The story of Nike’s Street Fighter sneaker and its 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. In fact, it’s so significant that a few years ago, Nike started working on a shoe specifically designed to commemorate the fight for the occasion.

EVO Moment #37 – Daigo (Ken) defeats Justin (Chun-li)

It is a surprisingly long and strange story. It starts with Mark Julio, currently director of business development at fighting game tournament EVO. Ten years ago, he worked at fringe company Mad Catz, which at the time sponsored Daigo, one of the fighters involved in Evo Moment 37 (the other was Justin Wong). Julio, a sneakerhead, had long dreamed of a Nike shoe aimed at the fighting game community (FGC), which is why he started contacting Nike in the early 2010s to see if they were interested.

“I got a few answers,” he says Kotaku. “We’ve had a few calls over the years. It wasn’t until many years later, in 2019, when I met Nike’s Hayden Walling and we brainstormed/planned for a sneaker that would honor the fighting game community; in particular Evo Moment 37. Hayden threw it internally at Nike and we went to the races. ”

Daigo's full list of moves, as printed on the inside of the shoe's tongue

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

As Complex point outin the tongue was the complete list of moves Daigo had used at the end of Moment 37. The swoosh and color scheme paid tribute to Street Fighter III. But it also featured shout outs to other fighting games and iconic moments; the box said “FINAL FINAL ROUND” for Tekken fans, while another Evo fight appeared as well. The sneaker also comes with a canvas carrying case with a quote on it, ‘IT’S NEVER OVER ‘TIL IT’S OVER’, a direct tribute to another famous Evo moment when Justin Wong made a miraculous comeback in marvel vs. Capcom 2“, says Julio. “The commentator said a similar line ‘neva over til its over’ – this was a tribute to that.”

Another look at the sneakers (L), while on the included carrying case the text

Another look at the sneakers (L), while the included carrying case reads “IT’S NOT OVER ‘TIL IT’S OVER”
Image: Nike

Development of the sneakers – a pair of classic Air Force 1s – continued and Nike even made some official images of the shoes, which you can see in this story. However, as a possible release got closer, suddenly everything changed. In February/March 2020, the Covid pandemic began, causing logistical turmoil around the world, and somewhere in the midst of the chaos, Nike’s plans for the FGC’s sneakers also changed.

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

Image for article titled The Story Of Nike's Street Fighter Sneaker And Its Botched Release

Image: Nike

“I can’t say on behalf of Nike why they haven’t officially launched, as I don’t work for them,” says Julio. “However, with the difficulties of the global lockdown and pandemic, priorities have changed and shifted. I know there has been a reorganization within Nikeand that they also told me that focusing on fighting games (something that could be inherently violent) wasn’t something they wanted to do at the time.

There were plans to launch the sneakers during Evo 2020, which it was decided would be the best way to celebrate their focus on the fighting game community. But when that show was eventually canceled after a spate of abuse allegationsand no further plans were made (except, oddly enough, this only post on a sneaker website in 2021), it turned out that the end of the line was for the shoe.

But it wasn’t.

Image for article titled The Story Of Nike's Street Fighter Sneaker And Its Botched Release

Image: Nike

In the run-up to this year’s EVO, Julio was alerted online to someone who got their hands on the sneaker. It wasn’t a leak, or a prototype; turns out Nike had had released the shoe – which the tags indicate were manufactured in 2020 – only they had released it without any kind of announcement and sent the shoes directly to the company’s outlet stores, targeting retailers and the infamous online sales systems of Nike had skipped completely.

“I found out a few days before Evo 2022 that the sneakers were out in the wild,” Julio recalls. “A tweet to Justin Wong, with input from Evo Moment 37 on the sneaker’s tongue label, went viral. I saw the photo and was shocked. I was not told the sneakers were made or even released.”

“I soon found out that they were hitting outlet stores and there were already a few sales online. Aside from Nike outlets, you can also find them on resale sites like StockX, GOAT and eBay. So I did what every sneakerhead who wanted a sneaker wanted, I wanted them. Wanted to wear them with Evo. I wanted to make sure Daigo Umehara and Justin Wong got a pair.”

Julio says he quickly started working with fellow sneakerheads in the FGC not just to get a few pairs for himself, but to make sure both Daigo and Justin Wong could get some too. By privately contacting some sellers and arranging express shipping to Las Vegas (where EVO is held), Julio managed to get enough pairs to complete his mission (even getting one of his personal pairs signed by both Daigo and wong).

Mark Julio from EVO presents both Daigo (L) and Justin Wong (R) with their shoes

“It was fun in the end and it worked. Both Justin Wong and Daigo knew I was working on something with Nike because we needed their blessing,” says Julio. “Even Capcom had a warning. So it was a bit bittersweet that we couldn’t really celebrate the moment and those involved. At least they managed to get hold of their pairs.”

“I hope that if ever in the future there are great opportunities to highlight the fighting game community through lifestyle and clothing… that it is planned and celebrated in a better way. That’s all I want. Nike. Give me something.”

Hayden Walling, currently with Roblox but those who (as mentioned above) worked at Nike at the time of the sneaker’s development have equally bittersweet feelings about the shoe’s release. “I’m really glad that word got out, the FGC community has had a sensational hunt, and most importantly Daigo got a few,” he says. Kotaku. “I wish Nike had told and reinforced the story, but those are the breaks. Now that the sting of the failed release is over, I’m glad it’s at least in the hands of the fans.”

For anyone looking 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 $200-300 on StockX, where the shoe is a nice touchs have been given their original intended name “Evo Moment #37”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.