Nike Air Penny III (1997)

The Nike Air Penny 3 black (top) and white (bottom).


Player: Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway

Original Release: 1997


1) black/black/varsity-royal 

The Nike Air Penny 3 black.

2) white/varsity-royal/black 

The Nike Air Penny 3 white.

3) white/white/royal/black (unreleased sample) 

The Nike Air Penny 3 unreleased sample.

Release Type: General Release

Retro: 1) black- 2009, 2020

2) white- 2009

Designer: Eric Avar

Weight: 15.8 ounces

[convertkit form=3021609]

The Nike Air Penny 3 black (left) and white (right).

We review products independently, but we may earn affiliate commission from purchases made through links on this page. 


Following the Foamposite One is no easy feat…

1997 was different for Penny Hardaway. After all, he was coming off his first season without Shaq. His sneakers were different too. After the Foamposite One graced his feet at the end of the ’96-’97 season, Penny entered the ‘97-’98 season in the Air Penny III, a shoe that continued with the Foamposite theme, combined with features from his previous signature shoes. 

The Nike Air Penny 3 black (top) and white (bottom).



Revolutionary for its time, Foamposite material is made of polyurethane liquid that is molded to create the synthetic Foamposite upper of the shoe. While initially stiff and uncomfortable, the Foamposite material softens when worn due to the heat generated from the wearer’s foot. Eventually, the material contours around the foot to create a customized fit.

The Nike Air Foamposite One.
Air Foamposite One


A pretty Penny…

It’s no secret that Penny loved the Foamposite. So it only made sense that the Penny III follow in the footsteps of the legendary Foamposite by featuring a leather upper with a Foamposite support panel on the lateral side. The support panel resembled an eagle’s wing, a feature present in Penny’s previous signature shoes. The III is the only numbered Penny to feature Foamposite technology. 

The Nike Air Max Penny (top), the Air Penny 2 (middile) and the Nike Air Penny 3 (bottom).
From top to bottom: Air Max Penny (1995); Penny II (1996) and Penny III (1997). Note the evolution of the “eagle wing”.

The Penny III only released in two original colorways, the least of any of the Penny signature line. The Penny III has also been retroed the least amount of times of any member of the Penny line.


An excellent on court performer, Penny wore the III during the ‘97-’98 NBA season. He wore the white/varsity-royal/black colorway for home games and the 1998 All Star Game, and the black/black/varsity-royal colorway for away games. He never wore the unreleased sample in an NBA game. Unfortunately knee injuries would sideline him for all but 19 games and the Orlando Magic would miss the playoffs for the first time since ‘92-’93. 

Penny Hardaway wearing the Nike Air Penny 3 black (left) and white (right).


Nicknamed the liquid foams, the III was subject to several marketing campaigns, most notably Nike’s “Frozen Moment” commercial featuring Chris Rock as Lil’ Penny and Tyra Banks. 

Lil' Penny (top) and the Nike Air Penny 3 (bottom), in the Nike Frozen Moment commercial.
Nike “Frozen Moment” commercial (1997).


  • Split leather upper
  • Foamposite support wing
  • Inner bootie
  • 180 degree visible heel Air Max unit
  • Forefoot Zoom Air
  • Elastic support bands
  • Herringbone outsole
The Nike Air Penny 3 black (left) and white (right).


  • 1997 OG: $149.99 (about $250 in 2021)
  • 2009 Retro: $155 (about $193 in 2021)
  • 2020 Retro: (black colorway only): $155 (about $160 in 2021)
  • Note: The Penny III has gotten cheaper over time when adjusted for inflation. 
The Nike Air Penny 3 black bottom (top) and white bottom (bottom).
Black colorway is on top, white colorway on bottom.


A Penny saved is a Penny earned…

Unfortunately the III came at a time when Penny suffered a devastating knee injury that would change the trajectory of his career, relegating him from perennial all star to one of the biggest “what if” stories in NBA history. 

The Nike Air Penny 3 white.

Fortunately, one bad season wasn’t enough to quash the Penny line as Nike would revisit the signature series with Penny’s final signature shoe of his playing career, the 1998 Penny IV. The Penny line would be revived years after Penny’s retirement with the release of the Penny V (2012) and VI (2015). Clearly, One Cent is still profitable decades later…

The Nike Air Penny 3 white.