Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kicks: Nike Air Penny & Lil' Penny

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There's no questioning the design and performance of Nike's basketball kicks, but lets face it, a lot of Nike's success stems from its ability to pump out great marketing campaigns. Case and point, the mid 90's Lil' Penny character to market the Nike Air Penny line. I became a hoops fan because of "His Airness" way back when. I converted to Knickerbockerism somewhere toward the late 90's, early oughts, but somewhere between MJ and the Knicks conversion is Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway. I guess it's all tied together and makes sense. MJ tortured the Knicks and "Penny" tortured Jordan every now and then (Would've been longer if not for injuries.):

("Penny" showing Jordan just who the new kid on the block is.)

('96 UD SPx Hardaway Tribute Card)
Hardaway is by far my favorite player to collect trading cards and memorabilia of. I really liked his game when he and Shaquille O'neal were the future of the NBA. There are tons of great 90's inserts and on-card auto's of Penny as well. Some the highest cards on my wish list are of Penny Hardaway. He is definitely one of those players that garners a cult following by collectors, just as players like Larry "Grand Ma Ma" Johnson and Grant Hill do. The '96 Upper Deck SPx Tribute card not only features a great card design, but also shows Hardaway rockin' the Nike Air Penny kicks. There's also an auto'd version of this card serial numbered to 300 that is tops on my wish list. Besides becoming one of Upper Deck's biggest spokesmen of the 90's, Hardaway was nearly front and center in one of Nike's most successful and entertaining ad campaigns.

I say "nearly front and center" because Hardaway was out shinned by "Lil' Penny" in the many Nike TV ads to promote the Air Penny kicks. "Lil Penny's" voice was of course performed by movie director Spike Lee. The fast talking quick witted puppet helped Anfernee Hardaway become a household name. Much the same way Mars Blackmon did for Jordan in the late 80's and early 90's. Maybe the lack of Spike Lee in the Lebron James commercials is why James' popularity has dipped.

(Nike Air Penny TV AD)

(Nike Promotional Poster)
The Nike Air Penny kicks themselves were truly a work of fashion and sneaker art. The swede texture and detailed stitching gave these kicks a refined looked that was only enhanced by the Orlando Magic blue and white colors. The visible Air Max heel sole screams 90's and the white outer sole was unmistakable going up and down a basketball court. These were obviously some stylish kicks, but they were also comfortable. I had a pair and really enjoyed the fit of the mid-sole. However, I did have one complaint. Not everyone gets a new pair of their own shows like Jordan or Penny would have before every game. The bottom tread on the white portion of the sole would tend to wear out and lose traction. Despite this performance flaw, these are some stylish kicks and just so happen to be rumored for a 2011 Spring retro release. You can bet this collector will be first in line to pickup my second par of Air Penny kicks in two decades.

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  1. Oh man, I LOVED the Air Penny line!! These and the Air Griffeys are my favorite shoes of all time. Never owned either, of course, because of cost, although I did have the Griffey baseball cleats with interchangeable spikes.

  2. I loved Penny's back in the day... I never owned the ones in your pictures... but I had a pair of Air Penny 2 and a pair of the Nike Air Foamposite I.

    Nike's commercials are the main reason I'm still a big fan of their shoes to this day... between Mars Blackmon and Lil' Penny... it doesn't get any better than that.

  3. - Joe S., The Griffey's were pretty cool and who really didn't like Jr. back in the day.

    - Mark, I never had a pair of the Foamposite kicks, but I wanted a pair. They are def in the top 3 of all-time greatest kicks. Nike is rumored to be releasing a few more colors of retro Foamposite kicks this spring.

  4. Chris Rock Performed the Voice of Lil Penny NOT Spike Lee might want to update the page