The year is 1989. Detroit Pistons sweep the Lakers, 4-0 to win the franchise’s first championship. Rap music hits a golden era with the releases like De La Soul’s Three Feet High And Rising, 3rd Bass' Cactus Album & Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique. Basketball reaches its pop cultural zenith and Reebok changes the sneaker game with the launch of The Reebok Pump.
On November 24th, 1989, The Pump debuted on shelves with a hefty $170 price tag. By that time, Reebok had already become the leading force in athletic footwear beating competitors like Nike, Avia, Adidas and Asics with 27% market share by 1987. Through novel technologies like ERS(Energy Return System), dominance of the aerobics market, and killer ad campaigns, Reebok had lion’s share of the sportswear market as they unleashed The Pump as their secret weapon.
As designer of The Pump, Paul Litchfield envisioned a customized fit through inflatable air chambers thereby increasing performance (and marketability) for wearers. This simple idea and its elegant solution further established Reebok as an innovative leader for the market with pro endorsements fro Danny Ainge, Pat Reilly and Dominique Wilkins which showed that whether you got a flat top or a mop top, The Pump is for you! With the tag line “Pump Up and Air Out,” Reebok kept making gains into the new decade.
Through the 1990’s The Pump line expanded to the tennis court with breakout star Michael Chang’s Court Victory Pump model – promoting the first Asian American sportswear icon. This had a huge impact still felt today in the streetwear/sneaker market – checkout how many Asian Americans (or people of color in general) are working in the industry! Chang was poised as the Anti-Aggasi with an ad campaign that said “ If you want t beat those Rock N’ Roll tennis guys, Pump up and Air out.” These direct stabs against Nike reached a mind blowing high point with the following banned commercial which shows a Nike wearing bungee jumper falling to his death while a pair of Reebok Pumps save the other jumper.
The tipping point (we see you, Gladwell) for The Pump’s legacy had already been surpassed when Dee Brown’s legendary slam dunk competition performance brought the gospel to a global audience at the 1991 NBA All Star Game. Having already won the Slam Dunk Competition title by judges points, Brown pumps up his Omni Zone II’s, drives to the hoops and drives home a no look dunk to seal the deal. There has yet to be a sports history moment so centered around the technology of a specific shoe.
Besides the basketball & tennis courts, Reebok’s presence was also felt in film. Check the first 10 minutes of Juice(1992) with the montage of Omar Epps’ character trying on different Reebok Pumps before meeting up with Tupac. Also groundbreaking was Reebok's partnership with the film Above The Rim(1994) –also with Tupac- which created a full line of shoes named after the movie How many other brands figure so large in Tupac’s film career(other than Hennessey)?
(Author’s note: Somehow this article got turned into some Tupac memorial- my bad)
The Pump went on to conquer running and cross training through the Pump Fury, AXT, CXT and further locked down basketball through the signing of the Blue Chips certified, Fu Shnickens Rapping, Shazam Genie Pants wearing, NBA Superstar known as SHAQ. DMX & Hexalite technologies also came into the fold pushing the line into the 2000’s which ushered in the era of collabs with boutiques.
With Twenty Five Years of the The Pump , Reebok is celebrating with a huge roll out of collabs of the OG Pump. A massive undertaking, designed members of Reebok's Select Network, which Bodega is a proud member of. If you'd like to read even more, check out Bodega's edition of The Pump dubbed the 1989.