The materials and technology of basketball shoes have changed significantly over the years. New shoes boast features that sometimes border on science-fiction, but with all of these advancements, the classic "Cons" from the 1920s are still as popular as ever. Basketball shoes can be classified as a piece of essential athletic equipment, but their rich history of innovative ideas and professional-player endorsement has also made them a symbol of status and style.
According to KicksGuide, the history of basketball shoes can be broken down into distinct eras. The Classic Era dates back to the early 1920s, when basketball player Chuck Taylor popularized Converse All-Stars (also known as Chuck Taylor All-Stars, "Chucks" or "Cons"). These canvas sneakers dominated the basketball scene for more than 40 years, with more than 500 million pairs sold worldwide. In the 1960s, their popularity began to decline as leather was introduced in new basketball shoes. In 1972, Nike entered the basketball shoe market. A decade later, Nike was enjoying huge success from its Air Force 1 line of shoes; it was on its way to becoming the industry's leader.
This era of basketball-shoe history was all about one man. Michael Jordan was not only an incredibly successful basketball player, he was also---and still is---a marketing machine. It all started back in 1984 when Jordan showed up at an All-Star game wearing his own signature shoes. His Air Jordan I's were considered a breakthrough in shoe design, despite the fact that they initially cost him a fine for every game they were worn because of their bright colors, which did not conform to the colors of his team. Reebok also made a splash in the industry in 1989 by introducing a line of shoes called The Pump, which had a pump on the shoe's tongue that pushed air into the shoe.
After Michael Jordan's retirement, the basketball-shoe industry had to adapt. It was able to sign shoe deals with other talented players, and even without MJ's presence, basketball shoes flew off the shelves. This period of time can be referred to as the Golden Era because new technologies, materials and design concepts led to the success of almost every new shoe. Some notable shoe deals of the time include Charles Barkley's signature Nikes in 1994, Allen Iverson's deal with Reebok in 1996 and Kobe Bryant's signing with Adidas in 1998.
Near the end of the 1990s, basketball-shoe companies began to market previously released shoes, known as throwbacks. These shoes became the popular trend of the time, and manufacturers added a new twist to classic shoes by distributing them in almost every color imaginable. Although new technology was rare during this time, Nike achieved a breakthrough with its Nike Shox line of shoes, which took it more than 10 years to develop.
As of 2010, there is still a high demand for both classic and new-technology basketball shoes, and the price has increased drastically as a result. Nike has raised the price of newly released Jordan shoes to more than $100 on average. The company's Hyperdunk series of shoes costs about $110, and the Adidas TS Commander LT comes in at around $100. Modern basketball shoes are still focused on performance and technology, but style and brand recognition have become equally important to many consumers, which is one way of explaining the increase in prices.
- Photo Credit basketball on the street image by Alexey Klementiev from Fotolia.com