There aren’t many NBA players who are synonymous with a shoe that isn’t considered their own signature shoe. Magic Johnson and a number of NBA legends wore Converse Weapons in the 1980s. In the 1990s, Penny Hardaway became the face of the Nike Foamposite, which she wore during her time as Nike’s flagship athlete, but not really. it was. its shoe.
You can’t talk about Reebok Pump without mentioning the name Dee Brown.
NBA legends Dominique Wilkins and Dennis Rodman donned the Pumps before him. Shaquille O’Neal, Shawn Kemp, and Allen Iverson created distinctive lines with Reebok after him. But 30 years ago, on February 9, 1991, the brand, the sneaker and Brown rose to new heights, literally, when the Celtics rookie entered and won the dunk contest.
“I feel old. Time flies. It’s something unique because we always talk about it every All-Star game weekend, whatever happens. Whatever the year. The video is always showing, I’m always doing some kind of interview about it, ”Brown said in a video chat with Illustrated Sports. “He never gets out of the way, but suddenly 30 years have passed and he reappears. It’s special that 30 years later we can still talk about this and people are still excited and interested in the shoe. “
Brown was a late addition to the dunk contest that featured rising stars Shawn Kemp, Kenny Smith, Rex Chapman and fellow rookie Kendall Gill. No one expected Brown to steal the show and become an instant sensation overnight.
“It’s funny that I was the shortest guy in the pageant that year. Being a Celt in the dunk contest was unheard of back then. You usually see these guys during the All-Star Game or three-point competition with [Larry] Bird, but never in the dunk contest, but it was very special for me to be the first to do it, “says Brown. “I knew I had to do something special and I knew I had to get the crowd behind me because Kendall Gill and Rex Chapman were playing for the Hornets and the contest was in Charlotte. So they had two guys who were their hometown favorites plus the guy everyone thought was going to win at Shawn Kemp. It was not pressure for me. He knew all the dunks he could do. I knew it had a lot of good things that people had never seen in that moment before, so I was excited about that. “
While Brown caught everyone’s attention in the arena with his dunks, there was marketing magic on television screens around the world as Brown reached down and pumped up his Reebok Pump Omni Zone II sneakers after each of his seven dunk attempts. . Brown sealed his newfound fame after his famous dunk “No-Look” in the final round to take home the crown.
“I made it up on the spot. The back story is that if you look at some of the images when I was practicing my dunks before the contest, one was a dunk that I did which was basically me running around with a Reebok cap on and I was going to take my cap off to the crowd. and I wet it with my left hand. That was the dunk I was going to do, but I found out we couldn’t use props. We couldn’t jump on cars or jump on people because those were the dunk contest rules back then. My support was the shoes. It was something that was supposed to be something else, but I never practiced it. “
Brown says a good majority of people believe they signed a deal with Reebok after the dunk contest, but were already an official brand sponsor before the event. He signed a contract when he first arrived in Boston. Nike and another shoe company offered him a deal, but with Boston-based Reebok, Brown saw an opportunity to stay local so he could take care of him. He wasn’t initially drawn to the Pumps for the dunk contest, but the real reason he wore them wasn’t a trick. It’s because he could tighten his shoes because he hated bandaging his ankles.
“My main reason was not to be a shoe icon. Because nobody was doing that back then and there weren’t that many big shoe companies. Reebok and Nike were face to face at the time. I didn’t think that I would become a global superstar literally overnight. We really did it without social media. I imagine if social networks existed and became great. It was great from word of mouth, newspapers, and people talking about it, but I didn’t know how big it got until [I] began receiving comments from Reebok and other athletes. I was 21 years old and happy to win that big check. That’s all that mattered to me at the time. Not the money, but the big fake check. I remember watching the dunk contest and thinking the trophy was nice, but that big check is great. I never thought about the shoe part. As the season went on, I started to realize what he was doing because people kept talking about Pump and people were buying him and he was outselling Jordan and all that. We sold so many pairs of shoes and people were wearing them. When the season ended he was doing commercials. I’m on this show and I’m on that show and I’m touring overseas and going to Japan and Australia and I found out that I did something special. “
Brown’s rise meant that Reebok had a star of its own in its shoes, while Nike was also rising with a budding global superstar in Michael Jordan. Brown vividly recalls his personal encounter with MJ after the contest that sparked a conversation about the battle between the two sneaker brands.
“I think he cornered me. I don’t know how I got into a backhaul after the party and the fans broke the barrier. And all the NBA players clustered trying to get out because I was in this hotel and somehow I got to the same area as MJ and security. Honestly, I don’t think it wasn’t an accident because Michael is very premeditated in things and he knows what he’s doing and he basically congratulated me on the great dunk contest and said, ‘You did a great job, young friend, but now I have Than kick your butt on and off the court, but you started the shoe war. ‘
“I was like, Thank my Lord. What are you going to say to Michael Jordan? He’s the guy everyone wanted to emulate. He was a guy I wanted to be with, so for him having a conversation with me at that time was special, but for me to be on his radar, everyone saw his stories on The last DanceYou don’t want to be on their radar. I didn’t put two and two together at the time, but it was a pretty unique situation that I got into with him. “
Reebok will launch the Pump Omni Zone II in March, and Brown says people still stare at it and pump their shoes when it passes.
“There is no other shoe that looks like that. You can’t even duplicate something like that. I just think that during the dunk contest of blowing up my shoes, I looked like everyone else. I was a skinny 6’1 “kid and could relate to everyone. I think it helped me look like the kid next door and symbolizes the first marketing strategy in a dunk contest. It wasn’t something that was planned through Reebok. Everything is retro and classic now and even on the course you see people wearing it. John Cena was wearing the shoes in a wrestling match. It’s good that even after 30 years when they see that shoe, they think of a person and they think on me, which is very special and not a day goes by when someone sees me and puts their shoes down. They don’t care if they were loafers. The simple movement of them makes you realize that you did something they will always remember. “
Brown has remained involved in basketball over the years in various managerial and coaching positions with the Clippers, Nuggets, Kings and Pistons. He still has a close relationship with Reebok like his daughter, WNBA player and Minnesota Lynx star Lexie Brown, who signed with the brand.
“I can say that we are the only father and daughter who have that kind of relationship with a shoe company where a father and daughter have a brand that they represent and have really supported us. It’s very exciting that Lexie has her own lane because she is a very good basketball player and a better person. Reebok has identified the theme “GirlDad” and what I did, obviously for the company and they have done it for me. It is very special and I am looking forward to the next season. I am very proud that he is part of the Reebok family. And I’m very proud that Reebok identified that and really came to the table and brought it up, let’s build something with their daughter. “
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.