Basketball sneakers have a very storied history that spans decades upon decades. Did you know the first basketball sneaker made strictly for performance was made almost 100 years ago? Today, with the help of Sports Domain Lab we’re taking a look at the history of basketball shoes and five of the most iconic basketball models of all-time.
Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star
What many consider the first “official” basketball sneaker, the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star made its debut way back in 1917 when it was released by the Converse Rubber Shoe Company. The Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star got its name in 1921 when it was named after Chuck Taylor. Taylor was a salesman for the brand who also happened to be playing for Converse’s semi-pro All-Star basketball team. Chuck Taylor needed a durable shoe and gave Converse some suggestions on how they can make that possible. Thankful for Taylor’s input, Converse agreed to the enhancements, made the shoe and named them after him. What makes this model even more iconic is the fact that it became the first basketball shoe casually worn off the court.
Pro Keds Royal
The Pro Keds Royal made its debut in 1949. Like the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star, this model was also constructed using a canvas upper and gum sole. The shoe was worn by notable players such as George Mikan and Willis Reed throughout the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. Known for being an affordable sneaker that was also durable, the sneaker may look simple in appearance, but it had all the qualities and traits to support your game on the court. Unlike the Converse brand, Pro Keds did not manage to remain relevant after all these decades. That being the case, you can still find the brand at select retailers throughout the globe. Down, but not out. W could not have expected anything less from Pro Keds.
The adidas Superstar made its debut in 1969. By the 1970s, the Three Stripes model was being worn on the court by superstar players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The Superstar stood out thanks in large part to its leather upper and distinct rubber shelltoe. The shoes were so highly coveted that the biggest hip hop artists in the world began wearing them casually during the 80s, shout out Run-DMC. As you can imagine, soon thereafter the adidas Superstar became a fashion staple in the urban community. It’s safe to say that the adidas Superstar has had a bigger impact off the court than on.
The year was 1973. Walt “Clyde” Frazier and the Knicks had just defeated the Lakers to win their second championship. That very same year, Frazier had signed with Puma for $25,000 a year. His on-court shoe of choice, the Puma Clyde. According to Frazier, the Puma Clyde was based on the Puma Basket and borrowed details from the Puma Suede. Just like Clyde Frazier, the Puma Clyde redefined street style with it’s smooth aesthetic. It was the perfect mix of style and substance. It was also the first sneaker that was designed to make a fashion statement, hence the suede upper, a trait rarely seen on basketball models back in the day. Even after all these years, Puma continues to release new iterations of the Puma Clyde. Talk about withstanding the test of time, eh?
Nike Air Force 1
Is there a more iconic basketball silhouette than the Nike Air Force 1!? At the very least, it has to be a top 3 candidate, right? It’s hard to argue that any other sneaker has had as much of a crossover into street culture than the Nike Air Force 1.
The Bruce Kilgore-designed model is said to have been released in at least 2,000 colorways since the shoe made its debut back in 1982. When the shoe was made, it was considered a peak-performance basketball shoe. The original Air Force 1 was a high-top that came with an ankle strap, a full grain leather upper and of course, for the first time ever in a basketball shoe, Nike Air technology. Soon after debuting on the court, the AF1 growth spread throughout the globe like wildfire. We’re now in 2019, and sneakerheads are STILL feening over certain Air Force 1 releases. That’s wild.
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