more like a mid in today’s market. The shoe was worn by a man who at the time, and even still today to some extent, was among the most controversial players in the game; a man with a bald head, a vicious scowl, and a mercurial temper â€” Charles Barkley.
Sir Charles, as he would later be deemed, never shied away from controversy. During his highly successful career, he consistently delivered the message that he didn’t want to be considered a role model for children. While PR firms polished the images of many athletes to sell everything from cleats to cereal brands to parents, Charles Barkley became a nationwide hot-button topic with his “I am not a Role Model” campaign. Though the message was clearâ€”he didn’t feel that dunking a basketball met the criteria for consideration as a heroâ€”the slogan cemented the image of Barkley as an outspoken iconoclast, an image he retains today.
Before he became known as Sir Charles, however, Barkley was known as the “Round Mound of Rebound,” a nickname that poked fun at his portly composition but acknowledged his outsized performance. He was listed at 6 feet 6 inches tall, but he was known to be about 3 inches shorter, which made his style of aggressive paint play all the more impressive. Known for his fierce two-handed tomahawk dunks after full court dribbling displays, Barkley quickly became a fan favorite with his first franchise, the Philadelphia 76ERS. But after being drafted 5th overall by that franchise and spending 8 seasons in the home of the Liberty Bell, he was traded to Phoenix in 1992, and after his first season as a member of the Suns, he received the MVP award after averaging 25.6 points and 12.2 rebounds per game. It was during the 1992 season that he wore our feature model, the Air Force 180. But he didn’t first wear the shoe in October, when the season began. He debuted the 180 during the Summer Olympics in Barcelona as a member of the legendary Dream Team.