The Nike Air Max Duncan II is my favorite basketball shoe of all-time. Go ahead, I’ll wait for you to stop laughing. I think Ben Barry just choked on his latte.
Nevertheless, as a point-forward who played out of position most of my life, the requirements I demanded from a basketball shoe needed to be varying to match the multitude of plays I’d be involved in. Although I played forward to guard, the perceived clunkiness of wearing a post-player shoe at the wing or point position never seemed to bother me. Despite what the likes of Adidas and Nike like to tell you, a player with a quick first step is never going to get slowed down by a few extra ounces hovering around their toes. Indeed, I had a quick first step.
The first time I tried on the Duncan II was after realizing I’d forgot my kicks while rushing out the door to a league game in 2002. My friend Joel had been wearing the Duncan II and being the same shoe size and an all-around good guy, Joel offered up his boots. While obviously a post-player shoe, the Duncan was firm and cushioned my heel without feeling like it was overly stiff or had a high lower shelf, raising me off the ground like some kind of ’70s platform shoe.
The interior lining was wonderful, the texture of a sateen basketball jersey and to me, incredibly comfortable. Unlike other guards, I was unable to wear the narrower shoes at the time, my feet being the Barney Rubble clay bricks that they are. The shoe provided a wide toe box without a footprint that was overzealous in trying to create support, thus keeping me agile enough to provide quickness when bringing the ball up the court.
The Duncan II has been criticized for being one of the more plain signature shoes in recent memory but really, did anyone expect anything different from the Big Fundamental? The wide wishbone on the bottom of the shoe allowed for amazing traction, save for a little extra drag in the speed department. But again, I was only trying to beat players from 12 feet on in, never down the length of the court.
I wore the Duncan II that day and struggled with myself to give them back to my friend. The next day was a Saturday and I called all around the state of Oregon searching for a pair of 11s. There was only one model left at the Foot Locker in Lloyd Center Mall in Portland. Size 11, on sale. I ran up and bought them the next day.
Friends scoffed at my “stormtrooper shoe” and that was fine with me. Looking good wasn’t really a necessity of mine, seeing as how I was the one scrounging for loose balls, taking charges, swearing at refs and playing all five positions despite being 5′ 10″ (the dudes I was friends with were all really short). There’s no amount of sanity that speaks when professing the love for a shoe most sneakerheads would pass by without even taking a look at it. For me, it was and still is my favorite on-court shoe.
Shows you how much I know.
The newest edition to The Hoop Doctors writing staff, Dane Carbaugh is the editor and lead writer of the popular new basketball blog A Young Sabonis. Dane is a published research author and also writes for Dime Magazine and the ESPN TrueHoop Affiliate Portland Roundball Society. He can be found on Twitter at @DaneCarbaugh