Reebok Started In The Right Place
By: Brian Gleason
The mid 1980's were an exciting time in the NBA. The great Celtics-Lakers rivalry was at its peak, some of the NBA's greatest stars were making a name for themselves and shoe contracts were just starting to become the norm in the NBA.
This was when Reebok, who sponsors the 2003 Reebok Pro Summer League, made a strong push into the professional basketball market. At the time the industry was just coming into its own with the big players being Nike and Converse.
"I think it was just as competitive back then," said Celtics Executive Director of Basketball Operations, Danny Ainge. "Shoe deals and commercials were really starting to become the norm for players in the NBA."
Reebok knew they had to ink some big names to have staying power in the NBA. Being based in Massachusetts it was clear where they should start. Reebok began by targeting two players from the NBA Champion Boston Celtics.
In the 1980's Danny Ainge and Dennis Johnson were running the show for the Boston Celtics. Ainge was a brash, hardnosed shooter, while DJ was the playmaker who kept things under control. The two were the perfect compliments to a Hall-of-Fame front line of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish. Ainge and Johnson formed the starting backcourt for the Celtics and were a perfect tandem for the local sneaker company.
In 1986 Ainge and DJ left the Nike stable and became the third and fourth NBA players to sign shoe deals with Reebok. Landing the C's starting backcourt was a big move in the right direction for Reebok, who was entering difficult waters in the NBA shoe industry.
"At Nike we were one of a whole bunch of guys, the league was saturated with guys wearing Nike and all of the sudden we were two of the first guys to come in with Reebok and that was fun", said Ainge.
For Danny, it came down to working with a local company that viewed him as being very important to their future. Reebok was a fresh new product, which was something that excited Ainge. It was a different product that would help him standout in the league.
"I was a Nike guy coming out of college but Reebok was a local company and I got to know some of the people who were working there", commented Ainge. "It was fun because it was a new up-and-coming company that produced a top quality product. Also, the people at Reebok really seemed to care about their relationships with the athletes".
Since signing Ainge and DJ, Reebok has become one of the most well-known and dominant companies in the industry. The list of NBA players that take to the hardwood wearing Reebok gear is quite impressive. Reebok's list includes Allen Iverson, Steve Francis, Baron Davis and Kenyon Martin, just to name a few. Celtics 2003 Second Team All-Rookie selection JR Bremer also wears Reebok when he hits the FleetCenter parquet.
Reebok's entry into the shoe industry has been highly successful, but for Reebok it all started with the signings of two Celtics, Danny Ainge and Dennis Johnson in 1986, which proved to be good decisions on Reebok's part. Ainge stayed loyal to the company throughout the rest of his playing days.