Not everyone gets to slap their name on an iconic piece of footwear like the legendary Chuck Taylor. For many of the designers behind basketball’s most famous shoes, knowledge of their names is generally limited to those in-the-know and sneakerheads. Here’s a brief who’s who of five men behind some of the NBA’s favourite kicks, and why they deserve to be household names.
Notable kicks: Nike Foamposite One (1997), Nike Hyperdunk (2008)
On the more modern end of the spectrum, Eric Avar’s 2008 insta-classic—Nike’s Hyperdunk—was built on the name he’d made for himself with his Foamposite One design. The Foamposites revolutionized the game utilizing a single-piece polyurethane upper that would mould itself to the wearer’s foot instead of traditional leather. Avar’s Hyperdunk line represents his work with futuristic fabrics, which made the shoe extremely light. His less-is-more aesthetic makes his designs stand out on the court.
Notable kicks: Air Max 1 (1987), Air Jordan III (1988) through Air Jordan XX8 (2013)
Tinker Hatfield finished what Peter Moore started: he went on to design more than two decades of Air Jordans following the original 1984 release. Working his way up from designing stores and offices for Nike, Hatfield’s rework of the Air Jordan design for the third iteration was credited with helping keep Michael Jordan on board with the brand. The project essentially ensured the company’s future on the court today. Oh, and the Air Max line would become the first sporting a visible air chamber in the heel, a staple of later designs. Can’t forget that.
Notable kicks: Adidas adiZero Crazy Light (2011), Crazy Light 2 (2012)
Although Adidas has always been a sporting brand with serious cachet, Fuller’s introduction of the crazy-advanced Crazy Light line in 2011 solidified the reputation of the company’s basketball line and started the search for zero among the brands. At the time, they were the lightest basketball shoes in the world. It makes sense—Fuller’s goal was to make a shoe that literally weighed nothing. Fuller and his team shaved the multiple layers of the average shoes down to a mere two, cutting down the amount of heavy glue necessary to keep it together. The Crazy Light 2? It weighs 0.3 ounces less.
Notable kicks: Air Jordan I (1985)
Little did he know, but Moore would herald the era of sneakerheads. He designed the Air Jordan I, one of the hottest shoes of all time and the forebear of Nike’s now-famous Jordan line. At the time, the project and marketing was conceptualized along the lines of a tennis shoe (as they were the guys getting the signature kicks back then). Almost instantly, his J’s became a pop culture phenomenon. Moore’s the guy who came up with the ball and wings plaque, and the even more memorable Jumpman logo which would appear on Tinker Hatfield’s Air Jordan designs down the line. Moore left Nike in 1988 for Adidas, where he’d later come up with the brand’s iconic three bars logo.
Notable kicks: Reebok Shaqnosis
Sometimes, a sneaker design is the result of a happy accident. Morris, Reebok’s senior designer, drew up the idea in the 90s. Although the maximum contrast style was just as bold back then as it is now, it not only made the cut for a brand willing to go a little crazy, it was attributed to the legendary Shaquille O’Neal. The risky design instantly made it one of sneaker history’s most controversial shoes. You could even say it started the stylistic one-upmanship we see these days from sneaker vying for attention, which is no small legacy.