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Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Updated: September 17, 6:50 PM ET
Set point: Iannucci over McEnroe

By Robin Fleming
ESPN.com

Gino Iannucci with tennis legend John McEnroe during the Challenge Court Nike commercial.

This month Nike SB has reintroduced a classic shoe: not a skate classic or even a shoe that had historically been embraced by skaters, but a tennis shoe. Originally made famous by tennis great John McEnroe, the Challenge Court was introduced in 1984 and was a mainstay in the professional world sports. Now, almost thirty years later it's back by demand -- or at least Gino Iannucci demanded it.

An avid tennis player and fan, legendary skateboarder Gino Iannucci suggested the Challenge Court as an ideal addition to the Nike SB line. The shoe has undergone a few minor tweaks to modernize the tennis classic and make it street ready. It's a low top sneaker with mid top appeal. With more ankle support, hi-tech lacing and an improved, skate specific footbed, the Challenge Court has become a modern skate shoe.

Iannucci, (known for his style both on and off the board), was drawn to its simple, clean aesthetic and says he, "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 colors... In my eyes the shoe was ready to go SB back in '84."

The Nike SB Challenge Court.

Iannucci, a native of Long Island, NY., has been playing tennis almost as long as he's been skating. With over twenty years on his board and the courts, he cites McEnroe as a major influence, "John McEnroe just didn't care and he played with so much emotion. 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 honor in that."

Never an emulator, Iannucci 's skating, has always been ahead of his time. True to his own aesthetic and technically advanced he lets his skating speak for itself. Self contained, preferring to be out of the spotlight, he is reticent to take on the label legend. However, Iannucci's description of McEnroe could be easily adapted by generations of skaters who revere the icon, "Legends are ones who bring something special to whatever they do -- something memorable, where they just stand out naturally for whatever reason."

Nike, who regularly rewrites the book on how to launch a product, both in skateboarding and other sports, were on point with the Challenge Court's release. Recruiting both McEnroe and Iannucci for the commercial and following up with a private box for accounts, friends and Iannucci himself at the recent US Open of Tennis in Flushing Meadows, NY., Nike has done it again -- game set, match.

The Challenge Court is available in stores now. To learn more and to see upcoming colorways, go to nikeskateboarding.com.