How the 1997 Champion Arizona Wildcats Became Sneaker Legends

It was 20 years ago today that the Arizona Wildcats won the 1997 NCAA Men’s Basketball title, completing one of the most legendary runs in tournament history. Themselves a fourth seed, the Wildcats defeated three #1 seeded teams during the tournament—the only team to ever complete the feat in basketball history. But it wasn’t just about the impressive basketball being played that’s made the ’97 Arizona squad legends. If you know your sneaker history, you know that Mike Bibby, Miles Simon and company also broke the college sneaker game wide open with their pioneering selection of Nike footwear.

There had been flashes of sneaker brilliance here and there in the college basketball world before, but in 1997 the Wildcats showed that you didn’t only have to wear the boring team-issued footwear on the court. So how did they become the most important team to college basketball sneaker history? Our own Jordan Hagedorn spoke to some of the players from the fabled ’97 championship team about how it all happened, and how they even got the Foamposite One before Penny Hardaway.



Jason Terry: Mike Bibby brought that swag to our team because when he came in, you know, you get the standard issue, team shoe, whatever that is from Nike and right away he was like, “Aw nah, I ain’t wearing these.” And he went immediately to the store by campus and he bought him a pair of, I think his first pair of shoes were Jordans actually, and we were like, “Man, we didn’t even know we could wear different shoes than what everybody else is wearing! So immediately everybody started to try to get out of their team issued shoes and get into the hottest shoe out and at that time during the NCAA tournament, the hottest shoe was the Penny. It was Foamposite. It was new and it had a cool magnetic blue color that kinda played off our blue that we wore. It didn’t really match all the way, but it was just hot the way we wore em. Mike Bibby was the spearhead of the shoe movement. I still have my shoes from the National Championship. I mean, we all kept ours. I didn’t wear the Pennys because I was more of a comfort guy and those weren’t comfortable for me, but I had some Nike Uptempos man. These might have been the ugliest shoes I’ve ever played in, but hey, they got the job done for me and I still have em to this day.


Josh Pastner: Oh man, we had the best. That’s a credit to Eric Lautenbach (Arizona’s Nike rep) at Nike. Bibby debuted the Foamposite before Penny. He had Penny’s shoe before Penny had it. I  was at Memphis with Penny, so our guys loved the Foamposite, and my players I’d tell them all the time, “Guys, I knew about those before you had any idea about those.” They were like, “Come on Coach.” I’m like, “No. Mike Bibby and the guys were wearing Foamposites.” But that was because of Eric Lautenbach from Nike. He hooked us up. He was really close with Coach Olson.


Mike Bibby: I remember the Nike guy came to our school and said, “I got this shoe that hasn’t come out yet and wanted to know if you guys wanted to wear it. It’s not your team color, but if you want to wear it, you guys can wear it.” I said, “I don’t care what color the shoe is, I wanna wear it.” If no one has it, that was a big thing back then. If no one has the shoe and you have it, you’re big time. So my main thing was just to have a shoe that no one had.


Miles Simon: It was almost like a competition within our guys. Especially me, Bibby, and Jason Terry to a degree of who was gonna come with the best shoes for that game. If there were some new shoes, especially with Jordans or the Air Max Uptempos or whatever, we were on our equipment guy like, “Hey, we gotta have these. These are what we need to be wearing for this game or that game.” He couldn’t necessarily get Jordans, but if Jordans were coming out we were heading to the Champs Sports in the Tuscon Mall. We were going to pick up the newest shoe when they came out. That was big for us.

My whole college career I was trying to wear the best, most unique sneaker I could. Bibby was the same way. If I played good in a sneaker then I would keep that one for a little bit, but if not, move onto the next one. The Foamposite, that’s what that team is kinda known for. So the Foamposite came about, our Nike rep presented then to us in Birmingham at the Sweet 16. So, pretty much the top 7 or 8 guys, we all had em. The guys that were gonna play. I wore them in practice in Birmingham. I didn’t like the grip. They were too slippery to me and so I wore them in practice but I didn’t wear them for that game. I wore the Air Max Uptempo III, the all black ones. So Bibby, I still remember him telling me this, “Man, I don’t care if I slip all over the floor, I’m wearing these.” He basically goes, “These look too good to not wear.” He was gonna wear em no matter what. So he’s the only one that ended up wearing them in the games and obviously he wore them through the Final Four and everything. We were the first people to wear them. We wore ’em before Penny. They didn’t match our uniforms because they were Orlando Magic colors. They were royal and black.

A side note to that…my one year I played in the NBA, I played for the Magic and Penny was my teammate and we talked about that. Penny just said, “Man, obviously it was huge that you guys wore my shoe that Nike was debuting for me before I wore it and won the National Title.” It was like a huge preview of the shoe. He thought it was awesome.


 eBay Marketplace Logo “Air Jordan 4 KAWS” “Nike Air Foamposite One Royal”

view all 940 items on ebay


© Sneaker News, 2017. |
Permalink |
No comment |
Add to

The post How the 1997 Champion Arizona Wildcats Became Sneaker Legends appeared first on Sneaker News.

from Sneaker News

Duong Nguyen