Original Release: 1994
Retro: 2006, 2011, 2017
Release Type: General release
Weight: 15 ounces
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Neither Force nor Flight…
The game of basketball evolved during the mid 1990s with the emergence of a new type of player. Bigger and stronger than a typical guard but more nimble than a post player, this new hybrid player needed a shoe to match. Nike’s solution? The Uptempo.
Gone were the days of Force versus Flight. Instead, the Uptempo was designed to be lighter than the bulkier Force models while providing more cushioning than your typical, lightweight Flight model.
The first shoe to carry the Uptempo name was the Nike Air Uptempo which released in early 1994. Its successor, the Air Max 2 Uptempo, made its debut later that year.
Despite being the unofficial signature shoe of Chris Webber during his tenure with the Washington Bullets, the Air Max 2 Uptempo became better known for making appearances on NCAA courts. (Fun fact, Alonzo Mourning wore this colorway during the 1995 NBA All Star Game.)
While the Air Max 2 Uptempo released in three original mid top colorways and two low top colorways, this black/royal-blue/white/lemon colorway was the most popular. Nicknamed the “Duke” colorway, both for its color and for being the shoe of choice for the Duke University Men’s Basketball program, the Air Max 2 Uptempo was also popular among UConn, most notably Ray Allen, and Michigan players during the 1995 NCAA tournament.
To date, the “Duke” Air Max 2 Uptempo has been retroed three times, in 2006, 2011 and 2017, cementing its legacy as one of the most popular and memorable 90s kicks.
The Air Max 2 Uptempo featured a Durabuck and performance mesh upper with a Dynamic-Fit inner sleeve, elastic support straps across the arches and Phylon midsole. The shoe was incredibly comfortable, due primarily to the inner sleeve and cushioning, and weighed 15 ounces.
Stellar design aside, what distinguished the Air Max 2 Uptempo was the 180 degree visible Air sole unit in the heel. The shoe also had an encapsulated Air sole unit in the forefoot. After all, you don’t get “Air Max” without Air.
25 + 5 = 2?
At least it does when referring to the Pounds per Square Inch or PSI that make up the Air sole unit in the Air Max 2 Uptempo.
The “2” refers to the dual pressure chambers within the Air sole unit. The purpose of dual pressure chambers is to provide a more tailored cushioning based on where the wearer’s weight is distributed.
In the OG Air Max 2 Uptempo, each chamber consisted of pressurized sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), one chamber at 25 PSI and the other at 5 PSI. In fact, any shoe with the “Air Max 2” name has this dual pressure system (at least the OGs did), though the PSI may vary from model to model.
The retros replaced SF6, a greenhouse gas, with nitrogen because it is more environmentally friendly. So in this case, 25 + 5 really does equal 2!
The Air Max 2 Uptempo retailed at $134.95 (about $234 in 2020). The 2006 retros retailed at $130 (about $165 in 2020). The 2011 retros retailed at $140 (about $159 in 2020) and the 2017 retros retailed at $140 (about $146 in 2020). In other words, the Air Max 2 Uptempo has gotten progressively cheaper over time, when adjusted for inflation.