Kicks on Cards #2 | Air Max Day

Hobby Love on Air Max Day

Date: Mar 26, 2024
Author: Zack Schlemmer
Topics: 1998-99 Topps, Air Max Day, basketball, Charles Barkley, How To Collect, Kicks on Cards, Marcus Camby, NBA, Phoenix, Phoenix Suns, Suns, Zack Schlemmer
Length: 765 Words
Reading Time: ~4 Minutes

Air Max Extravaganza

We’re back with our second installment of Kicks on Cards on the Topps Ripped blog. This time, we’re celebrating Air Max Day, Nike’s annual ode to its big-bubbled sneakers. 

Falling on March 26 in observance of the day that Nike’s first Air Max sneaker, the Air Max 1 running shoe, released in 1987, the early spring date has become a day for sneakerheads to put on their favorite Air Maxes to show off on social media, or better yet, in real life. 

You probably wouldn’t expect there to be many trading cards with Air Max sneakers on them since, you know, there aren’t any sets dedicated to professional runners (at least that I know of), but in my years of obsessively spotting sneakers on cards I’ve come across a few. And since there are Air Max models in other categories besides running, I also picked out a couple of classic Air Max basketball sneakers. Let’s check out this Air!

1994-95 Topps Basketball #373 Charles Barkley // Nike Air Force Max CB

Here we have Charles Barkley on his 1994-95 Topps card in his first official signature shoe, the Air Force Max CB from 1993. The formidable design features a cross strap similar to the Air Jordan 8 intended to lock in and support Chuck’s powerful game. This shoe is also significant for being the first signature Air Max model of any sport. 

1998-99 Topps Basketball #67 Marcus Camby // Nike Air Max Uptempo III

For a second Air Max hoops shoe, here’s Marcus Camby on his 1998-99 Topps card dunking in the Nike Air Max Uptempo III (3). Also known as the Air Max Uptempo ‘97 for its various retro releases, this shoe is considered one of the all-time great Air Max basketball models. It had the largest Air Max unit in a basketball shoe when it was released and was worn by countless players at the pro and college levels—and plenty of people who never set foot on a basketball court, too. I have always loved this colorway with purple accents, which looks especially good with that classic Raptors uniform.

1991 Courtside #45 Larry Johnson // Nike Air Max 90 (Black White 2018)

“Step Into the Action” indeed with this card featuring Larry Johnson in his pre-Grandmama days at UNLV. Along with that sweet Nike UNLV warmup suit, LJ has on the rare black-and-white Air Max 90. This was actually an all-leather construction for the Air Max 90, which was intended to be a lifestyle version of the classic running shoe. The perks of playing for a Nike-sponsored school in the early ‘90s, I guess. 

1993-94 Upper Deck Collector’s Choice Juwan Howard RC // Nike Air Max Triax (The Air Max Triax 94 is pictured above)

The unheralded Air Max Triax was a performance running shoe from 1993 with a large Air Max bubble in the heel. It was designed as a lightweight option with plenty of soft cushion for high-mileage road runners. As you can see, they also worked well for Juwan Howard on this card where he’s throwing down a dunk (or maybe just pretending to) at a rookie photo shoot. 

1996-97 Upper Deck #347 Kerry Kittles // Nike Air Max ‘96

Rookie photo shoots are a good place to spot NBA basketball players in Air Max running shoes because here we have another one: Kerry Kittles in the Air Max ‘96. One of my personal favorite Air Max runners, the aggressive-looking Air Max ‘96, followed the famous Air Max 95 and has always been overshadowed by it. We’ve still never even gotten a retro release of it in its original form. (Nike did retro it a few years back, but with a modified sole unit that didn’t do it for most fans of the shoe.) You’ll have to get this card yourself to see what Dan Patrick has to say about Kittles on the back.

2001 SPx Foundations #F3 Alex Rodriguez // Nike Air Max Tailwind IV (Nike Air Max Tailwind IV Supreme Black — Inspo from A-Rod?)

In this card featuring A-Rod early in his stint with the Texas Rangers, we see him at practice in the Air Max Tailwind IV (4). This model was initially released in 1999 and is another great Air Max design, featuring a bold upper with TPU piping and gradient-colored mesh panels. The Air Max Tailwind IV had a nice run of retro releases in 2019 and 2020, including a Supreme collaboration. One of Supreme’s colorways even had a similar black and royal blue look. Maybe they saw this card…

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