AT A TIME WHEN PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYERS SEEMED TO BE MORE THAN ATHLETES, the euphoria surrounding the sport built to a fevered pitch and fans began to place their hardwood heroes onto pedestals that stretched far above the rim. During the 80s and the early 90s, basketball players emerged as unique gladiators, superstar athletes who captured our imagination, dribbled it down court, and dunked it through a hole. The creativity of the playgrounds joined the skill of the pro level and basketball came into its own. During this time several players led the way into a decade filled with the innovation and revolution of the game, and Nike FORCE became a focal point of sport culture. At the forefront of this movement was Charles Barkley, an unorthodox star whose ascent was as determined and incredible as any the sport had ever seen.

In 1984 Barkley left Auburn University and began his professional career in Philadelphia alongside two well-established legends. One of those stars, Moses Malone, took Barkley under his wing and eventually passed on a torch that burned with not only the fire of Philly’s team, but also with the spirit of FORCE, a culture ignited in 1982 with the Air Force 1 shoe. Barkley accepted the weight Moses offered him, eventually carrying Philadelphia through several seasons of playoff success, becoming a consistent All-Star along the way, and cementing his place among the vanguard of ballers that dominated courts and fueled every fan’s passion. Barkley’s unbelievable defense was matched by an offensive presence that eventually made him his team’s leading scorer, mounting points as quickly as he snatched rebounds. Night by night, season by season, Charles Barkley amassed a resume that qualified him for imminent glory, and in 1992 that’s just what he got: a place on a team America had long dreamt of.

The 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona, Spain saw Barkley standing alongside the most vaunted ballplayers in the world, a team that would capture the gold medal by defeating every squad it faced and putting on a show of unrivaled athletic brilliance. Averaging 18 points per game and shooting nearly 72% from the field, Barkley stormed through the ’92 Olympics the same way he had stormed through every portion of his career. In 1996 he repeated the task, earning gold again with a performance that mirrored his first Olympic trek. Barkley’s game—from the hallowed basketball city of Philadelphia to the international stage of the Olympics—proved to be a singular statement made by him and him only, a style suited for the fury of a powerful defense, and the finesse needed for a prolific offense.

Specially conceived and designed to recognize the Charles Barkley era that encompassed his time as a Philly superstar and an Olympic icon, a new series of Air Force 1 footwear and apparel has been created to tell this story in true FORCE fashion.

Inspired by the Air Alpha Force II shoe originally released in 1989, the Philadelphia-era Barkley AF1 shoe pack features a first time innovation that binds the shoe to Barkley’s extraordinary past. At the Supreme level of the shoe a mid-foot strap graces an Air Force 1 for the first time in the shoe’s history, a design detail inherited directly from the Air Alpha Force II. Also on the Supreme level is visible air in the heel, along with micro-perfing at the vamp and quarter and the original Air Alpha Force tongue. The perf pattern on the Core shoe takes on the form of tiny stars, and the Premium (and Supreme) level carries the CB34 logo on its heel. The colorways of these uniquely designed AF1 shoe are vivid and strikingly bold. Red, black, and varsity blue mid-soles sync with the color inspiration from Barkley’s career.

The  Air Force 180—a shoe specifically designed in 1992 for Chuck to rock at the Barcelona games—is the core inspiration behind the pack of Barkley Air Force 1 shoes that honor his reign as an Olympic champion. Sparkling soles on the Supreme and Premium level set things off, along with a CB34 heel logo. The Premium shoe displays an incredible color shift of metallic gold and obsidian paint splatter, and the Core shoes carry direct color inspiration from the Air Force 180, highlighted by distinctive foxing at the rear. From the Olympic-era Supreme Barkley Air Force 1 to the Core level, the story of that incredible time in Barcelona is told in remarkable FORCE detail.

The AF1 footwear has also been complemented with exclusive apparel. Heavyweight embroidered fleece hoodies bearing the same color story as the corresponding footwear product, features picked-stitch embroidery on kangaroo pockets and on the interior of the hood. Flocked and embroidered stars grace the left shoulder and chest of each hoodie and grow even denser in design on the tee in a graduated foil print. The series of hats continues the pattern with dyed to match flocked stars that contain a hint of embroidery, along with picked-stitch embroidery on the bill. Both the AF1 shoe pack of Philly and Olympic inspired Barkley footwear and apparel follows a design directive that maintains a simple, clean look that nonetheless presents its self in bold fashion.

As a young player in philadelphia charles barkley became a basketball superstar. As an olympic athlete he became an icon. This series of air force 1 footwear and apparel highlights both of those moments in time, honoring barkley’s rise to preeminence and the extraordinary style of play that got him there.

You can clearly see the Hybrid nature of the new series of AF1’s being released this October, heavily inspired by one of the most popular sneakers in Sneaker Cultures ever extending history.

Stay tuned for Part 3 tomorrow.