IN 1992 THE LEGACY OF CHARLES BARKLEY LEFT THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA AND JOURNEYED WEST toward a town that burned brightly underneath the Arizona sun, and a team that needed a star of Chuck’s caliber.
The years that preceded Barkley’s arrival in Phoenix had established him as one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball. He’d made a name for himself in Leeds, Alabama. He made that name famous at Auburn. And as a pro player in Philly he’d become a superstar, a member of the Olympic Dream Team, and a singular athlete whose style shook core beliefs about the game and made it clear that Charles Barkley wrote his own rules, and erased all others.
During a time when athletes were increasingly pressured into politically correct sound-bites, Barkley sounded off, announcing that he was “not a role model” and spawning one of the most infamous Nike commercials ever filmed. Basketball, during this time period, was approaching a crossroads. Fans were still intoxicated on post-80s euphoria and waiting for the next wave of momentum to arrive, the next great series of games and seasons to sweep them away with the same emotion that the rivalries and stars of the previous decade had exuded with ease. Charles Barkley, among a few other key icons of the 90s, made good on the promise of basketball’s future, making the transition from 80s glory to 90s prestige with grace, power, and epic determination.
In Phoenix Barkley quickly excelled, leading his team to a league best 62-20 record and earning the MVP Award. Through four seasons Charles imprinted his name on the hoop psyche of Arizona fans, consistently guiding his team to success, even playing through career-threatening injuries while posting career-high numbers. In 1996 Barkley journeyed to Houston where he left most of the offensive duties to his teammates while maintaining his reputation as a legendary re-bounder. In December of 1999 Barkley ruptured a tendon and it appeared that his career would not end on his own terms. But in April of 2000 Charles thrilled his supporters in Houston and all over the world by returning for one last game, one last shot, and one last chance to prove himself on the stage he had spent the previous sixteen years performing on. When Barkley finally exited that stage it was indeed on his own terms, leaving his last shot passing safely through the net, his legacy wrapped securely in the drowning applause of countless fans.
Honoring Charles Barkley’s role as an ambassador of FORCE and the period of his career that included his time in Phoenix and Houston are an exclusive series of Air Force 1 footwear and apparel. Blending the inspiration of the two cities and previous Barkley footwear, these AF1 shoes are a testament to the final story arc of a career that spanned three professional teams, one college and one high school team, and the hearts of millions of hoop fans.
The inspiration behind the Phoenix-era series of Barkley Air Force 1 shoes can be directly traced to the Air CB34, originally released in 1995. Visible air marks the mid-sole of the Supreme shoe, along with the original Air CB34 tongue. Premium leathers have been selected for each level of the pack, and a large perfing pattern can be seen on each shoe from the Supreme through the Core. A varsity purple air bag, wax shoelaces, and specially designed sockliner detail this impressive collection of AF1 shoes, along with a color story that includes purple leather and black Dan buck at the Core level, and a gradated orange foxing reminiscent of a slowly descending sun.
The AF Max CB shoe, released in 1994, features rich burgundies, reds and blacks highlight each level of this pack, along with Core-level pinstripes. The original Air Force Max CB tongue adorns the Supreme shoe, and the CB34 logo can be found on the heel at both the Supreme and Premium level. The Core shoe features buck material, and the Premium shoe is marked by an obsidian Swoosh design and ankle strap.
The line of Phoenix and Houston-era Barkley Air Force 1 apparel features craftsmanship as detailed as the footwear. The heavyweight fleece hoodie is flocked with orange/ and burgundy/black stripes that split at the zipper and extend to the back of the hood. The series’ tee displays an image of an iconic Barkley poster made from a pixilated graphic pattern that appears clearer the further you stand from it and slightly more abstract up close. Foil, ornate patterns mark the corners of the image and ‘frame’ Barkley’s menacing on-court approach. The fitted hat that complements both the tees and hoodies features a pinwheel design with the FORCE logo embroidered on the side in tonal, 3D fashion.
The complete pack of Phoenix and Houston inspired Barkley apparel perfectly aligns this time period with the aura of FORCE and the legend of one of the game’s most spectacular players.
Crossing the continent from philadelphia to phoenix charles barkley continued his journey toward hoop immortality, writing the last chapter in a career epic. This exclusive series of air force 1 footwear and apparel tells that story by drawing inspiration from the cities charles played in, the shoes he helped create, and the incredible culture of force he helped to define.
October will see the release of Chapter 1 inspired AF1’s, Chapter 2 you’ll see in store in November, with this, chapter 3, arriving through December. Stay tuned for more.