Almost exactly 30 years ago, Reebok PUMP became legendary in the NBA, thanks to a certain rookie competing at the 1991 NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest. Dee Brown, selected 19th overall by the Boston Celtics in the 1990 NBA Draft, stepped onto the hardcourt and “pumped” up his Reebok PUMP Omni Zone 2s before his first dunk.
The crowd loved it, and Brown went on to pump up his sneakers before each of his following dunks. The fact that Brown ended up winning the dunk contest with a memorable no-look dunk etched the PUMP moment into the history books.
At the time, the Celtics player became only the second rookie in NBA history to win the Slam Dunk contest. Spud Webb, who won in 1986, was the first rookie to do so (and also the shortest player ever, at 5 foot 7 inches, to win the dunk contest).
Now, 30 years later, Reebok is bringing back the Reebok PUMP Omni Zone 2 in its true, high-top form for the first time. The sneaker was previously retroed in mid-top heights, but the 2021 release is supposed to remain truest to the original 1991 design.
PUMP technology integrated an inflatable chamber within the shoe, that wearers would be able to pump up to customize the fit of their shoe. Brown’s pre-dunk moment in 1991 helped launch the technology to the forefront of both sneaker and basketball culture and served as the catalyst for the technology’s popularity in the following years.
The original Reebok PUMP debuted in 1989 and was worn by Dominique Wilkins in the NBA. The next year, Reebok released the Omni Zone, Twilight Zone, and the SXT Pump, as well as Michael Chiang’s Court Victory PUMP, the first tennis shoes featuring PUMP technology. But it wasn’t until 1991 when Dee Brown pumped up his shoes, that PUMP gained a somewhat mainstream foothold in basketball.
“When Dee Brown took the moment to ‘pump up’ his shoes before he completed his no-look dunk, he did a few things,” explains Erin Narloch, Reebok’s head of global archive. “First, he captured the moment. Millions of viewers; all of the attention to their non-4K screens. Next, he demo-ed the tech. During this series of events, he’s using the tech in his shoes, he’s showing what it does, and how to do it. It’s the performance before the performance. Finally, he humanized himself and Reebok through the intensity of the moment, the performance, and the accolades after.”