The Supreme Weekly is a regular column examining and breaking down the influences behind the brand’s weekly drops, courtesy of our resident Supreme expert, Ross Wilson.
As part of its seasonal collaboration with Nike, this week Supreme has teamed up with both the Swoosh and the NBA for a crazy all-over logo print collection.
Basketball has always been a strong passion and talking point for the crew working at the Lafayette store and often influences some of the brand’s products.
Here’s my look back at just a few of Supreme’s finest homages to the hardwood.
A player Supreme has repeatedly referenced is New York Knicks legend Patrick Ewing.
Having joined the Knicks via the controversial 1985 draft lottery, Ewing was voted NBA Rookie of the Year in his debut season despite struggling with injuries. He would then begin a 15 year relationship with the Eastern Conference team wearing the number 33 jersey. Finishing his Knicks career in 2000, Ewing ended up being the only person to play over 1,000 games with the team and is widely regarded as their greatest ever player.
Supreme has paid homage to the Jamaican-born Hall of Fame player several times over its 23-year history, beginning with a graphic tee in 2002. This T-shirt design featured a rendering of a classic Ewing reverse dunk at The Garden printed down the left-hand side of the shirt’s front.
The following year saw Supreme release several items with a reworking of Ewing’s logo from his sponsorship with adidas. The logo flip was featured on a crew neck sweatshirt, a mesh cap, and a pullover hoodie that was almost an exact replica of Ewing’s adidas hoodie from the ‘90s. There was also a cool track jacket with the logo on the front and an all-over back print featuring Ewing’s signature alongside two black and white photographs of the player in action.
Alongside Patrick Ewing, Supreme has honored Knicks shooting guard John Starks, who was a favorite at Madison Square Garden from 1990 to 1998.
Supreme’s Starks references came in the form of a basketball jersey featuring the word “Supreme” across the chest with “New York” / No. 3 (Starks’s number) across the back. Starks pictorial 2003 track jacket released alongside the aforementioned Ewing one.
One more subtle reference to the Knicks favorite was his inclusion in Supreme’s 2002 “Postcard” tee. The graphic is a play on the vintage “Greetings from New York” postcards of the 1930s, with Supreme using famous and infamous (some fictional) residents of the Big Apple as the fills for each letter. Starting off with the letter “S” you have Slick Rick, followed by Woody Allen, Andy Warhol, David Berkowitz (aka serial killer Son of Sam), Christopher Walken (from King of New York), Jodie Foster (from Taxi Driver), and in the final letter, “E,” sits none other than John Starks himself.
When it comes to sporting goods, Supreme is all about collaborating with the best brands in their respective fields. They released boxing gloves and a punchbag with Everlast; baseball bats with Louisville Slugger; catchers mitt and a baseball with Rawlings; and a football and tennis balls with Wilson. So when they paid homage to the hardwood, there was only one choice: Spalding.
Spalding, the official ball supplier to the NBA, has produced two full grain leather basketballs for Supreme in the past ten years. In 2007, its red basketball featured the Supreme logo on one side with the slogan “Each One, Teach One, NYC Supreme best. 1994 World Famous Team” underneath the Spalding logo on the flip. This basketball was one of the first Supreme accessories to really catch people’s attention and has become a highly sought-after cult item, changing hands at huge resale prices.
The follow-up came in 2016 with a white rendition of the classic Spalding basketball. This time the honor of decorating the ball fell to longtime Supreme collaborator and skateboard/art legend Mark Gonzales, who covered it in his Butterfly Clown design.
Considering that Denver Colorado is well over 2,000 km from Madison Square Garden (Manhattan’s home of the NY Knicks), it may initially seem like an odd choice for Supreme to reference in its “Skyline” collection from 2003.
The skyline design is one of the most iconic and loved designs in Nuggets’ history. Supreme chose to remix the classic by giving it a Manhattan twist, complete with the twin towers of the former World Trade Centre.
This design was used on a throwback style jersey, a mesh hat, and a collarless coaches jacket. Back then Supreme was small enough to get away with such blatant copyright infringement, but I believe they’re now too high profile to pull off such a design.
You could say that Supreme’s relationship with Nike basketball shoes goes back to 2002. The first shoe Supreme worked on with Nike was the Dunk SB – an updated skate-friendly version of the 1980s college basketball sneaker. Much like the Air Jordan 1, the Dunk was a popular choice for skaters looking for a more hard-wearing leather alternative to canvas sneakers like Vans Sk8-Highs and Converse Chuck Taylors. Paying tribute to Tinker Hatfield’s AJ III, the Supreme Nike Dunk Low SB featured the iconic Elephant Print pattern for the first time outside the Air Jordan line and was a ground-breaking release.
Supreme followed up its debut with a Dunk High SB and continued the theme with skate-friendly versions of basketball classics such as the Delta Force, Blazer, and Bruin before designing its own court-inspired skate shoe in 2010. The “Supreme Nike SB 94” took the styling of old skool basketball shoes and mixed it with Nike’s modern day Foamposite and Zoom Air technology.
In 2012, Supreme first strayed from the SB line to work on more lifestyle friendly sneakers with the Nike Air Force 1 Low, an OG basketball silhouette. This debut non-SB sneaker was followed up in 2014 with an exclusive Foamposite 1 and a Nike Air More Uptempo in 2017.
The duo of Foamposites (black and red) saw Supreme dip the EVA foam shell in an ostentatious baroque pattern which wouldn’t look out of place in a 1980s Versace campaign. Complimenting the shoes was a matching jersey and shorts set.
Much like the Foamposite, the Uptempo often divides opinion and is pretty much a love/hate shoe. Made famous by Scottie Pippen during the Chicago Bulls historic NBA championship-winning season of ’96, the Air More Uptempo’s legacy was sealed by Pip’s performances at that year’s Atlanta Olympics and went on to be a cult favorite in the sneaker community.
Supreme added a new spin to the ’90s classic by supplementing the famous “Air” branding with their own “Supreme” lettering wrapping the shoe; it’s not too often that Nike allows other brands to alter the actual foundation of their shoes, so for Supreme to switch up the design (so dramatically) shows the respect the global footwear company gives the New Yorkers.
Nike Air Jordan 1s have a long history with skateboarding thanks to the tough leather high top basketball sneakers providing both comfort and durability for skaters. Favored by the likes of ‘80s legends Natas Kaupas, Mark Gonzales and the Bones Brigade, the Air Jordan 1 has often been cited as the “greatest skate shoe that was never designed for skateboarding,” so it seemed apposite that Supreme would choose to flip the classic AJ1 Wings logo for an unofficial T-shirt, pin badge and sticker in 2001.
Fourteen years later, Supreme was officially collaborating with Jordan Brand on a collection that included three custom made variations of the Air Jordan sneaker from 1990, alongside a T-shirt, hooded sweatshirt, varsity jacket, coach jacket, sweatpants, and snapback hat — all flipping the “Jordan” logo to read “Supreme”.
Basketball Jerseys and Shorts
The trend for NBA throwback jerseys in the early to mid-‘00s was huge with every hip-hop video from NYC to Atlanta featuring your favorite rappers dressed in oversized jerseys (usually worn over a plain white tee).
Over the years Supreme has released numerous sets of basketball attire, often based on classic uniforms from the past including:
Allen Iverson / Philadelphia 76ers / No. 3
Scotty Pippen / USA / No. 8
Artis Gilmore / Jacksonville / No. 53
Shawn “The Reignman” Kemp / Seattle Supersonics / No. 40
Latrell Sprewell / Golden State Warriors / No. 15
Following on from their shooting sleeve for FW17, the official three-way collaboration between Supreme, Nike and the NBA returns for Spring/Summer 2018.
The latest capsule consists of a pair of Air Force 1 Mid sneakers, an AeroSwift Connected jersey, an AeroSwfit basketball short and a nylon satin warm-up jacket, all featuring a collage of NBA team symbols alongside Supreme’s own Box Logo branding.
This new collection is clearly inspired by the work of leather jacket supremo Jeff Hamilton, who made custom pieces for the likes of basketball superstars Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson before acquiring licenses from the NBA, NFL, NHL and NASCAR to produce branded jackets throughout the ’90s.
Hamilton pioneered the all-over print look, producing jackets that were covered in a multitude of NBA team logos. This look (often styled with oversize baggy denim, pinwheel hats, and Air Force 1s) became a huge cultural phenomenon in the U.S., with the ostentatious garments a staple look through the late ‘90s to early ‘00s. Harlem’s Dipset crew were just one of the hip-hop acts who co-signed it.
Now read how Supreme has been low-key fucking with tennis for years.
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