It’s a tradition as timeless as the Summer Olympics themselves. Every four years, sports media and sneakerheads freak out over the latest Team USA Basketball group photos and how Nike has allegedly arranged the players to line up in ways that make sure rival brands are barely visible or not at all. In the latest controversy, adidas athletes Harrison Barnes and Kyle Lowry and ANTA’s Klay Thompson are all conveniently positioned in the back to make sure their sneakers are not the easiest thing to make out especially on a phone’s tiny screen.
From Coach K covering up Dwight Howard’s adidas’ kicks in 2008 to Kevin Love apparently not having feet in 2012, it really does look like Nike is up to some shenanigans when it comes to these team photos. It makes sense from a certain perspective, of course, since Nike is the official Team USA outfitter and thus doesn’t want competition getting in the way. But despite the accusations of pettiness on the part of the swoosh, they kind of have every right to brag because they quite simply make the best Team USA sneakers. How do we know? Because we just tried to rank them and every time Nike/Jordan would always come out with almost a clean sweep. It’s hard to think of a non-Nike Team USA shoe that could realistically crack our Top 10 because since the original Dream Team, each squad has been dominated by Nike athletes. Maybe if Stephen Curry and James Harden were on Team USA to balance things out it would be a different story in 2016 but for now, the red, white, blue and the swoosh dominate.
Nike LeBron 10 (2012)
Sadly, LeBron James never wore this particular Gold Medal version of the Nike LeBron 10 in London, opting instead to wear the safer USA colorway throughout the games. Known mostly for being exorbitantly priced because it had Nike+ (remember that thing?) functionality, the LeBron 10 would go on to be one of James’ most successful signature sneakers, as they on James’ feet en route to winning both Olympic Gold and the NBA Championship a year later.
Nike Zoom Flight 96 Olympics (1996)
In the Summer of 1996, the Shaquille O’Neal-Penny Hardaway feud that tore up the budding Orlando Magic dynasty came to a dramatic conclusion when it was announced during the first day of the Olympics that Shaq had signed a mammoth deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. It overshadowed just about everything Dream Team 3 accomplished in Atlanta that year and it definitely outshadowed my favorite pair of kicks during that run, Penny’s Nike Zoom Flight 96. It would take me twenty years to finally score a pair and it was worth every uh, penny…
Air Jordan 6 Olympics (2000)
Worn by Ray Allen and the immortal Vin Baker, this special colorway of the Air Jordan 6 was a limited edition back in 2000 and it had plenty of sneakerheads scrambling for a pair when they dropped. It took a long time for Jordan Brand to finally bring them back, but the wait was well worth it as a new generation also got to enjoy the kicks and
get hundreds of Instagram likes because hypebeasts appreciate their history.
Nike Shox BB4 (2000)
Boing in GIF form…
Reebok Question 2 Olympics (2004)
Nobody conducted himself better [than Iverson], nor behaved like a better representative of this basketball team than he did in the games. Maybe everyone believed Iverson needed to bring back a gold medal to use the Olympics to rehabilitate his image. They were wrong. There was far more virtue in defeat than victory here. America found out much more about Iverson without him winning the gold, than it ever would’ve with him winning it.
That’s a quote from Adrian Wojnarowski, dropping one of his many famous Woj Bombs. The 2004 edition of Team USA was probably the lowest point basketball-wise for our country not because it was the worst team we ever put out there (and it was pretty bad since Richard Jefferson was prominently involved and coach Larry Brown blamed everybody but himself for the debacle) but because we looked so helpless en route to a bronze medal. But what shouldn’t be forgotten was how well Allen Iverson not only played but how he conducted himself as an ambassador for our country, gracious even in defeat. By the same token, we probably don’t want to remember the Reebok Question 2 “Olympics” because it was a far cry from the original classic, but we shouldn’t shove it aside like it never happened because we got to see a different side of Allen Iverson while wearing that shoe. That’s worth something to me and it should be worth something to every basketball fan out there…
(Tie) Nike Air Ballistic Force and Nike Air Flight Lite II (1992)
Still waiting on that retro, Nike Sportswear. Proof positive that any brand can make any shoe a classic with the right color blocking. Something about the red, white and blue with gold accents just screams “awesome” when slapped on a shoe and when David Robinson and John Stockton wore the Ballistic Force and Scottie Pippen and Chris Mullin wore the Flight Lite II in Barcelona, they were things of beauty. Without those colors, they’re just another pair of kicks that time forgets…
Air Jordan 7 Olympics (1992)
If Michael Jordan didn’t realize how much of a big deal he was to the world, he certainly found out while he was in Barcelona as he and his Dream Team teammates were treated like rock stars throughout their entire stay. The Air Jordan 7 Olympics is almost certainly the best colorway of the 7 to ever come out but something about it could have been better. Oh yeah, the silver overlay. But what if it was…
Yeah, that would have taken the top spot or at the very least#2.
Nike Hyperdunk United We Rise (2008)
Holy hell, how embarrassing and earth-shattering would it have been if a Team USA that was filled with LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Jason Kidd were to lose to Spain in the gold medal game? But it was none other than the Black Mamba who bailed them all out with a performance for the ages and basically answered the question of who was the alpha dog of Team USA when s**t hit the fan. Not a bad way to showcase the Hyperdunk all things considered…
Nike Air More Uptempo Olympics
It’s maybe the most obnoxious shoe Nike has ever made and it definitely spawned one of the ugliest shoes Nike ever made (also dispelling the point I made earlier about red, white, blue and gold working with everything), but in 1996, this was basically all you needed to know about Nike. Only the swoosh would have the guts to put out a shoe that is basically nothing more than a shout out to their signature technology and make it into a sneaker and expect people to actually buy it. In other words, this was their own “Jordan Shrug” moment.
Nike Air Force 180 Olympics (1992)
Charles Barkley was the best player on the best team ever assembled. Yeah, Jordan could have been the best if he gave half a damn and wasn’t playing golf half the time in Barcelona, but Chuck took the title and ran with it while becoming a global icon in the process. His affable personality and cavalier attitude made him the champion of the people long before The Rock turned that into one of his many catchphrases. Not only that, Barkley parlayed his great run in the Olympics into a memorable 1992-93 NBA season where he won the NBA MVP and nearly won a championship as well. So what stopped him? A Jordan that gave more than half a damn, of course…
This also reminds me of a story that just makes me shrug my shoulders every time I think about it. Back in 2012, Nike Sportswear was dropping the Olympic retro pack including Nike Air Force 180 on the same weekend Jordan was dropping legendary Air Jordan 6 “Olympics” as well. I made a trip to the local House of Hoops right before it was about to open because I feared that I would miss out on a pair of 180s. When I got there, the line for the store stretched out quite a bit but nearly 90% of them were gunning for the Jordan 6. Knowing I wouldn’t have to line up to get my Barkleys, I just sat it out and watched the people file in get their Jordans. At this point, a dude would come up to me and ask if I was waiting for the Olympics 6s, but I said that I was waiting for the Chucks. He gave me a Kobe-like death stare and walked away, thinking that I was crazy for not lining up for a pair of Jordans. In 2016, I don’t know if that same guy makes the same statement since he’s probably ditched his Jordans for Ultra Boosts. Meanwhile, I’m just dwiddling my thumbs waiting for the 2016 Air Force 180 retro to drop down to a hundred bucks for less because everybody is sleeping on them while the Uptempo gets all the hype…
The post United The Swoosh Rises: Top 10 Team Usa Basketball Sneakers (Spoiler: They’re Almost All Nikes) appeared first on KicksOnFire.com.