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Air Penny III (1997)

QUICK FACTS

Player: Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway

Original Release: 1997

Colorways:   

1) black/black/varsity-royal 

2) white/varsity-royal/black 

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

Release Type: General Release

Retro: 1) black- 2009, 2020

2) white- 2009

Designer: Eric Avar

Weight: 15.8 ounces

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BACKGROUND

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 EVOLUTION OF THE REVOLUTION: FROM FOAMPOSITE ONE TO PENNY III

FOAMPOSITE ONE: THE REVOLUTION

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.

Air Foamposite One

PENNY III: THE EVOLUTION

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. 

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.

ON COURT

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. 

OFF COURT

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. 

Nike “Frozen Moment” commercial (1997).

DESIGN FEATURES

  • Split leather upper
  • Foamposite support wing
  • Inner bootie
  • 180 degree visible heel Air Max unit
  • Forefoot Zoom Air
  • Elastic support bands
  • Herringbone outsole

PRICE

  • 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. 
Black colorway is on top, white colorway on bottom.

LEGACY

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. 

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…

Kicksigma

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