At the turn of the century, Nike briefly turned its focus away from brand-defining Air technology to foam. It was called Shox. Special retail displays made an audible “Boing” noise when you picked up the debut Shox BB4 (BB as in “basketball” with four Shox columns…get it?). Vince Carter in his prime jumped over a 7-foot Frenchman in the Olympics, in the Shox BB4. The most interesting aspect to all the image assets Nike released in this latest “20 Designs That Changed The Game” installment is a catalog shot of a White/Metallic Silver-Lapis style describing the foam Shox columns not as foam, but as an “Exposed Phase heel Air-Sole unit,” apparently hiding the technology in plain sight. Or maybe there were alternate reasons. Get a closer read on the Shox BB4 from Nike’s official writeup…
“The objective was for the technology itself to be the focal point — let it be the hero.”- Eric Avar
Sometimes imagination can be tethered by manufacturing limitation. Nike Shox was already a 20-year-old concept at the time of the BB4’s release. The idea was too ahead of the curve, necessitating foam that hadn’t been invented yet. It resurfaced at the tail end of the 1990s, piquing the interest of Eric Avar and the design team as a visually expressive technology with a significant performance value.
By letting those newly engineered Nike Shox do the talking, Eric knew that there was no point trying to downplay the sole on a shoe like the BB4. “I believe every shoe should have one bold, iconic expression to it. Sometimes you can get away with two. Any more than that and it gets too busy and you just don’t know where to focus, functionally or aesthetically.”
The Nike Shox BB4’s look was informed by its space age concept: a rocket and booster-like appearance was prepped for blastoff and served to amplify the explosive potential of the columns. The upper was designed for intergalactic exploration too, as Avar and the others at mission control researched astronaut apparel. “The upper was inspired from some space suits at the time. We kept it simple and understated, but modern with a slight iridescence and reflectivity.”
Vince Carter’s iconic dunk of death over a seven-footer while wearing a pair secured his legendary status and drove home the power of the Nike Shox system. Off he went into the stadium atmosphere and we had liftoff. You can’t synthesize that kind of moment, but maybe, just maybe, those columns gave him the confidence to pull off the ultimate “posterized” dunk.