Jason Kidd and Grant Hill will forever be linked in basketball lore. They were the second and third pick, respectively, in the 1994 NBA draft, and shared Rookie of the Year honors after stellar inaugural seasons. In the same unassuming manner, both players entered the league, both Hill and Kidd unceremoniously hung up the sneakers for good, and it is quite possible that the two legends will also enter the Basketball Hall of Fame together. As we reflect on their 19-year careers, we take a look at the Impact Grant Hill and Jason Kidd had on sneaker culture.
After being drafted by the Dallas Mavericks, Kidd signed on with Nike. The brand selected the young star as the athlete to introduce their groundbreaking Zoom Air Technology. The first shoe to feature this new cushioning was the unorthodox, but now classic, Nike Air Zoom Flight 95. At the time, the shoe was met with skepticism due to the large carbon fiber areas on the upper. However, the Zoom Flight 95 is easily one of the most recognizable sneakers ever made.
Kidd’s teammate on that 1994 Dallas Mavericks squad was Jamaal Mashburn. The year prior to Kidd’s arrival, Mashburn signed a lucrative deal with FILA that would later spawn a signature shoe. However, FILA pulled out the big guns to win over incoming Duke University legend, and National Player of the Year, Grant Hill in 1994. Though he did not begin the season in his own kicks, the FILA Grant Hill 1 became an instant classic when it hit the scene in March 1995, and vaulted the already popular street brand into the same basketball sneaker stratosphere as Nike and Reebok. Grant Hill’s shoe was a sneaker for the counter culture. The shoe was more than simply an alternative from Air Jordans – it spoke to doing what you want. Hill was a kid from the suburbs that turned down guaranteed NBA dollars to finish all four years at a prestigious university, but his shoes were the complete opposite. They exuded rebellion with their large build and unconventional design. The Grant Hill sneaker was the voice of the next generation. This thought process was increased exponentially when Tupac Shakur rocked Hill’s second signature in an iconic photo in the booklet of his album All Eyez On Me.
Hill took FILA basketball to a level that it could never duplicate. In 1995, the brand signed another incoming star in Jerry Stackhouse. Though they attempted to use a similar push, Stackhouse’s signature line never gained the traction of Grant Hill. Years later, Fila dropped the FILA Nikki Delta, a signature shoe for women’s basketball legend Nikki McCray. The line, like the others, was quickly grounded. What does Grant Hill have to do with this? As his career began to decline due to troublesome ankle injuries, FILA also began to plummet in the ranks of the sneaker industry. In 1997, while being ranked third in the sneaker industry, FILA resigned Grant Hill for two years before his original contract was over. The seven-year, $80 million restructuring pushed the deal out until 2004, and skyrocketed his annual income from approximately $5 million to over $11 million. At the time, this was second only to Michael Jordan. Needless to say, that extension did not last, as Hill’s FILA ties were cut during his time in Orlando, and the brand has suffered since. However, without Grant Hil, these other deals probably would not have been made. The success and popularity of his sneaker directly affected the brand’s moves moving forward.
Much like Hill, Jason Kidd also switched shoe companies. After his career started to take a bit of a downward turn, Kidd left Nike in 2008 to sign with PEAK. The moved seemed even more odd when it was announced that the deal would pay out only $4 million over three years. Kidd had become synonymous with Nike Basketball since his initial introduction of the Nike Air Zoom Flight 95. That spot was strengthened when he rocked the Nike Air Zoom Flight Five, which seemed to never see it’s deathbed. In fact, the shoe, which released 16 years ago, was available on NIKEiD until a few months ago. Kidd was on of the first prominent American basketball player to sign with a little known Asian shoe company. He even won an NBA Championship while rocking PEAK sneakers. Year later, we see superstars, such as Kevin Garnett, Tony Parker, and Dwyane Wade, signed with sneaker companies like Li-Ning and PEAK. Kidd moved back to Nike prior to his retirement, but the impact was made.
Jason Kidd and Grant Hill had different, but amazing careers. At one point, both players were considered top players in the NBA. In sneaker circles, their shoes will be remembered almost as much as they are. The FILA Grant Hill 1 is set to return soon, and the Grant Hill 2 has already returned twice to rave reviews. The Zoom Flight 95 returned in 2008 to a cold shoulder, but has since been a sought after sneaker. The legacy left in those shoes, and the impact both players had cannot be denied. As both players ride off into the sunset, it would be worth your time to take a look at some of the remarkable moments Hill and Kidd had in their incredible sneakers.