Nike SB Challenge Court advert, featuring Gino Iannucci and tennis legend John McEnroe.
Eschewing the conventional bounds of skateboarding with signature ease and nonchalance, Nike Skateboarding team rider Gino Iannucci retools the Nike Challenge Court shoe, adapting the ’84 tennis original for riding the streets—or pretty much anything.
Aside from some technical tweaks and switching up the colour—from the Challenge Court’s original red, white and blue to either white and tennis green or black on black—Gino kept the revamp minimal. He was originally drawn to the sneaker’s simplicity and, in his own words, “didn't want to change anything except it slimming down and softening the outsole…little things like the tongue, the thickness of the interior and the colours… In my eyes the shoe was ready to go SB back in ’84”.
Behind the scenes on the Challenge Court advert.
The 2012 Nike SB Challenge Court, adapted for skateboarding by Gino Iannucci.
Back in ’84, Gino hadn’t even begun skating the streets of his native Long Island, New York. It wasn’t until about three years later that he began pushing—around the same time he began playing tennis, which he continues to do up to three or four times a week. Early on, his approach to both sports, and life in general, was influenced by the Challenge Court’s original ambassador: John McEnroe, the explosive, controversial and singular tennis legend who not only debuted the Nike shoe but also wore it while competing in and winning the Davis Cup, the Australian Indoor Championship, the Grand Prix Tournament in Tokyo and more.
“John McEnroe just didn’t care and he played with so much emotion”, Gino recalls. “He never held back and always spoke his mind. Tennis never saw that attitude until he came around. I admire how he did things his way and didn't conform to anything. He stood for just being yourself, whether good or bad. There’s honour in that”. Just as McEnroe’s influential Nike advertisement proclaimed in the early ’80s, he was a “Rebel with a Cause”. Nike taps back into this iconic moment in the debut video for the Nike SB Challenge Court. Shot on the streets of New York City, it features Gino in the shoe, pushing from the renowned Corona Park tennis stadium (also a world-famous skate spot) in Flushing, Queens to Midtown Manhattan, passing and perturbing McEnroe along the way. Continuing to Times Square, Gino recreates the “Rebel with a Cause” poster imagery in its original spot, his determination and drive echoing that of the tennis great.
Just as McEnroe became a legend for paving his own path to greatness, Gino has emerged as a skateboarding legend due to his irreverent approach and inimitable style. He’s also more than a little humble, which makes him resistant to the label of “legend”, but the definition he provides of one attests to his own seminal status, because it describes him just as much as it does McEnroe: “Legends”, Gino says, “are ones who bring something special to whatever they do—something memorable, where they just stand out naturally for whatever reason”.
Gino and Johnny Mac, two NYC and Nike legends, brought together by the Challenge Court.
The Nike SB Challenge Court ramps up the original Challenge Court’s stability with a nylon mesh upper trimmed in full-grain leather, an integral arch sock liner and an extended ankle collar. The Variable Width Lacing System™ ensures a snug, comfortable fit. And the lightweight Lunarlon sock-liner/midsole promises soft but still responsive full-foot cushioning that cuts down impact without giving up board feel. Plus, the two-colour, bi-level hobnail cupsole helps skaters grip the deck for premium performance.
The Challenge Court as it was back in 1984, when McEnroe ruled tennis in them.
The Nike SB Challenge Court retails for $80 USD and is offered in multiple colourways. Available at selected retailers and skate shops from 23 August 2012.
Limited edition Gino Challenge Court poster, paying homage to an iconic John McEnroe's Nike photo. See authorised Nike SB dealers.
Gino Iannucci Bio
Gino Iannucci was around 13 years old in 1987 when he began pushing through the parking lots of his native Long Island, New York, on a toy shop board that he promptly landed in the pond at nearby Eisenhower Park. With a rake and a little luck, Gino’s father fished it out and soon Gino was staying up all night riding with friends, hooked on the sense of freedom and constant challenge that skateboarding provided. There was always something new: another trick to land or fear to trounce. Permanently putting aside external expectations and rules, he slid rails, jumped steps and performed mind-blowing lines in Midtown Manhattan, which earned Gino his first corporate sponsorship. Then a choice backside heel down the renowned “Gonz” gap at San Francisco’s Embarcadero Plaza placed him squarely at the centre of the international skateboarding scene, highlighting his technically advanced, ahead-of-the-time talent. Over the next decade, Gino would become a living legend featured in iconic films like Snuff, Trilogy, Mouse and Yeah Right, amongst others. Beyond his staggering skills, Gino possesses a unique, fluid and fast signature style that’s never forced, even when it’s sketchy—and always leaves fans wanting more. Ask him to break it down and he’d rather not. He prefers to fly under the radar and keep things low-key; he may even be a little enigmatic. One of the original members of the Nike SB team, Gino is over 20 years into his career and he remains untouchable and unfadable. He’s himself at all times—he’s always just Gino.