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Nike and Jordan Brand’s 10 Black History Month sneakers: A power ranking

LeBrons, Kyries and KDs, plus Roy Jones Jr. flashbacks and equality — the subtle swag of #BHM kicks

On the annual calendar of sneaker releases, there’s no time quite like February. Black History Month and NBA All-Star Weekend — two cultural celebrations held during the second month of every year that bring out the best in shoe designers. Nike and Jordan Brand always serve up the heat with limited-edition collections celebrating both the month and the All-Star festivities.

Only this year, a plot twist: Nike announced that it won’t be releasing a collection for 2017 NBA All-Star Weekend, creating an even bigger stage for the brand’s 2017 Black History Month (BHM) collection, which drops Thursday on Nike.com. (Jordan Brand launched three BHM edition pairs on Feb. 11.)

In the past year, athletes — especially those of color — have used their platforms to speak out on social issues. From the call to action delivered by NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James at the 2016 ESPYS to WNBA players wearing tribute T-shirts in the wake of the 2016 summer shootings of African-Americans and police officers to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem — they haven’t been silent, and neither should their footwear. Given the current connections between sports and social justice, this year’s collection may just be the most important shoes to commemorate Black History Month since Nike released its debut BHM sneaker in 2005.

Here are the 10 pairs of sneakers in Nike and Jordan’s 2017 BHM collection, power-ranked in descending order.


Women’s Nike Air Force 1 Upstep

WMNS AIR FORCE 1 UPSTEP LOW

Nike

Air Force 1s have become the staple of Black History Month sneakers. The first BHM shoe Nike dropped was a pair of white AF1s with red trim, a gold shoestring medallion and a Black Liberation flag on the side heel. It’s an edition so iconic that Nike celebrated the shoe’s 10-year anniversary in 2015 with a limited 2,000-pair release. Since 2005, Nike has released 13 pairs of BHM AF1s, the latest of which features “decorative marbling — blending black and white — in reference to the strength of harmonious movement.” Aka a new-wave black-and-white kente cloth Michael Jackson would’ve been proud of. Uncle Phil’s Black Power enthusiast friend Marge Smallwood from the 1992 Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episode “Those Were the Days” would rock with these. *Raises fist*

fresh-prince-gif

Nike Air Force 1 Hi

AIR FORCE 1

Nike

In the words of the great bassist and talent scout Randall Darius Jackson, “yeah, that’s gonna be a no for me, dawg.” Mind you, AF1s are a legendary sneaker, their place in history cemented. They inspired one of best songs of the early 2000s, Nelly’s 2002 “Air Force Ones.” However, it’s no secret the shoe has not really stood the test of time. You don’t catch too many people nowadays styling AF1s, unless they’re the all-white lows. And now, it seems like every year the designs get louder and higher, with more straps, bells and whistles to keep up with fresh new releases. What we are here for is what’s on the strap of this sneaker, the word “EQUALITY.”

Jordan Trunner

JORDAN TRUNNER LX

JORDAN TRUNNER LX

Nike

These would get Roy Jones Jr.’s approval. The former six-time, four-weight class world boxing champion used to endorse this Jordan Brand cross-training shoe back in the day. If the only boxer in history to win a heavyweight title after a starting as a light middleweight can work out in these Trunners, we average Joes can wear them to Planet Fitness in honor of black history.

Nike LunarEpic

NIKE LUNAREPIC

NIKE LUNAREPIC

Nike

These are subtly swaggy. To be honest, if you didn’t know they were a part of the 2017 BHM collection, you’d probably just think they were a normal Nike Running black-gold-and-gray colorway. Raise your Black Power fist if you’d cross the finish line of your next local 5K sporting these.

Men’s Air Jordan 1 & Girls’ Air Jordan 1

sp17_equality_aj1_na_profile_original

Nike

There’s a special holiday in the middle of February for all the lovers out there. Valentine’s Day has already passed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give your significant other another gift. These Air Jordan 1s — the black with the gold trim in men’s sizes, and the gold with the black trim in girls’ sizes — are the perfect his-and-hers shoes to celebrate black love during Black History Month.

LeBron 14

LEBRON 14

LEBRON 14

Nike

These BHM LeBron 14s would be higher on this list, but, to be honest, they’re pretty plain — especially compared with some of LeBron James’ past BHM releases. Usually The King’s kicks paying homage to black heritage are glitzy, with weird patterns and vibrant colors, just crazy enough to make both a cultural statement and turn the heads of fashion-forward sneakerheads in the process. Don’t get me wrong, this is a solid shoe that could be worn on the court long after Black History Month. The only thing is the BHM 14s don’t hold a candle to James’ rainbow-themed BHM 13s.

KD 9

KD 9

KD 9

Nike

Like the LeBron 14s, these are practical, and they work. The BHM KD 9s are reminiscent of the Air Jordan 12 Taxi, though the colors are flipped — white instead of black on the toe, with black from mid-shoe to the heel. The gold accents and Kevin Durant’s signature on the insoles are nice touches.

Women’s NikeCourt Flare

WOMENS NIKECOURT FLARE

WOMENS NIKECOURT FLARE

Nike

Remember when Michael Jordan presented his fellow greatest of all time athlete Serena Williams with a custom black-and-red Air Jordan 1-inspired pair of her NikeCourt Flare tennis shoes when she won her 23rd career Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January? They were fire. And now the #BlackGirlMagic she embodies is channeled in the Black History Month edition of her Flares. With the black-and-white marbling and gold Nike swoosh, these shoes are absolutely beautiful.

Kyrie 3

KYRIE 3

KYRIE 3

Nike

There’s no question that Kyrie Irving is the future of Nike. He’s young. He’s a superstar point guard who shows up in big games and has good taste in kicks. All three editions of his signature sneaker have been designed to perfection, including the All-Star edition of his first sneaker, which dropped in 2015. With Nike not releasing an All-Star collection in 2017, Irving will miss out on releasing All-Star Kyries for the second-straight year. (He missed the All-Star Game in 2016.) “We’ll move on to another moment,” Irving told Complex of Nike’s decision. That moment is his glorious Black History Month Kyrie 3, with the black-and-white marble sole and classy gold-embroidered “BHM” behind the shoe’s tongue.

This shoe, and Black History Month, mean a lot to Irving.

“Personally, it’s definitely more than just a movement. It’s more or less the truth that I’ve been living my entire life. Being able to not only celebrate just the month, but the lives of people who have come before me,” Irving continued to Complex. “… This is only a small step. A lot of the fight and a lot of the courage and pride that we all have comes from within, and we just need to release it to the world.”

The All-Star Game is three days after the BHM Kyries release. Maybe at tipoff, they’ll be on his feet.

Aaron Dodson is an assistant editor at The Undefeated. Often mistaken for Aaron Dobson of the Arizona Cardinals, he is one letter away from being an NFL wide receiver.