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Just look at a pair of Chuck Taylor’s and you’ll understand that basketball shoes have come a long way. Occasionally, sneaker technology goes through a growth spurt, where things develop faster in one year than in the previous ten. We saw that with Nike Air in 1978, Zoom Air in the early 90s and Shox in 2000. 2008 proved to be another one of those years.
In Nike’s early days, leather sneakers reigned supreme. In 2008, designer Eric Avar created the Nike Hyperdunk which introduced lighter technologies like Flywire and Lunar Foam. Both became commonplace in performance sneakers from then on.
While not an official signature shoe, Nike selected Kobe Bryant to be the face of the Hyperdunk. On April 10, 2008, Bryant debuted the Hyperdunk, wearing the black Player Exclusive “Away” colorway, against the LA Clippers. On April 13, Bryant debuted this colorway, the Home PE, in a victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs game was important for two reasons: 1) the Lakers clinched the number one playoff seed, and 2) it was the only NBA game that Kobe wore the Hyperdunk Home PE. He returned to his official signature shoe, the Kobe III, for the rest of the season and playoffs. Bryant reintroduced the Hyperdunk during the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Commonly referred to as the “Doin’ Work Hyperdunks” in reference to the 2009 Spike Lee documentary, the Hyperdunk Home PE was one of the rarest releases ever. Only 24 total pairs of this Harlem House of Hoops exclusive colorway released.
12 pairs released at the Harlem House of Hoops on May 23, 2008, and another 12 pairs on Kobe’s website KB24.com. The releases numbered 1-24. They also came in a plexiglass display case with details about the Hyperdunk etched in laser. Additionally, a few ultra rare sample pairs exist, such as the one pictured, that do not feature the 1-24 numbering.
Nike marketed the hell out of the Hyperdunk. The commercials mostly featured Bryant jumping over things like an Aston Martin or a pool full of snakes. Additionally, the 2008 Olympics were the perfect venue for Nike to officially introduce the Hyperdunk to the world. As if by design, Team USA would cruise to the Gold Medal, with most players wearing Hyperdunks.
The extensive marketing paid off. The 2008 Hyperdunk is still highly sought after and easily the most coveted in the Hyperdunk family today.
Designed by Eric Avar, the Hyperdunk was the first basketball shoe to feature Flywire and Lunar Foam uppers instead of leather. Flywire consists of a series of cables woven together to increase stability and reduce weight while Lunar Foam is a lightweight cushioning platform meant to reduce force of impact. The Hyperdunk also featured Zoom Air cushioning.
Bryant admitted that the technology convinced him to wear the Hyperdunk. With the Hyperdunk, Avar and Bryant pioneered a movement to create lightweight basketball shoes that would culminate in the creation of the low top silhouettes we see in most performance models today. The futuristic design, vaguely reminiscent of Marty McFly’s Air Mag, probably didn’t hurt either.
Bryant continued to wear various Hyperdunk PEs after the Olympics and into the 2008-2009 season, before switching to his next signature shoe, the Kobe IV. The 2008 Hyperdunk was so successful that new versions of the Hyperdunk continue to release annually. However subsequent versions of the Hyperdunk never achieved the popularity of the 2008 originals.
The 2008 Hyperdunk retroed several times: in the Aston Martin pack (2010), as part of the Fade to Black series, in the United We Rise colorway and in various monochrome colorways (all 2016).
The Home PE however has never retroed. Bryant’s tragic death may mean that an already rare shoe may become even rarer, as Nike has not indicated any intention of retroing this particular colorway. As with any retro, only time will tell. In the meantime, lets celebrate the lasting legacy of this groundbreaking shoe, and pay our respects to the men who made it possible. Mamba mentality forever!