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Monday, May 16, 2022

From Essential to Collectors’ Items, the Basketball Shoe Has Come a Long Way in Last 100 Years

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It is certainly no secret that basketball shoes are a hot commodity in the world-wide market, and that the highly-coveted items command increasingly higher prices every year. But for those of us who can remember, it wasn’t always this way. Not only in the prices that are commanded today, but in the comfort and protection that the high-tech shoes of today offer. In fact, people in my age range can remember wearing the famous “Chuck Taylor All Stars” that were little more than a small width of rubber foam soles covered in cotton canvas. The shoes felt a lot like wearing rubber sandals compared to today’s shoes.

Back in the day, players wore the shoes to play basketball almost exclusively. Scenes of players wearing the shoes, and then tying the laces together and slinging them over their shoulders when they left the gym are a picture of the past. In more iconic photos, the famous Olympian, Jesse Owens, is seen wearing the famous shoes that at his time were dubbed as the official shoe of the United States Olympic Team. The famous Chuck Taylors made their debut in 1917 and were later redesigned 100 years ago in 1922. Since that time, the shoe enjoyed immense popularity over the years, peaking in the 1960s and then declining in the 1970s when other brands, such as Adidas entered the market for basketball and athletic shoes of other sports. The Converse Chuck Taylors are still today a popular casual shoe in its low-cut style.

The shoes’ namesake, Chuck Taylor, was a semiprofessional basketball player who later turned salesman at Converse Shoes. Converse is now a subsidiary of Nike; change that took place in 2003 when Nike paid $309 million to acquire the historic brand. For those who played on the hardwood back in the day with the Converse legends, I am amazed that more players did not suffer more from shin splints and lower back paid due to the lack of shock absorbancy in the shoes. But for all of us who wore the shoes, we didn’t know any better…it was the best thing on the market at the time.

But with the growth of popularity of basketball, its players, and the star power that those players have brought to advertising, the prices of basketball shoes have shot up at meteoric heights over the years. In fact, in a top ten list of the most desirable shoes to be owned by collectors, the least expensive pair of shoes, according to the website, luxactic.com, is $2500.

The top ten list of most desired shoes, according to luxactic.com is:

10. Nike Air Force One: $2500

Image Credit: luxactic.com

9. Air Jordan XI: $2700

Image Credit: luxactic.com

8. Addidas Golden KBB: $3000

Image Credit: luxactic.com

7. Air Jordan V: $10,000

Image Credit: luxactic.com

6. Nike Air Mag: $12,000

Image Credit: luxactic.com

5. Air Jordan I: $25,000

Image Credit: luxactic.com

4. Nike Air Zoom Kobe 1: $30,000

Image Credit: luxactic.com

3. Air Jordan VI: $35,000

Image Credit: luxactic.com

2. Air Jordan III: $50,000

Image Credit: luxactic.com
  1. Reebok Question: $65,000
At a value of $65,000, the Reebok Question is the most expensive basketball shoe on the market (Image Credit: luxactic.com)

The old supply / demand principle elevates these iconic shoes and brands to the prices they command by collectors. Fans of the game are more than willing to pay exorbitant prices for the celebrity endorsed shoes, and, perhaps, that is a topic for another story. I remember taking my son to St. Louis to watch the Cardinals play a regular season baseball game. We had pretty good tickets, and I took him into the stadium as soon as the gates opened. I couldn’t wait to point out some of the players on both teams that I followed and who someday might enter the baseball hall of fame. As I pointed out who the players were, I will never forget; he was more impressed with the shoes they were wearing than the players themselves!

But one thing is clear, we all have a price we are willing to pay for both name brand and popular shoes, especially those who are big fans of the game. And our player heroes that endorse the shoes make them even more attractive to buyers. And the market charges whatever it thinks we are willing to pay; and we have given the market the impression that we will pay a lot of money for these shoes.

For me, it will be a long time, if ever, that I will pay anywhere close to the price of even the least expensive model in this story. But, that is me…the last of the big spenders!

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Jim Best
Jim Best is a man of many talents. His storied career in Arkansas education led him to a new passion, and hidden gifts in sports journalism.
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