Player: Chris Webber
Colorway: black/white/varsity royal
Original Release: 1995
Release Type: General release
Weight: 17.2 ounces
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A simple shoe with a complex story.
After signing a contract with Nike in 1993, Chris Webber received his first official signature shoe, the Air Max CW (Chris Webber) in 1995. The CW sold well during its initial run, so well in fact that it retroed only a few years later in 1998. This time, the CW would be renamed the Air Max Sensation as Nike no longer had the rights to Webber’s name.
Because of its timeless simplicity and outstanding comfort, the Sensation would continue to sell, earning it several more retros over the next two decades. Despite its stellar performance, this would be Chris Webber’s first and only signature shoe with Nike as he would ultimately leave the company in 1996, though the circumstances leading to his departure are debatable.
In Webber’s estimation, he left Nike because he could not justify the $140 price tag (about $237 in 2020 dollars) for a shoe marketed to inner city youth who couldn’t afford them. Furthermore, he did not want to be part of the violence associated with young people killing each other over expensive sneakers.
To hear Nike tell it however, Webber’s issue had nothing to do with the shoe’s price tag or with youth violence and everything to do with the fact that Webber did not want to shoulder the responsibilities that came with being a Nike signature athlete such as making basketball camp appearances or signing autographs.
Either way, when Webber left, Nike ceased production of the Air Max CW in its original form, and subsequent models of the Air Max CW would be renamed the Air Max Sensation. The Sensation would replace the “CW” logo with the Nike Swoosh and Webber’s number “2” on the heel tab with the word “Air”.
The black/white/varsity royal colorway retroed for the first time in 2016. This retro deviated quite a bit from its original counterpart. While the OGs had a more nuanced upper with parts of the leather appearing more charcoal grey than black, the retros did not, keeping the upper all black.
The retros also lacked the raised swoosh on the ankle and the royal blue was a shade lighter.
Furthermore, the Air bubbles in the retros were thinner, a trait common in Nike retros. The thinner Air bubbles were in part a by-product of Nike’s move to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by replacing sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)- a greenhouse gas that had been the exclusive component of Nike’s Air bubbles since 1989, with the more environmentally friendly Nitrogen. The thinner Air bubbles are sturdier and break less often, though they don’t provide the same level of cushioning as their original counterparts.
Finally, the “Air Max” logo on the tongue of the retro had a royal circle around it instead of a white circle like the OGs.
Despite the numerous differences between the OGs and the retros, the retros sold well and are relatively hard to come by today. Perhaps we will soon get a retro of other OG colorways such as the white/black/red version but that remains to be seen. In any event, regardless of whether you call it the CW or the Sensation, one thing is certain: there are still more chapters left to this complex story!
The Air Max CW featured a Durabuck and full grain leather upper, a Lace-Lock system with elastic support straps over the arches for a lockdown feel and visible forefoot and heel Air Max units for maximum cushioning. The solid rubber outsole came equipped with flex grooves to provide superb traction.
From a comfort and performance standpoint, the CW was reminiscent of the Air Max Uptempo, though at 17.2 ounces, it was noticeably heavier than the Uptempo which only weighed 15.7 ounces.
In 1995, the Air Max CW sold for $139.99 (about $235 in 2020 dollars). By comparison, the 2016 Air Max Sensation retros sold for $160 (about $172 in 2020 dollars), meaning this model has gotten cheaper over time when adjusted for inflation.