When listing off Nike Basketball signature lines most people typically start with Kobe, LeBron, Penny, or Pip, but real OGs of the culture will quickly bring up Charles Barkley’s impressive kick resume. It’s no secret that Nike’s retro of the Air Max2 CB 94 has popped up at various retailers over the last month, but few people know the whole story behind this iconic silhouette. Being a site dedicated to the history of sneakers, it’s only fitting to revisit Chuck’s 1994 season in the Air Max2 CB.
The Regular Season
In a way, it’s kinda sad how famous Charles Barkley has become as a TV star because too often his on-court greatness is forgotten. The TNT personality battled with the greatest of greats as an equal throughout the late ’80s and 1990s, and on most nights he was the best player on the court. Sir Charles wasn’t a role model, but he was an absolute monster in his prime.
After losing to the Bulls in the 1993 NBA Finals, Barkley rose like the sun over Phoenix for the 1993-94 season. On a nightly basis, Chuck bucked with the likes of Hakeem, David Robinson, Shaq, and Shawn Kemp; and like a modern NBA forward, Barkley could [and would] step out to guard the perimeter too. Throughout the season Charles battled a torn quadricep but still managed to average 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists while leading the Suns to a 56-26 record.
The Post Season
Chuck gallantly led the Suns when available throughout the regular season en route to earning his 8th All-Star bid (DMP due to injury). When the ’94 Playoffs rolled around Barkley elevated his game to Ultra Instinct levels (where my DBZ Super fans at?). In the opening round against the Warriors, Charles turned out a career setting performance for Game 3 to the tune of 56 points as his Suns swept the series.
Unfortunately, Chuck’s Suns would meet Hakeem’s Rockets, the inevitable champs, in the Semifinals. The series went seven games with Barkley and Kevin Johnson playing as well as they could, but the Rockets were too much to overcome.
Now, for the main event, the sneakers! Barkley rocked the Nike Air Max2 CB throughout his post-season campaign and the [then] infant sneaker community instantly noticed the forward’s footwork. Charles’s signature endeavors with Nike are well known, but it’s fair to say the Air Max2 CB is his most recognizable design. Released under Nike’s “Air Squared” marketing, the Air Max2 CB made its debut alongside other notable models like the Air Max2 and Air Trainer Max2.
Sneaker historians will remember the below commercial due to controversial the use of The Beatles ‘Revolution.’
The Round Mound of Rebound spearheaded the “Air Squared” but his kicks got the most shine. That’s the beauty of professional basketball – the right athletes are just so marketable, and Chuck’s off-brand of fame moved units.
The Nike Air Max2 CB (OGs don’t have ’94’ in the titling) hit retail in two colorways: white/black/dark concord & black/white/ concord. From a tech standpoint, these Barkleys utilized a 180 Air heel unit, straitjacket-inspired support straps, reinforced lace locks, and teeth-like outriggers. Barkley famously brushed off providing input on his footwear and the CB 94 is no different.
According to the[n] design team lead Tracy Teague, Chuck told Nike, “You don’t tell me how to play basketball and I won’t tell you how to design shoes.” Led by head designer Tinker Hatfield, the team bottled Charles’ brashness and used that energy to create a design that wasn’t uncharacteristically smooth. The end product perfectly captured Charles’ game and personality, because twenty-plus years later they’re still unmistakably Barkley-like without any obvert self-branding.
Last seen in 2015 (and 2009 before that), the black-based colorway of the Nike Air Max2 CB 94 returned this month and can be found at a retailer near you. Check out some official images of the 2020 retro below and let us know if you plan on copping!