Player: Dennis Rodman
Original Release: 1994
Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Release Type: General Release
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While the Air Shake Ndestrukt may be the most famous Nike shoe associated with Dennis Rodman, it wasn’t the first. That distinction goes to the 1994 Air Darwin. After the 1992 Air Raid and the 1993 Air Raid II, the Air Darwin became the third iteration in a line of outdoor ready Nike basketball sneakers. This line would be named “Ndestrukt” in 1995.
Designed by Tinker Hatfield, the Air Darwin was the first Nike shoe to feature a backwards Swoosh, a trait that would live on in the Ndestrukt line in true Darwinian fashion. The Air Darwin originally released in both high top and low top form, with a leather upper, though the lows were also available with canvas uppers. As of 2021, only the highs have retroed.
The Darwin was the unofficial signature shoe of Dennis Rodman, who wore the shoe during the 1994-1995 NBA season, his last with the San Antonio Spurs. Rodman would average 16.8 rebounds per game en route to his fourth straight rebounding title, a title he would defend for the next three years. Unfortunately, Rodman’s defensive prowess wasn’t enough to get his team to the promised land as the Spurs would lose 4-2 in the Western Conference Finals to the eventual champion, Houston Rockets.
- Perforated leather and ballistic mesh upper
- Speed lacing system with nylon lace loops
- Padded ankle
- Polyurethane midsole
- Visible heel air sole unit
- Extra high DRC rubber outsole
- 1994 OG: $84.99 (about $153 in 2021)
- 2019 Retro: $130 (about $136 in 2021)
- Adjusted for inflation, the retro is cheaper than the OG.
Survival of the fittest…
Consistent with its name, the Air Darwin has survived through natural selection. In 1996, Rodman received his second unofficial signature shoe, the Air Shake Ndestrukt. Later that year, his first official signature shoe, the Air Worm Ndestrukt, would also release though he would never wear them in an NBA game.
As for Rodman, his tenure with Nike was short lived. In January 1997, Rodman signed with Converse while serving an 11 game suspension for kicking a cameraman. Depending on who you ask, his departure from Nike was either because both parties were too far apart in negotiations or because Nike had grown weary of Rodman’s antics.
THE TAKEDOWN: NIKE AIR PROOF
The Air Proof released in 1994 and bore a striking resemblance to the Air Darwin. Unlike the Darwin, the Proof did not feature a backwards facing Swoosh and was not associated with any big name NBA players. The Proof also lacked the visible Air units present in the Air Darwin and could be considered a takedown of the Darwin. The Proof has never been retroed.
While Rodman’s ties to Nike are long gone, the Darwin’s legacy lives on. In 2019, the white/teal/black colorway retroed for the first time. Numerous other colorways have also retroed over the years. The Air Darwin has evolved into hybrids including the Air Darwin Lite, Air Max Darwin 360 and Air Barwin.