The Nike Terminator is hoop history incarnate

This week sees the sneaker world return to an old-school hoops classic that we haven’t seen on the shelves in a long time. Originally released in 1985, it was a high-top staple of its era that planted deep roots in the sport. It broke new ground in the sneaker scene, and to this day has a special place in the industry’s history.

You’d be forgiven for assuming I’m talking about the Air Jordan 1 “Chicago,” which just this past weekend received its most anticipated release of the year. And still! I’m not. Amidst the hype about the return of one of the most popular sneakers of all time, another hoops classic is making a comeback: the Nike Terminator, the first sneaker Nike ever produced for a college basketball team and a shoe with almost as rich on its own history.

Let’s take it back to 1984. The Georgetown Hoyas had just won the college basketball championship, and they had done it with the help of their coach John Thompson. Thompson had been a consultant to Nike since 1980 and had his share of influence on the brand. Georgetown would enter the following season as the reigning champions and their sights were set on locking down the title again.

Crucially, Nike also made big moves in the basketball world that year. 1985 saw the debut of not only the iconic Air Jordan 1, but also the Nike Dunk. For all its prominence as a lifestyle shoe in the modern sneaker world, the Dunk started out as a sneaker made primarily for college basketball teams. Team colorways for schools like UNLV and Michigan made a big impact and to this day stand out as some of the most sought-after Dunks on the resale market.

Yet Georgetown was different. Georgetown were the champions. And the champs don’t just get their own colorway – no, the champs get their own shoe. Thanks to some finesse from Thompson, the ’85 Hoyas took the court in the navy and gray Nike Terminator: a high-top Dunk, more or less, but with a lace loop on the heel that apparently boosts ankle support. It also featured a statement detail: While general releases of the shoes over the years have had NIKE emblazoned on the heel, Georgetown players rocked them with HOYAS instead. The statement was clear: Terminator was for Georgetown and Georgetown only.

Georgetown’s 1985 season couldn’t quite match the heights of 1984, when the team fell to Villanova in the championship game. Still, the Terminator holds the distinction of being the first signature shoe for a college basketball team. It’s also the only one Nike has ever produced.

Unlike the Air Jordan 1 and Dunk, the Terminators don’t get a dozen new colorways a year, though the colorway released as part of the “Thrash Metal” pack in 2008 is a notable banger. There have been a handful of retros of the Georgetown colorway (the last released way back in 2014), but it remains something of a cult classic compared to the other notable silhouettes of the Class of ’85.

It would be easy to say don’t sleep on the shoe when it drops on the 22nd via the SNKRS app and retailers nationwide. But the old-school heads who value history over hype would probably rather you look the other way. There are only so many pairs to go around.

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