Produced by: Dan Hwang
Written by: Jesse Carr
Nike began in the early 70s as a company built to serve the specific needs of track athletes. After rapid growth and branching out into other sport-specific models, Nike needed to branch out. In the mid-80s, Americans were hitting the gym and shaping up in record numbers, so the boys from Beaverton needed to crank out models to serve as multi-purpose kicks that could handle the treadmill, medicine ball, and asphalt all at once. In 1987, the iconic Nike Air Trainer 1 was born, and that shoe launched a line that later bore the signature of the ultimate cross-athlete, Bo Jackson.
In 1987, Bo Jackson had just been called up to the big leagues by the Kansas City Royals. It was during that same year that he joined the Los Angeles Raiders mid-season. With Bo’s name becoming increasingly recognizable, he later became a marketing machine because of his success on both the diamond and turf. But before Bo became the main Trainer advocate, John McEnroe began wearing the first Air Trainer. According to an interview with Sandy Bodecker that was featured on Sneaker Freaker, McEnroe said the sneaker was the “best tennis shoe I’ve ever played in.” McEnroe also affirmed that, at the time when it was first released, he knew he was a “guinea pig” to test the performance of the shoe, but found that the shoe lived up to its claim of aiding lateral movement.