ESTEEM Center for Equity in Science, Technology, Engineering, English & Math



The History of the Basketball Shoe

Many basketball players, young and old, amateur and professional, wear basketball shoes. But how have they changed and improved?

Many basketball players, young and old, amateur, and professional, wear basketball shoes. But how have they changed and improved?  Basketball was founded in 1891, surely the shoes they wear would change, right? Well, if you want more information about basketball shoes and their history, you should read this article.


From 1930 to 1960 the most popular basketball shoe brand was Converse; they had an estimated eighty to ninety percent of the shoe market then. Converse had the most popular shoe at the time with the Chuck Taylor All-Stars, worn by over ninety percent of college and professional basketball athletes. The canvas of the shoe was made to provide flexibility and prevent blisters while hooping. This made an easy decision for shoe buyers at the time.

The Chuck Taylor All-Stars had so much popularity, that even non-basketball players wanted to have these shoes. The shoes with their immense manufacture, led the military and Olympics to get involved. The Olympics got involved first by making it the official shoes for the summer and winter Olympics, from 1936 to 1948. The military got a piece of this action by making the shoes the official shoes for soldiers to train in, during WWII. This made the Chuck Taylor All-Stars some of the most important and popular shoes of all time.


In 1973, Walt “Clyde” Frazier an NBA legend made history by being the first basketball player to have a signature shoe. The shoes were named the Puma “Clyde”, and were met with great success, with the rise of Walt Frazier himself.  He wanted a low-top shoe, and a different colorway for each game. It is theorized that Walt Frazier wore all 390 different colors, throughout his career. Because of this, the shoes had to be made from suede leather so it would be easier to dye. Overall, the shoes helped Puma by making the brand more popular and bringing in more money.

In 1973, Nike dunked their name into the basketball community with their new Nike “Blazer.” The shoes were named after the NBA team, the Portland Trailblazers. The shoe’s upper portion was made from leather, while the tong was made from nylon, and the middle portion was made up of rubber. At the time each of these materials was the best available for performance on the court. The shoes’ popularity can be attributed to one NBA player, George “The Iceman” Gervin. He was the first NBA player to endorse this basketball shoe and help popularize Nike as we know it. This overall helped Nike become one of the largest shoe brands of all time.


On November 17, 1984, Peter Moor, a creative director for Nike at the time, made the first-ever Air Jordan 1. These Shoes were produced for the Chicago Bulls legend, Michael Jordan. The shoes weren’t released to the public till, April 1985, but when they hit the market, they made an instant splash. The shoe’s first colorway was named the “Chicago,” and came with a black Nike logo, a red and white sole with a white and red upper, and a white toe box. The colorway was made to match the NBA team the “Chicago Bulls” and was the first of many the legend would wear. Even though the shoes were released in the eighty’s, the shoes still were one of the more popular shoes going into the nineties.

In the mid 80’s, Michael Jordan, a man who is most known for his incredible vertical leap, and killer mindset, tried to wear his now iconic, Jordan 1 “Red and Black.” The shoes consisted of mainly black and red colosseum, and because of this were nicknamed the “Breds” by the basketball community. The shoes had a red Nike logo, a white and red sole, a black and red upper, and a red toe box. But when Michael Jordan tried to wear these shoes, he got a 5,000-dollar fine because it broke the league’s uniform rules. But with the growing popularity of Michael Jordan, Nike offered to cover all the fines. And the rest is history.


In the 2000s, and 2010s, a lot of basketball athletes made iconic and original shoes, such as the Nike “PG 1s,” Nike LeBron 21 Algae”, and the KD 15 “Aunt Pearl Pink.” But the shoes I am going to be talking about is the Kobe 6 “Green Mamba” quickly nicknamed the “Grinches,” because of the resemblance to the famous Christmas character the Grinch.

On Christmas day, 2010, Kobe Bryant was playing the Miami Heat, sporting his new shoes, the Nike Kobe 6 “Grinches.” The shoes were released that same Christmas day and were $180 retail. The shoes had so much popularity, that even after Christmas day many NBA fans, and players wanted these shoes. The shoes had a black streaking Nike logo, a green sole, a green upper, and a green toe box. The Shoe’s massive popularity wasn’t for just the green color and red highlights. The main reason for the mass success was the shoes had a carbon fiber shank plate and a mix of synthetic, and flywire materials that made for a lightweight feel and supported your foot. This made it easier for basketball players to improve their skills by decreasing the amount of injuries and improving their speed. Because of all of this, many NBA players still wear these shoes to this day, for the history and benefits that come with them.

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