Nike Air Garnett III (1999)

Nike Air Garnett 3, lateral view.

QUICK FACTS

Colorway: white/chrome/regal-blue/black

Original Release: 1999

Retro: 2009, 2015

Designers: Aaron Cooper, Eric Avar

Release Type: general release 

Weight: 13.8 ounces 

BACKGROUND

The Air Garnett III released in 1999 as Kevin Garnett’s third and penultimate Nike signature shoe. Designed by Aaron Cooper and Eric Avar, the Garnett III took inspiration from the designers’ involvement in creating the Air Max Plus, which had been a huge success both stateside and internationally. Now, the mission for Cooper and Avar was to apply that success to a basketball shoe. Mission accomplished. 

Nike Air Garnett 3, medial view.

Taking cues from the Air Max Plus, the Garnett III combined leather with mesh to create an upper which was lightweight and breathable and cushioned the shoe with Tuned Air technology (more on that later). 

Ironically, the Garnett III wasn’t originally designed for Kevin Garnett. Instead, it was supposed to be the Penny V, with the nuclear atom on the outsole radiating up side of the shoe, culminating in a lateral “eagle wing”, a feature present in all of Penny Hardaway’s previous iterations. The goal was to signify Penny’s explosiveness. 

Nike Air Garnett 3, left shoe, bottom view.

But times change. Age and injury take their toll, and Nike decided to move in a different direction, repurposing the Penny V into the Garnett III. 

Luckily they didn’t need to change much. KG was an explosive athlete in his own right, with boundless energy and enthusiasm. In fact, Cooper cited the Garnett III as one of his favorite sneakers to work on, in part due to how engaged KG was with the process. 

KG was coming off of wearing the Flightposite 1, an initially polarizing shoe that proved to be a game changer: a top notch non-Jordan shoe without “Big Air” that justified the serious marketing campaign and $160 (in 1999) price tag.  

Nike Air Flightposite 1, metallic gold, left shoe lateral view.
Flightposite 1.

The Garnett III added KG’s personal touch. The outsole featured the letters “OBF”, which stood for “Official Block Family”, a name Garnett used to honor his family and childhood friends. It would also become the name of his clothing line. 

Nike Air Garnett 3, right shoe, bottom view.
The retros replaced “OBF” with a Swoosh in the middle of the atom.

In the Garnett III, KG led the ‘99-’00 Timberwolves to their second winning season in franchise history and the shoe would become KG’s most memorable sig, warranting several retros and commanding three and four figure price tags on the secondary market. Not a bad upgrade, considering he never wore his previous signature shoe, the Garnett II, in an NBA game. 

DESIGN FEATURES:

  • Synthetic mesh and leather upper with internalized eyestay
  • Forefoot fabric wrapped Phylon midsole
  • Forefoot Zoom Air unit
  • 18mm visible heel Tuned Air unit
  • Maximum traction solid rubber outsole with Optimal Motion flex grooves
  • Carbon Fiber midfoot support shank

WHAT IS TUNED AIR?  

High impact cushioning combined with multi directional support…

Developed in 1998 with the Air Max Plus, Tuned Air (TN Air) was designed to help distribute air more efficiently, thereby stabilizing the athlete. Previously, Nike had focused on maximizing the size of the Air units. Tuned Air instead made the Air units narrower. 

Nike Air Garnett 3, right shoe, rear view.

Tuned Air consisted of solid pre-molded polymer half spheres, known as hemispheres, which were inserted into the Air unit. The hemispheres were strategically placed to create a balance of impact protection and motion control by guiding the foot naturally through the footstrike motion. They also helped reduce pressure in the heel, slow pronation and increase cushioning. 

COLORWAYS & PRICE

WHITE/CHROME/REGAL-BLUE/BLACK (“HOME”)

Nike Air Garnett 3, right shoe, lateral view.
  • 1999 OG: $140 (about $236 in 2022)
  • 2009 Retro: $140 (about $183 in 2022)
  • 2015 Retro: $140 (about $166 in 2022)
  • The “Home” colorway has gotten cheaper over time when adjusted for inflation. 

BLACK/CHROME/REGAL-BLUE (“AWAY”)

Nike Air Garnett 3, black, right shoe, lateral view.
  • 1999 OG: $140 (about $236 in 2022)
  • 2009 Retro: $140 (about $183 in 2022)
  • The “Away” colorway has gotten cheaper over time when adjusted for inflation. 

WHITE/CHROME/NAVY

Nike Air Garnett 3, white, chrome, navy, right shoe, lateral view.
Photo via Flightclub.
  • 1999 OG: $140 (about $236 in 2022)
  • Retro: N/A

UNRELEASED PROTOTYPE 

Kevin Garnett wearing the Nike Air Garnett 3 prototype.
Unreleased colorway worn by KG while representing Team USA during the 1999 Tournament of the Americas. 

LEGACY

Sandwiched between the Flightposite 1 (1999) and the Flightposite 2 (2000), the Garnett III was arguably KG’s most memorable shoe. Unfortunately, his time with Nike wouldn’t last and the Flightposite 2 would be his final signature shoe with the Swoosh. His tenure with the Wolves lasted longer, until 2007, when he went to Boston. KG returned to the Wolves in 2014 and remained until his retirement two years later.  

Nike Air Flightposite 2, black, navy, left shoe, lateral view.
The Flightposite 2, KG’s final Nike shoe.

Fortunately, the popularity of the Garnett III did not end with his Nike contract. Since Nike no longer had the rights to his name, the retros were renamed the Air 3, removing any KG references and replacing them with generic Nike Swooshes or the word “basketball”. The retros also made changes to the tech, replacing the Tuned Air unit with a Max Air unit and replacing the carbon fiber midfoot support shank with a plastic one. The changes didn’t affect sales however as Deadstock Air 3 retros still command high prices on the secondary market. Even KG expresses that he still has “big love” for the Garnett III and Flightposite 2, despite his contract with Nike being long over. That certainly can’t hurt…

Nike Air Garnett 3, front view.

NIKE AIR FLIGHT ‘00: THE TAKEDOWN

Like its name indicates, the Air Flight ‘00 released in 2000 as a takedown to the Garnett III. While not an official signature shoe, the ‘00 was most famously worn by Steve Nash during his tenure with the Dallas Mavericks. The ‘00 came in both Mid and Low top versions. Neither version has ever been retroed. 

Nike Air Flight '00.

DESIGN FEATURES

  • Full grain leather and mesh upper 
  • Internal hidden eyestay lacing system
  • TPU reinforced molded lace locks
  • High sculpted polyurethane midsole
  • Encapsulated heel Air Sole unit 
  • Exposed TPU midfoot support shank 
  • Mids weighed 15.4 ounces and retailed at $70 (about $114 in 2022)
  • Lows weighed 14.2 ounces and retailed at $65 (about $106 in 2022)

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