Player: Allan Houston
Original Release: 1999
Designer: Eric Avar
Release Type: General release
Weight: 15.4 ounces
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Houston we have liftoff!
On May 16th, 1999, the New York Knicks made history when Allan Houston hit a game winning shot to eliminate the Miami Heat from the first round of the playoffs. In doing so, the Knicks became the second number 8 seed to defeat a number 1 seed in NBA playoff history, the other being the 1994 Denver Nuggets who defeated the Seattle Supersonics.
Back in ‘99, the first round of the playoffs was still a best of 5 series. Despite being the 1-8 matchup, the Knicks-Heat series was a close one, and the teams would find themselves tied at 2 games apiece and playing the deciding game 5 in Miami.
Like the rest of the series, game 5 was a close affair with the fate of both teams coming down to one play. New York had possession with 4.5 seconds remaining in the game, down 77-76. Coach Jeff Van Gundy called the play: triangle. Charlie Ward inbounded the ball to a curling Allan Houston who hoisted a floater that bounced off the front of the rim, then the backboard and finally into the basket, putting the Knicks up 78-77 with 0.8 seconds left. Miami’s Terry Porter bricked a long range three as time expired, making the victory official for the Knicks.
It would be the beginning of a historical playoff run for New York, where they would become the first number 8 seed to reach the NBA finals, though they would ultimately lose to the San Antonio Spurs.
What was certainly the most famous shot of Allan Houston’s career, and arguably the most famous shot in Knicks history, was also important for another reason: the black/white/royal/silver Air Vis Zoom Uptempo that Houston was wearing.
The Air Vis Zoom Uptempo released in 1999 as part of the Nike Alpha Project, an initiative that relied on collaborating with pro athletes to produce the latest innovations in clothing and sneakers. Although the Vis Zoom was originally advertised as being ideal for shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards, it became widely popular among all positions in both the NBA and NCAA.
The Vis Zoom first released in the black/white/royal/silver colorway, though several other colorways, including multiple Team Bank colorways, would soon follow. While not a signature shoe, the Vis Zoom is often associated with Allan Houston as well as Khalid El-Amin of the UConn Huskies, both of whom led underdog teams to prominence during the 1999 postseason.
As the name suggests, the Vis Zoom was the first basketball shoe to feature visible Zoom Air units throughout the shoe. Previously known as tensile air, Zoom Air had long been a common yet unseen feature in many popular models prior to 1999. What made Zoom Air unique was that it provided similar cushioning to Air Max units, but was thinner, thus making the shoe lower to the ground.
From a performance standpoint, Zoom Air cushioning meant that it would be easier to maneuver in the shoe, especially for smaller quicker players who spent most of their on-court time making sudden changes in direction.
In addition to Zoom Air, the Vis Zoom featured a combination full-grain and smooth/floater leather upper, Dynamic-Fit spandex inner sleeve and a covered “monkey paw” on the inner ankle for support. The shoe weighed 15.4 ounces.
The Air Vis Zoom Uptempo retailed at $124.99 (about $192 in 2020 dollars). The shoe has not been retroed.