Nike dominated the basketball sneaker culture in the mid-1990s, and the original 1996 release of the Nike Air More Uptempo can be viewed as yet another smash hit that solidified Nike’s place at the forefront of sneaker culture.
The Air More Uptempo is the quintessential ‘90s basketball shoe. It’s got the oversized “AIR” lettering on the outer, inspired by the popularity of that style of graffiti at the time. The aesthetic was totally on point, and that’s a huge reason why sneakerheads still love the Air More Uptempos today.
A primary reason for its popularity is because of one of the most iconic NBA players of the ‘90s. Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan’s number two on arguably the greatest basketball team the NBA had seen to that point, was the star who really pushed the Air More Uptempo into the spotlight.
These shoes truly belong to that era, but one thing about them has stood the test of time — the Nike Air More Uptempos have just such an incredible design. Seeing Scottie Pippen leap up for a dunk with the word “AIR” printed across his feet was a beautiful sight to see. But apart from Pippen, the shoes can stand on their own.
Nike designer Wilson Smith described the Air More Uptempos best.
“I think generally, the mid ‘90s were just a bigger-than-life time,” Wilson said. He saw the Nike Air More Uptempos as a shoe that is emblematic of that idea.
When they were released in 1996, it was originally in just black and white. This is the colorway that Scottie Pippen originally embraced. He continued to wear the Air More Uptempos through the summer as Nike release a white and blue Olympic colorway, and throughout his career. Nike also made the shoe in white and Black/White-Chile Red, the colorway that matched Pippen’s Chicago Bulls uniform.
The shoes were retroed for a 2005 release date, then released again in 2006, 2010, 2012, 2016, and 2017.
Even with new releases in 2017, the Nike Air More Uptempo kept mostly the same features as the original ‘96 release. They implement Nike Air technology with three performance Air-Sole units making up the midsole. The have a rubber outsole to protect them from damage and full-grain leather upper to keep them securely on your feet.
These shoes were made for Scottie Pippen, and amateur players like him, vertical, defensive-minded players. They’re durable, secure, and light enough that you can still get up to the rim.
The boldest feature remains the “AIR” detailing. Modern releases of the shoes keep the “AIR” a little more subdued, like the Incognito and Tri-Colored releases, but taking out that lettering would be like taking out the soul of the sneaker, and it’s hard to imagine a world where Nike would do that.
These are shoes you can’t miss. You can’t ignore the AIR detailing or the image of Scottie Pippen lifting off the court in them. You can’t ignore the style and the charm of the ‘90s embodied in them.
KicksUSA’s collection of Nike Air More Uptempo gives you the opportunity to recapture it all in one iconic shoe.
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