The history 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 at some point. It’s so important, in fact, that to mark the occasion, a few years back, Nike began working on a shoe designed specifically to commemorate the match.

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

It’s a surprisingly long and strange story. It starts with Mark Julio, who is currently the director of business development at the fighting game tournament EVO. A decade ago, working in the 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), so in the early 2010s he began contacting Nike to see if they were interested.

“I have received some answers,” he says Kotaku. “We’ve had a few conversations over the years. It wasn’t until years later in 2019 when I met Nike’s Hayden Walling and we brainstormed/planned a sneaker that celebrated the fighting game community; specifically the Evo Moment 37. Hayden played it internally at Nike, and we went to the races.”

Daigo's complete list of features, as printed on the inside of the shoe's tongue

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

As Complex point outinside the tongue was the full list of moves Daigo had used at the end of Moment 37. The Swoosh and color scheme were a tribute 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 The thatch fans, while another Evo match also appeared. “The sneaker also comes with a canvas carrying case with the quote, ‘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“, says Julio. “The commentator said a similar line ‘neva over to its over’ – this was a tribute to that.

Another view of the sneakers (L), while on the accompanying carrying case you can see the text

Another view of the sneakers (L), while on the included carrying case you can see the text “IT’S NOT OVER ‘TIL IT’S OVER”
Picture: Nike

Development of the sneakers — a pair of classic Air Force 1s — continued, with Nike even recording some official images of the shoes, which you can view throughout this story. As a potential release got closer, suddenly everything changed. In February/March 2020, the Covid pandemic started, which caused logistical turmoil worldwide, and somewhere in the middle of the chaos, Nike’s plans for FGC’s sneakers also changed.

Although they had official product images released to the press, a colorway name (“White Fossil/Blue Void”) and a product code entered into Nike’s system when 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 seemed for all the world that the sneaker’s release had been canceled.

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

Picture: Nike

“I can’t speak for Nike about why they weren’t officially launched since I don’t work for them,” says Julio. “But with the difficulties of the global shutdown and the pandemic, priorities changed and changed. I know there was a reorganization within Nikeand that they also mentioned to me that focusing on fighting games (which could be seen as inherently 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 eventually canceled after a wave of abuse allegationsand no further plans were made (except, oddly enough, this lone post on a sneaker site in 2021), it appeared to be the end of the line for the shoe.

But it wasn’t.

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

Picture: Nike

Ahead of this year’s EVO, Julio was notified online that someone had gotten hold of the sneakers. It wasn’t a leak, or a prototype; shows Nike had launched the shoe — whose labels indicate they were manufactured in 2020 — only they had released it without any kind of announcement whatsoever, shipping the shoes straight to the company’s outlet stores, skipping retailers and Nike’s notorious online sales systems.

“I found out if the sneakers were in the wild just days before Evo 2022,” recalls Julio. “A tweet by Justin Wong, featuring the inputs of the Evo Moment 37 on the sneaker’s tongue tag, went viral. I saw the picture and was pissed off. I wasn’t told the sneakers were made or even released.”

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

Julio says he quickly began working with other sneakerheads in the FGC, not only to get a few pairs for himself, but to make sure both Daigo and Justin Wong could get some as well. By contacting some sellers privately, and organizing express shipping to Las Vegas (where EVO is held), Julio was able to get enough pairs to carry out his mission (and even get one of his personal pairs signed by both Daigo and Wong) .

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

– It ended up being fun and went well. Both Justin Wong and Daigo knew I was working on something with Nike, as we needed their blessing, says Julio. “Even Capcom had a heads up. So it was kind of bittersweet that we didn’t really get the pay off moment and they involved shelves. At least they were able to get their couples.”

“I hope if there is ever any major opportunity to highlight the fighting game community through lifestyle and apparel in the future… that it is planned and celebrated in a better way. That’s all I want. Nike. Beat me.”

Hayden Walling, currently at Roblox but who (as mentioned above) worked at Nike at the time of the sneaker’s development, has equally bittersweet feelings about the shoe’s release. “I’m very happy that the word got out, the FGC community has had an exciting hunt, and especially that Daigo got a pair”, he says Kotaku. “I wish Nike had told the story and amplified, but those are the breaks. Now that the sting of the botched release has passed, I’m glad it at least got done and into 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 out, pairs are currently selling for $200-300 on StockX, where the shoe has a nice touchs has been given its original, intended name “Evo Moment #37”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.