The Story Of Nike’s Street Fighter Sneaker And Its Botched Release

The Story Of Nike’s Street Fighter Sneaker And Its Botched Release

Evo Moment 37 is one of the most famous showdowns in video game history, a comeback so incredible that even those of you who know nothing about fighting games have probably seen it at some point. It’s so important, in fact, that to mark the occasion, a few years back Nike started working on a shoe designed specifically to commemorate the fight.

It’s a surprisingly long and strange story. It starts with Mark Julio, who is currently director of business development at fighting game tournament EVO. A decade ago was working at peripheral company Mad Catz, which at the time sponsored Daigo, one of the fighters involved in Evo Moment 37 (the other was Justin Wong). A sneakerhead, Julio had long dreamed of a Nike shoe focused on the fighting game community (FGC), and so in the early 2010s started reaching out to Nike to see if they were interested.

“I got a few replies”, he tells Kotaku. “We had a few calls over the years. It wasn’t until many years later in 2019 when I met with Nike’s Hayden Walling and we brainstormed/planned a sneaker that celebrated the fighting game community; in particular Evo Moment 37. Hayden pitched it internally at Nike and we were off to the races.”

From August 2019 through to January 2020 Julio met regularly with Nike, talking about the design of the sneaker and what story — sneakers often have a story to help sell them — it would tell. It soon became clear that while the shoes would mostly be based on Evo Moment 37, a Street Fighter III showdown, it was also going to reference the wider fighting game community as a whole.

As Complex point out, inside the tongue was the full list of moves Daigo had used at the end of Moment 37. The swoosh and colour scheme were a homage to Street Fighter III. But it also featured shout outs to other fighting games and iconic moments; the box had “FINAL FINAL ROUND” on it for Tekken fans, while a different Evo fight also made an appearance. “The sneaker also comes with a canvas carry bag with a quote on it, ‘IT’S NEVER OVER ‘TIL IT’S OVER’ which is a direct homage to another famous Evo moment where Justin Wong made a miraculous comeback in Marvel VS. Capcom 2“, Julio says. “The commentator said a similar line ‘neva over til its over’ — this was a homage to that.”

The Story Of Nike’s Street Fighter Sneaker And Its Botched Release

Development on the sneakers — a pair of classic Air Force 1s — continued, and Nike even whipped up some official images of the shoes, which you can see throughout this story. As a potential release drew nearer, though, suddenly everything changed. In February/March 2020 the Covid pandemic kicked off, which caused logistical turmoil the world over, and somewhere amidst the chaos Nike’s plans for the FGC’s sneakers changed as well.

Even though they had official product images released to the press, were given a colourway name (“White Fossil/Blue Void”) and a product code entered in Nike’s system, as the pandemic dragged on the shoes just…never showed up. Nike never announced a release date, no further information was released about them and, despite all the planning and design work that had gone into them, it appeared for all the world as though the sneaker’s release had been cancelled.

Image: Nike
Image: Nike

“I can’t speak on Nike’s behalf on why they didn’t launch officially as I do not work for them”, Julio says. “However with the difficulties of the global lockdown and pandemic, priorities changed and shifted. I know there was a reorganisation within Nike, and that they also mentioned to me that focusing on fighting games (something that could inherently be seen as violent) was not something they wanted to do at the time.”

There had been plans to launch the sneakers during Evo 2020, which had been decided would be the best way to celebrate their focus on the fighting game community. But when that show was ultimately cancelled following a wave of abuse allegations, and no further plans were made (aside from, weirdly, this lone post on a sneaker website in 2021), it appeared that was the end of the line for the shoe.

But it wasn’t.

Image: Nike
Image: Nike

In the lead-up to this year’s EVO, Julio was alerted online to someone who had got their hands on the sneaker. It wasn’t a leak, or a prototype; turns out Nike had released the shoe — whose tags indicate they’d been manufactured in 2020 — only they’d released it without any kind of announcement whatsoever, and had sent the shoes straight to the company’s outlet stores, skipping retailers and Nike’s notorious online sales systems entirely.

“I found out about the sneakers being in the wild just days before Evo 2022″, Julio remembers. “A tweet to Justin Wong, with the inputs of Evo Moment 37 on the sneaker’s tongue tag, went viral. I saw the photo and freaked out. I wasn’t told that the sneakers were made or even released.”

“I found out very quickly that they were hitting outlet stores and there were a few sales of them already online. Aside from Nike outlet stores, you could also find them on resell sites like StockX, GOAT and eBay as well. So I did what any sneakerhead that wanted a sneaker would do. I wanted them. Wanted to wear them at Evo. Wanted to make sure Daigo Umehara and Justin Wong got a pair.”

Julio says he quickly began working with fellow sneakerheads in the FGC, not only to get some pairs for himself but to make sure that both Daigo and Justin Wong could get some as well. Contacting some sellers privately, and organising express shipping to Las Vegas (where EVO is held), Julio managed to get his hands on enough pairs to accomplish his mission (and even get one of his personal pairs signed by both Daigo and Wong).

The Story Of Nike’s Street Fighter Sneaker And Its Botched Release

“It ended up being fun and worked out. Both Justin Wong and Daigo knew I was working on something with Nike, as we needed their blessing”, Julio says. “Even Capcom had a heads up. So it was a bit bittersweet that we didn’t get to really pay the moment and those involved tribute. At the very least they were able to get their pairs.”

“I hope if there are ever any big opportunities to highlight the fighting game community through lifestyle and apparel in the future… that it gets planned and celebrated in a better way. That’s all I want. Nike. Hit me up.”

Hayden Walling, currently at Roblox but who (as mentioned above) was working at Nike at the time of the sneaker’s development, has equally bittersweet feelings about the shoe’s release. “I’m really happy that word got out, the FGC community have had a thrill hunting, and especially, that Daigo got a pair”, he tells Kotaku. “I wish Nike would have told the story and amplified, but them’s the breaks. Now that the sting of the botched release has passed I’m happy that least it got made and out into fans hands.”

For anyone who wants to get their hands on a pair, Julio says you should check out your nearest outlet store, at least if you’re in the US or Japan. And if that doesn’t work, pairs are currently selling for $US200 ($278)-300 on StockX, where in a nice touch the shoes have been given their original, intended name of “Evo Moment #37″.

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