If you had just released a revolutionary new shoe product and were looking for a celebrity to endorse it, you'd probably choose a dominant sports figure who epitomizes the power and majesty of raw athletic ability. That's what Nike did, and we all know how that turned out.

In 1989, Reebok unveiled The Reebok Pump, but they used a somewhat different marketing approach. Instead of signing one of world's premier athletic talents (ala Michael Jordan), Reebok chose a broken-down, retired basketball player that nobody really liked anymore. They chose Bill Walton.

Walton was an especially ironic selection, since by the time this commerical aired his feet were composed entirely of chicken wire and tissue paper. Big Bill even drew attention to that fact by saying, "Pump, where were you when I needed you?!" Walton followed up that mournful rebuke with "If I could play today, I'd pump up for support, protection, and a custom fit." It's as if Bill wants us to believe that some air and a little extra rubber would have prevented his brittle feet from breaking into thousands of tiny pieces.

Sadly, this Utopian world in which foot injuries were completely eradicated by the Reebok Pump never came to be. Maybe that's because the Pump was so damn expensive: $180 on its initial release. And that was in 1989 dollars. In today's marketplace, that would be, like, a $10,000 shoe. Believe me, nobody's going to buy a $10,000 shoe endorsed by an injury-prone has-been. After all, how many pairs of Shaq's Dunkman game shoes do you own? Yeah, that's what I thought.

So if you're ever wondering why Reebok failed to overtake Nike in the Great Shoe Wars of the 1990s, it's because they tried to sell what was, at the time, the most expensive athletic shoe ever based on the recommendation of a man who could barely walk. It also didn't help that their tagline -- Pump Up and Air Out -- sounded like the flatulent result of a late-night Taco Bell run.

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Anonymous 80's NBA said...
There's a longstanding basketball joke about someone who's so prone to getting hurt that they get injured in warmups, but with Walton, that kind of thing wasn't a joke. I wonder how many people know that he actually broke a bone in his foot while riding a stationary bike at training camp one year!

Anonymous John E. Sanford said...

Anonymous Joe said...
Reebok got better lately with the I am what I am ads, but yea thtas kinda retarted....

great blog you got going here, hilarious for the most part.... keep it up I check this site oout regularily ( you can thank true hoop for linking me) keep doing your thing

Blogger Basketbawful said...
80s NBA -- It's actually even worse than that. Walton broke his foot riding the stationary bike at home. He and Parish met at Hellenic College (where the C's used to practice) for a game of one-on-one before training camp had even begun, and Walton broke a finger trying to block one of the Chief's shots. K.C. Jones decided to let Walton sit out of training camp so his finger could recover, so Bill took out his frustration on his exercise bike at home, riding it for (I'm not kidding) 5 hours at a time. Unfortunately for him, the extra conditioning caused a stress fracture in his already brittle foot, which basically ended his career.

joe -- Thanks for the kudos. I will definitely keep doing what I do.