A sneaker endorsement is a surprisingly close relationship between a shoe designer and a major celebrity or athlete, which when it works can create some monumentally fantastic rare sneakers.
The sneaker as we know it was thanks to the work of an endorsement by early basketball pioneer Chuck Taylor, who wore Converse All-Stars that for decades were the dominant on-court footwear, and even became a travelling salesman and advocate for what was at the time a budding sport.
Of course, the story of Michael Jordan and arguably the greatest line of sneakers ever made needs no introduction, but what about the anti-Jordans? Which sneaker endorsements, either due to poor quality shoes, on-court performance or highly unfortunate circumstances simply didn’t end up working out?
- Karl Malone – LA Gear Catapult
The Mailman was, like so many legendary players in the 1990s, the victim of being one of the greatest players of all time up against the single greatest player of all time, and his oft-forgotten signature LA Gear sneaker had the same sorts of problems.
The first issue was that LA Gear’s biggest selling point at the time was light-up soles, but since they were banned by the NBA, the versions he wore were decidedly unlit. Add to this a lawsuit by Nike against LA Gear’s springy sole and a shoe collapsing in the middle of a game, and the shoes are a bit of a hard sell.
- Bobby Hurley – In The Zone
A common reason why a sneaker sponsorship ends up being unfortunate is when it is inked right before a superstar gets seriously injured, as unless it’s Lonzo Ball and the shoes are to blame for the injury, it tends to hurt everyone involved.
However, no NBA prospect story is as tragic as Bobby Hurley's. A two-time All-American and pick number seven of the 1993 Draft, Bobby Hurley had a bright future ahead of him, which is why In The Zone did a deal to not only get him a signature shoe but an advert with David Bowie as the soundtrack.
Sadly, he did not get a chance to be a hero for much more than a day, as he ended up in a life-threatening car accident and whilst he would eventually recover and play four more years, he would ultimately average just four points a game.
- Master P – Converse No Limit P
Percy Miller, much better known to everyone other than his mother as Master P, had a rather interesting 1999. After claiming he was going to retire in 1998 with MP da Last Don, the No Limit Soldier ended up not only recording another album but also moonlighting as a professional wrestler and a basketball player.
Due to a particularly fractious NBA Lockout ahead of the 1998/99 season, Master P ended up on two training camp rosters, playing for the Charlotte Hornets and Toronto Raptors, which managed to be enough for Converse to give him a signature shoe, which MP naturally wrote a song for.
This gives him the somewhat dubious honour of being one of the few basketball players to get a signature sure and yet not play a single minute on an NBA court.