Written by Peter Walsh (@Peter_M_Walsh)
Though he hasn’t suited up for an NBA game since 2007, Penny Hardaway remains a key figure in the sneaker community. Thanks to one of the greatest signature sneaker lines of all-time, Penny’s name is still synonymous with greatness. While most people who wear his sneakers now weren’t even born when he was at the peak of his career, Nike continues to churn out his immensely popular Foamposite Ones in different colorways and designs and Penny’s sneakers have become the rare breed that have been a hit both on-court and in the fashion community. These days, Penny keeps himself busy by coaching a middle school basketball team in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee and working as an executive producer on SiriusXM NBA Radio’s Bottom Line Sports Show. Here, Penny chops it up about his signature sneaker line, Foamposites, Lil’ Penny, and continuing the Penny sneaker franchise.
What’s it like to see current NBA players playing in your sneakers now?
It’s amazing to see these young guys come into the league and want to wear my shoes. Everywhere I go, these guys ask me for shoes like I’m in control of the warehouse. I wish I did have control. There’d be a lot more people around the country wearing my shoes. I think it’s a huge compliment from the younger guys understanding what I did for the game and wanting to represent me by wearing my shoes.
What do you think of today’s signature sneaker lines?
Well I’m a fan of the Nike lines—and that’s not to try and tag Nike or anything, but those are the sneakers I wear. The KDs, the LeBrons, and the Kobes, I’m really a big fan of those. I think they look great and they’re comfortable—especially the Kobes and the KDs. I love the design of the new Kobe 9 with the high-high top. I don’t know if I can play ball in them but they’re a good looking shoe. The kids have also fallen in love with the new KDs, so I’m definitely a fan of those shoes.
The Foamposite was originally released in 1997 but still so popular today. Why do you think they’ve held up so well?
It’s a shoe you can wear to play basketball and one that you can wear everyday when you’re wearing jeans. I think what makes a really good shoe is something that you can play ball in but also something that you can wear off the court as well. It also helps the kids understand who I was and why I was good enough to have a sneaker named after me. It leads to the discovery of my legacy as a basketball player for kids who didn’t get to see me play.
Did you expect the Foamposite to make a crossover and become that popular both on the court and in the streets?
Not really, I didn’t expect the sneakers to do that. When Nike first brought it to me, I knew that it was something that hadn’t been done before. I wanted to be the first person to be rocking the shoes and I couldn’t wait to get on the court and see the response from other players. My teammates were looking at me like ‘What is that?’. All the other players were looking at it the same way.
I wanted to be the first person to be rocking the shoes and I couldn’t wait to get on the court and see the response from other players.
Recently there’s been a ton of different printed designs on Foamposites. What are your thoughts on those?
I’m an all-white or all-black, basic type of guy, but I can get into the different types of colorways. The kids love the red, blue and black Spiderman look, it’s almost like having a superhero shoe on. I can identify with why they are doing that.
How much input do you have on the sneaker and the colorway designs nowadays?
I have a lot of input. [NSW Designer] Marc Dolce calls me all the time to get the smallest to the largest thing when it comes to what I like to wear, what other shoes I buy, what backpacks or watches I have, and the clothing, cars, and houses I own. He asks, ‘What did I buy lately that was unique?’ We try and put all of that into the sneaker and into the colorways.
During your playing days, what were your favorite sneakers to hoop in?
My favorite sneaker is the Penny 1. The Penny 1 is an original, man and I loved them from the beginning and other people loved them, too. It was a comfortable shoe and the Penny 1 was definitely my favorite to play in. The Penny II was a close second, though.
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