It’s a given that basketball players wear basketball shoes. However, some shoes hog the spotlight more than others. Such is the case with Converse and Larry Bird. What Converse shoe Larry Bird wore while he was playing in the NBA?
Larry Bird wore five Converse shoes in his NBA career. These shoes are the All-Star, Pro, StarTech, Weapon, and Cons.
Is Larry Bird’s Converse on sale today? Is this shoe brand still popular in the 21st century? What happened to Converse basketball shoes? Find the answers to these questions as you dive deeper into this article.
At the start of his NBA rookie career, Larry Bird was already wearing a pair of Converse basketball sneakers. However, a year later, he set his eyes on another pair from the same brand – the Converse Pro.
Bird wore the Pro sneakers for five years before retiring the footwear for the Converse StarTech. But this NBA player quickly placed his feet in another pair of Converse shoes, and this time it would be the Weapon. The last pair of Converse shoes Bird wore was the Cons.
Here’s a timeline on Larry Bird’s Converse shoe collection while he was an NBA player:
Did Converse Start by Making Basketball Shoes?
Converse started manufacturing shoes in 1908. Named as the Converse Rubber Shoe Company, owner and founder Marquis Mills Converse opened his Malden, Massachusetts-based business for shoe enthusiasts everywhere. However, it wasn’t until 1917 when the company started making basketball shoes.
Called the ‘Non-Skids,’ this shoe had a rubber sole with a canvas upper. The design and materials chosen also benefitted basketball players at that time. Marketed for college teams, the Non-Skids helped basketball players by adding traction to the feet, preventing slips and slides while playing in the court.
Converse’s plans to market its wares to basketball players didn’t stop there. In 1921, an American semi-professional basketball player by the name of Charles ‘Chuck’ Taylor joined Converse. Taylor became a salesman and suggested changes to the original Non-Skid design. These improvements allowed wearers to enjoy better flexibility and ankle support as compared to the previous construction. Additionally, Taylor was the person responsible for incorporating the iconic All-Star logo to the shoe.
Because of Taylor’s contributions, Converse decided to name the new shoes the ‘Chuck Taylor All Stars,’ which is also the first celebrity-endorsed footwear of the company. Taylor would still help the company market his creation by going to high schools, colleges, and YMCAs across the country. He held basketball clinics and taught young men the fundamentals of basketball while talking about the importance of wearing proper footwear.
Over the years, many professional basketball players would wear the Chuck Taylor shoes, including Larry Bird. Even the US armed forces wore Chuck Taylors during athletic meetups.
How Did Magic Johnson and Larry Bird Star in a Converse Commercial?
Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were in rival teams during their time in the NBA. So it was to everyone’s surprise when the two players showed up in a Converse commercial.
The rivalry between these two athletes started in the NCAA. It was 1979, and Johnson carried Michigan State University to win against the Indiana State University led by Larry Bird. The competition was intense that it was also the most-watched college basketball game in history.
After their college years, both Johnson and Bird were drafted to their respective NBA teams. The former going to the Lakers while the latter to the Celtics. The two players would often meet frequently in the different seasons from 1980 to 1989. However, Johnson was able to finish with five championships under his belt while Bird at three by the end of the 80s.
While the two players are battling it out in basketball courts to see who the best NBA player was, there was Converse. At that time, Bird was an endorser for Converse since 1979. He started wearing the Converse All-Star since the beginning of the deal before moving to the Converse Pro in 1980.
Converse staff members knew they picked the right man to be the company’s endorser. Several games flew by, and it seemed that Bird was dominating court after court. In 1984, Bird carried the Boston Celtics by defeating the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 7. Since the famous rivalry was present in the court, to say that fans around the world are enthused is an understatement. This match also became the most-watched NBA game in TV history.
The Beginning of the Bird-Johnson Friendship
Of course, Magic Johnson didn’t take that loss lightly. One year later, Johnson had his revenge in the 1985 finals when his team went up against the Celtics and Bird.
Converse saw the two giants as a mighty catch. The company knew that people would watch games if these two legendary NBA players were going against each other. Therefore, putting Bird and Johnson in a commercial should increase the shoe business’ sales.
The idea was sound but it was an uphill battle for Converse. At first, Magic and Bird were hesitant to share any amount of screen time together. Bird struck a deal with the shoe company that Johnson would proceed with the commercial, but only if the filming wasn’t in LA. Johnson agreed to the conditions and pulled up to Bird’s house in French Lick, Indiana, in his limo.
The 30-second commercial became a reality. However, this opportunity was more than a simple marketing shtick as it marked the beginning of the end of a great rivalry. Instead, it was the start of a beautiful friendship.
Here’s the iconic commercial in its 30-second glory:
Despite the quick trip to Bird’s house, Johnson became close to the Celtics player’s family. Additionally, it was a great time to understand both players outside of the court. Bird also found out that Johnson’s company wasn’t as bad as he initially thought.
The Fall of Converse
While Bird and Johnson’s relationship was growing, Converse’s plan to dominate the shoe market didn’t go as planned. Rivals in the shoe industry, such as Nike and Adidas, started bearing their fangs in the 1980s. Soon, people, including basketball players, preferred to wear Air Jordans over Chuck Taylors.
Both Bird and Johnson also had no plans on renewing their business relationship with Converse. In 1992, Johnson ended his endorsement deal with the shoe company. A report even indicated that both players were quite unhappy with the shoe business’ advertising and marketing campaigns since the beginning.
What Happened to Converse Basketball Shoes?
Although still quite popular, Converse lost its monopoly over the sports footwear niche since the 1980s. This event transpired as new competitors in the industry began appearing. Adidas, Puma, Nike, and even Reebok decided that they wanted to have a piece of the shoe sector’s pie.
Nonetheless, the star insignia remained and many people, including basketball players, would continue wearing Converse shoes wherever they go.
When Did NBA Players Stop Wearing Converse Shoes?
Things started to look up for Converse by 2010 as 1980s fashion in the NBA resurfaced. However, this trend was short-lived because NBA players stopped wearing Converse sneakers two years later. The last recorded NBA player who wore a pair of Chuck Taylors to the court is Miami Heat’s Udonis Haslem.
Will We See Another NBA Player Wear Converse Basketball Shoes?
The numerous advancements in shoe-making technology allowed many basketball shoemakers to progress in the 21st century. On the other hand, Converse remained faithful to its original design and functionality. Although not technically a bad thing, NBA players now have better footwear choices to wear while playing.
With that in mind, it’s not impossible for another NBA player to wear Converse basketball shoes to the court. However, the possibility of that event happening is slim.
Larry Bird wore five Converse shoes during his professional NBA player career. To this day, Converse is still a good shoe brand. Many people would wear Chuck Taylors for different occasions, including basketball games. However, time is a cruel entity for this shoe company as competitors are now doing better than ever.