More Iconic Basketball Shoes By Converse

Converse Weapon sneaker in white, black and baby blue
Image credit: Schröder+Schömbs PR / CC BY-ND 2.0

The Chuck Taylor (the subject of this week’s previous feature) looms so large in the Converse catalogue, and the shoe world in general, that it’s possible to forget that the brand has produced scads of other shoes. Moreover, those sneakers’ namesake — the original Chuck — is far from the only athlete to endorse a Converse design. Taylor may have been the first, but he certainly wasn’t the last.

Julius Erving / Dr. J’s Pro Leathers

Julius Erving dunking wearing Dr. J Pro Leather basketball shoes
Julius Erving en route to a dunk wearing his Pro Leathers
Image credit: Jim Accordino / CC BY 2.0

The 1970s marked a shift in fortunes for Converse. For decades they had dominated the world of athletic footwear, but entrant brands like Nike and Adidas were nipping at the heels of Converse’s market share. 

The perfect moment then to call for a doctor. Specifically, Julius ‘Dr. J’ Erving, one of basketball’s first superstars. Whether in the form of his signature slam dunks (which Erving took mainstream) or his immaculate ‘70s-era afro, Erving’s swagger perfectly lent itself to the creation of the sleek and technologically advanced Dr. J’s Pro Leathers.

(These, incidentally, were also the shoes worn by a young college player, one Michael Jordan, in the years before his partnership with Nike and the eventual billion-dollar behemoth that is the Jordan Brand.)

Magic Johnson and Larry Bird / Converse Weapon

Larry Bird scoring wearing Converse Weapon basketball shoes
Larry Bird mid lay-up in Converse Weapons
Image credit: Steven Carter / CC BY-SA 2.0

The 80s saw Converse teaming up with two of the biggest ever names in the game: Larry Bird of Boston Celtics fame and Magic Johnson of the LA Lakers (for a deal which Johnson took in lieu of a stock option offered to him by then upstart Nike’s Phil Knight, the present value of which would have been hundreds of millions of dollars).

The mid-1980s was a time of fierce opposition between the Lakers and the Celtics, with Johnson and Bird leading the charge for their respective teams. So intense was their storied rivalry that both men allegedly refused to appear together in the Converse campaign at first. Eventually, they managed to put their differences aside, albeit momentarily, to film the famous 1986 commercial for their entry in the annals of sneaker history, the Converse Weapon

Larry Johnson / Aero Waves

When the 1990s rolled around Converse’s status as go-to basketball shoe had waned. Not only had Nike become top dog in the NBA and beyond thanks to Michael Jordan, but Magic Johnson unexpectedly announced his retirement in 1991, also marking the end of his involvement with Converse.

So the brand pivoted away from the earnestness of the Johnson/Bird campaign, aiming more for a timely dose of underdog, Gen X-style irony in the form of their Grandmama ads, which featured power forward Larry Johnson in drag wearing a pair of Aero Jams (recently released, though only in Japan).

Kelly Oubre Jr. / All Star Pro BB

And finally, after their basketball division had gone dormant in 2012, last year Converse announced their return to the court with an endorsement of Kelly Oubre Jr. The Golden State Wariors star is attached to their promotion of the All Star Pro BB. Its design features a version of the star-and-chevron motif from the aforementioned shoes of the ‘70s through ‘90s, alongside canvas uppers and ankle patch as a tip of the cap to the trainer that started it all more than a century ago, the All Star. 

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