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With 2014 winding down, it’s time to take a look back at the kicks that defined the year. #KoFBestOf2014 is our retrospective on the year that was and what we feel were the kicks that people will remember fondly or hate with a vengeance.

During the 1980s and the 2000s, the Los Angeles Lakers were the premier team of the NBA, winning more than a handful of the championships that were contested in those two decades. With names like Magic, Kareem, Worthy, Kobe, Shaq and Gasol, those two eras are a critical part of the Lakers mystique. But stuck in the middle of those dynasties was a phase that ’90s kids remember affectionately as The Lake Show. Sure, those teams produced zero championships, but they were a fun team to watch as the franchise transitioned from Showtime to uh, whatever you want to call the Shaq/Kobe and Kobe/Gasol decade.

Anyways, The Lake Show of the mid-90s was anchored by a core group of players that were scrappy miscreants when compared to the flash and glamor of those championship squads. I know a lot of our readers probably were too young (some weren’t even born) to remember the likes of Cedric Ceballos, Elden Campbell, Eddie Jones, Vlade Divac, Sedalle Threat, Anthony Peeler, George Lynch and coach Del Harris, but this short-lived era was pure fun for Lakers fans because without the burden of championship expectations, they just played with an exuberance that is nothing like what the franchise is going through right now. And God knows we love us some Swaggy P here at Kicks On Fire, but he wasn’t the original fearless gunner named Nick to play for the Lakers. Nope, that would be Nick Van Exel…

There’s a reason why Van Exel was blessed with a Jay-Z verse before shouting out athletes was cool. Nick The Quick was a maestro with the ball who played with a constant chip on his shoulder. There’s a good chance the analytics crowd hates him because he missed more game-winners and took more ill-advised shots than we remember, but when they did go in, few people in the league at the time made it look so effortlessly. His fiery personality often got him in trouble more times than anybody would like to admit, but it was that passion that fueled him to become one of the league’s best young talents during that short-lived run.

By the time Shaq and a rookie named Kobe arrived for the 1996-97 NBA season, the Lake Show was no more and now the fans were hungry to get back in the championship race. Van Exel still put up numbers and was still counted upon to be the team’s shooter in the clutch, but he was marginalized by the All-Star talents that were coming in. Although he earned an All-Star nod in 1998, that would turn out to be his only appearance at the Sunday showcase as he bounced around the league after his tenure with the Lakers. We still saw flashes of Nick The Quick from time to time in his later years, but when people remember Nick Van Exel, it will be his time with the Lakers and when sneakerheads think of him, it will be for his pseudo-signature shoe, the Reebok Blast.

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The Reebok Blast came back in 2014, the first time the shoe dropped in its original form since the 1996 OG. It’s one of those kicks that are talked about in reverence by people who were around during that time. As part of a set of kicks from Reebok at the time called the Mobius Collection, the shoe featured extreme black and white color-blocking that made it look like you were wearing mismatched pairs. Overshadowed by the other kicks in the Mobius Collection including his teammate Shaq’s own Shaqnosis and baseball legend Frank Thomas’ Big Hurt, Van Exel’s Blast burned hot and fast much like his career. But we never forgot and despite Reebok’s best efforts to screw this good thing up a few years ago, we finally get it back the way it was intended. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go perfect my lefty floater now. ROC handle like Van Exel indeed…

Image: Dunk.cn, | Reebok | NikeTalk