Shares of athletic footwear and apparel behemoth Nike (NYSE:NKE) have jogged quietly but briskly from an Aug. 10 low of just less than $76 to a recent $92.47. That's a three-month gain of nearly 22%, but the stock has further room to run. For reasons I'll get into below, Nike still has what it takes to garner my vote for the best blue-chip stock of 2007.

I'm clearly not as bullish on the name as I was when the stock was less than $80, but even with the recent gains, I'll argue that the valuation remains reasonable. Based on consensus analyst projections for full-year 2006, Nike trades at a P/E of just less than 18, and based on 2007 estimates, it trades at a hair more than 15 times earnings. That multiple is toward the low end of Nike's five-year P/E range of 15-27, with a continued rosy growth outlook.

Analysts expect Nike to grow almost 14% over the longer term, which appears doable, since it has grown earnings and operating cash flow about 20% on average over the past five years. I've also been positive on the company's improving returns on invested capital due to very solid free cash flow generation capabilities. Finally, Nike nearly runs the gamut in fulfilling most Foolish investment principles; it's a leading consumer brand with dominant share of a mass market with repeat purchasers. It also has posted strong historical results, is highly profitable, and is facing forward with a strong financial direction.

That makes Nike a long-term buy and hold in my playbook. I'd also recommend taking a further look at arch-rival Adidas, but there's no way for domestic investors to make a play on the German giant, since no shares trade on U.S. exchanges. Adidas also recently gobbled up another formidable player -- Reebok. I'd also place K-Swiss (NASDAQ:KSWS) in the well-respected footwear company realm. K-Swiss is a much smaller company, but it has its own enviable track record of growth, and it's also trading at a pretty decent valuation. Skechers (NYSE:SKX) is perhaps the only other sports-related shoe player, but I'd place it well behind the major players in the industry.

In any case, my money has been where my mouth is on Nike. So far, it's worked out well, as I've patiently held the stock in hopes of a rebound. But don't just take my word for it: To verify whether my claim has any merit, I took a gander at what the burgeoning Motley Fool CAPS community has to say about Nike. Overall, it appears the majority of players with an opinion on Nike are bullish, but the bears offered useful food for thought.

Out of 141 total CAPS opinions on Nike, 120 players think the stock will outperform the overall market going forward. The time frames vary from three months to five years, but most share my opinion that Nike has one of the more powerful global brands, boasts an enviable record of staying at the fashion forefront, and trades at a compelling valuation, even with the recent run-up.

The bears have some valid points as well. Adidas is coming on strong after its recent purchase of Reebok, providing it an enviable toehold in the U.S. footwear market. It also owns the soccer footwear and apparel field, with a recent opportunity to showcase its dominance at home during the World Cup in Germany. Others don't expect further upside from Nike until the 2008 Olympics hit Beijing.

All in all, Nike may have what it takes for further gains heading into 2007. The easy money has been made, thanks to the recent run in the stock, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for future gains. It's not the only possible dream stock trading at potential bargain-basement levels, but it should be considered a serious contender.

Will Nike be the best blue chip for 2007? I think so, and I hope you agree. Let us know in our brand-new Motley Fool CAPS community intelligence database. Rate Nike an outperform -- or if you disagree, rate it an underperform. To get going and make your voice heard, click here. Based on your responses, we'll declare the best blue chip of 2007 early next week.

To read about the rest of our blue-chip candidates, click here.

Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann is long shares of Nike but has no financial interest in any other company mentioned. Feel free to email him with feedback or to discuss any companies mentioned further. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy .