The week of April 22 to April 26 was filled with historic sports moments, including '90s baseball stars Frank Thomas and Ken Griffey, Jr. setting home run records. Steve Kerr, David Robinson, and Kobe Bryant are also featured in this week's Performance Sneaker History round-up.
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Date: April 22, 1992
On April 18, 1992, the Chicago White Sox began a new chapter in franchise history as they played their first game in the new Comiskey Park, which is known today as U.S. Cellular Field. The new stadium replaced the original Comiskey Park, where the White Sox had played since 1910 and was the oldest in-use park in baseball until its demolition.
Just four days later, on April 22, a young slugger by the name of Frank Thomas would help to break in the park as the first White Sox player to hit a home run in new the Comiskey. Thomas had made his major league debut during the tail end of the previous year, but this was his first official full season. And that was just the beginning for "The Big Hurt". Frank Thomas would go on to become one of the most popular baseball players of the '90s and remain in the MLB for eighteen years. He finished with a career batting average of .301 and 521 home runs, which places him amongst a list of historic names such as Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron.
Later in his career, Thomas would sign an endorsement deal with Reebok, producing some of the most memorable baseball trainers of the era. Early on, however, "Big Hurt" was a fan of the Swoosh, and wore these vintage Nike cleats in '92. The high-top style is something that you don't see very often on today's baseball cleats, but it makes sense that someone with hulking power like Thomas would need a little extra support.<!--nextpage-->
Date: April 23, 1995
Many NBA fans attribute the '90s era Chicago Bulls success to the tandem of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. However, there were a number of other players who were instrumental in the Bulls' success, such as Dennis Rodman, Toni Kukoc, and Steve Kerr. During Chicago's second three-peat between 1995 and 1998, Steve Kerr was one of the most consistent shooters in the game. His clutch shooting abilities, specifically from three-point range, helped the team capture a number of key games throughout the years.
On April 23, 1995, the regular NBA season wrapped up, which made Steve Kerr's final three-point shooting percentage of .524 the best in a single season. But it doesn't stop there: Kerr also holds the distinction of having the best career percentage of all time at .4540.
Steve Kerr wore a number of classic Nike styles throughout his career, but during this period he was laced in the Nike Air Go LWP. As mentioned in Sneaker Report's 10 Best Nike Zoom Air Basketball Shoes, the Air Go LWP served as the introduction to Nike's Zoom Air cushioning. Known at the time as Tensile Air, the revolutionary cushioning setup is still utilized by Nike for their top performance models.<!--nextpage-->
Date: April 24, 1994
At the close of the 93-94 NBA season, two superstar centers were in a neck-and-neck battle for the scoring title. While Shaquille O'Neal of Orlando was dominating in just his second season in the league, veteran David Robinson was hitting his prime across the coast in San Antonio. But something had to give. On April 24, 1994, David Robinson scored 71 points against the Los Angeles Clippers, becoming just the fourth player in NBA history to score over 70 points in a game. This offensive output was enough to push Robinson past Shaq for the scoring title, with final averages of 29.8 and 29.3, respectively.
For this historic game, The Admiral was wearing the Nike Air Unlimited. This unique model featured a high-profile Neoprene ankle collar and a complex lockdown strap setup. A true '90s classic, the Nike Air Unlimited was worn by a number of other players, including Chris Webber during his rookie year and Grant Hill as a Duke Blue Devil.<!--nextpage-->
Date: April 25, 1997
Ken Griffey Jr. is known for being one of the most outstanding hitters of all time. Throughout the '90s, no pitcher was safe any time Griffey stepped up to the plate. And on April 25, 1997, "The Kid" was up to his usual tricks as he blasted three home runs in a game against Toronto. The third and final HR was Griffey's 250th of his major league career. At age 27, he was one of the youngest players of all time to reach the mark. In 2010, Griffey retired with 630 career home runs.
In 1997, Griffey was in the cleated version of the Nike Air Griffey Max 2, the Air Griffey Metal. One of the earliest and most popular models of his signature line, the Air Griffey Metal was aesthetically similar to the Air Griffey Max 2 but featured Zoom Air and a field-ready cleat setup in place of Max Air cushioning.<!--nextpage-->
Date: April 26, 2006
On April 26, 2006, Kobe Bryant announced his plan to change his jersey number from #8 to #24. At the time, Kobe was the biggest name in the league, finishing off an outstanding individual regular season and preparing for the playoffs. Breaking down the numbers, Kobe first wore #24 at Lower Merion High School. By the time 1996 rolled around, Kobe was wearing #33 in honor of his father. But when Kobe hit the NBA later that year and wound up on the Los Angeles Lakers, #33 had been retired in homage to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Kobe's number change wouldn't become official until the start of the 2006-07 NBA season, but that wasn't the only big change for the Mamba that year. In 2006, Nike rolled out Bryant's first official signature model: the Nike Zoom Kobe I. To kick off the year, he dropped 81 points in a single game while wearing the model, which is the second-highest point total of all time. With full-length Zoom Air cushioning, Carbon Fiber accents, and a noticeable lower profile than other basketball sneakers in '06, the Zoom Kobe I was a forecast of things to come.
The latest Bryant sig, the Nike Kobe 8 Elite, releases this weekend in a "Superhero" themed colorway. Whether you're a diehard fan who needs some cheering up after the injury, or just want to try out some of Nike's high-end basketball technology, you'll want to keep an eye on the Kobe 8 Elite.