Editor's note: Starting next week, ESPN.com is counting down the best basketball sneakers of all time, #NBArank style. But first we asked a few writers to share about their favorite kicks.
The Air Force 1 is, at the end of the day, in this entire sneakerhead epidemic, a shoe for the people. Forever reppin' what the marriage between the game and the soul of the game is supposed to be.
"This to me was the most important shoe in basketball history," said Ray Butts, architect of "Sole Provider: 30 Years of Nike Basketball," when reflecting on the Air Force 1.
The true story of the Air Force 1 is closer to the story of the black renaissance, and the reason "gear," "fit," and "merch" mean so much to lower-income minorities, especially many African-Americans, who throughout history have used sports, entertainment and "hustle" as a lifeline to survival and escape.
But it has also lived the life of excess. It's been on Jay-Z's feet in concerts and commercials. It's been in songs by Nelly, then a "classic" by Kanye, KRS-One, Nas and Rakim. It's been on Seinfeld!
For true, it is a shoe for the people, but it still has a vainglorious history of the fab life.
Put it best this way: If it were a city, it'd be Brooklyn: Park Slope and Bed-Stuy.
What began in 1982 as an innovating design and construct with the intent of revolutionizing the "sole" of the game, the Air Force 1 went from being the shoe that defined the games of Bobby Jones, Michael Cooper, Jamaal Wilkes and Moses Malone to the shoe that defined everything Rasheed Wallace was about as a player and a person.
And somewhere in between, the streets took hold.
Part of the reason the 'hood took ownership of the Air Force 1 is because of the affordability. Staying "100" (unless they were LEs, PEs, signatures, customized or bespokes) for less than $100 is an art. With the AF1 having a design so universally clean and simple, it adapted to damn near any trend of black fashion and style.
"The Air Force 1 is the only shoe that belongs to a particular culture," said Isaac Perry, former host of a Nike digital shoe documentary "Laced," speaking on the shoe's 25th anniversary in 2007.
"And because of that, the value of the shoe has not diminished."
And it never will. Even as the landscape of both basketball shoes and lifestyle sneakers evolve into a Westworldish/Westbrookish future, the one that started it all still lives the life of champagne wishes and concrete dreams.
Harlem to Hollywood. And back.
A life, uninterrupted.