photography by Rob Mata
Form Follows Function.
Welcome to Nice Kicks’ Throwback Thursday. Today marks the launch of the Nike Air Flightposite 1 “Chinese New Year,” a classic and iconic late ’90s Nike basketball silhouette which, nearly 20 years after its debut, finally receives the CNY treatment featuring geometric patterns and an intergalactic-like color combination of purple and pink hues.
However, this is not the first time this model has been outfitted with the color purple. While the worldwide sneaker community prepares for this highly anticipated release, let’s once again take a trip back in time to the golden era of sneakers and Nike Basketball where we reminisce and evoke deep nostalgia with one of the most progressive, transcendental, and iconic Nike basketball sneakers ever created: the Nike Air Flightposite 1.
Designed by legendary Nike sneaker designer, Eric Avar, the Nike Air Flightposite 1 hit shelves on August 18, 1999 at the astronomically high retail price of $160 and took the basketball and sneaker world by storm.
Following its predecessors – the 1997 Nike Air Foamposite One and 1998 Nike Air Foamposite Pro – the Flightposite 1 also featured a blow-molded composite upper.
Originally based off anatomical sketches, the shoe’s overall design closely resembles the human body with its intricacies, lines, and details paralleling muscle fibers and tissue – a “seamless extension of your body,” according to Avar.
Similar to the 1997 Nike Air Zoom T-Bug Flight and Air Zoom Flight The Glove, the Flightposite utilized a full-length zipper which when unzipped, revealed its hidden lacing system. Hailed as “one of the smoothest basketball shoes ever created,” the upper seamlessly and smoothly meshes with and incorporates into the rest of the sneaker, creating an overall aesthetic that is both functional and durable, yet beautiful as well.
The shoe featured the very best and most advanced Nike and Foamposite technology of the era including articulated forefoot Zoom Air with encapsulated heel Air Sole units, a Dynamic-Fit neoprene inner sleeve, Polyurethane-encased Phylon midsole with integrated internal sock plate, Phase-shift shimmer synthetic material, and an outsole with Optimal Motion flex grooves for superb traction.
The shoe also featured superior ventilation with two vents along the medial side of the shoe, offering a comfortable, custom, tight, lockdown fit on court.
Multiple colorways released, including an all-black carbon fiber model. However, the metallic purple — or “Eggplant” — and metallic gold colorways remain as two of the most iconic colorways ever used in the modern Nike basketball era, a testament to the avant-garde, futuristic design and innovative color templates seen in this timeless and forward-thinking example.
In 1999, Nike created an innovative magazine and television campaign for the Flightposite which gave the shoe additional character by virtue of the slogan, “Made of Many Hard to Define Things.”
To complement the print ad, one of Flightposite commercials featured KG and comedian Patton Oswalt, in which the famous comedian taped KG’s arms and legs together in vain prior to a one-on-one game.
The other commercial featured KG and Tim Duncan – the two faces of the Flightposite – as they battled it out on an outdoor court, both classic and timeless commercials which helped make the Flightposite larger than life and straight into consumers’ homes.
The Flightposite made its NBA All-Star debut in Oakland in February 2000 and was worn on court by several NBA All-Stars including Jason Kidd of the Phoenix Suns whose PE pair featured his #32, Allan Houston of the New York Knicks whose iconic PE pair featured custom Knicks colors and his nickname “H20” embroidered on the tongue and Tim Duncan whose pair was also given the #21 PE treatment as well.
The two most sought-after Flightposite PE samples, however, are the Kobe #8 PE version as well as KG’s “The Future” black PE pair in his size 15 which featured a rare KG logo in special font, “The Future” and “Garnett” written along each heel pull tab, and his #21 embroidered along the lateral aspect.
2008 re-releases and limited-edition 2014 retro launches were met with limited fanfare. Now, nearly 20 years after its original debut, the Flightposite returns in a special edition Chinese New Year colorway. It appears this pair should be well received by both old school Flightposite and sneaker enthusiasts worldwide, paying homage and a fitting tribute to this late-90s Nike classic, a perfect fusion of streamlined engineering and biomechanics, performance, aesthetics, and function.
The 1999 Nike Air Flightposite: Because beauty isn’t hard to define.
Select photos courtesy of @sneakernews, @onfootarchives, @doc_downes, @thegallerybyroundtwo, and @tony0214