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AND1: The Best Shoes of a Legendary Brand

AND1 Logo

AND1 is a legendary American basketball and streetwear brand that brought the hoop world much much more than cool t-shirts and awesome shoes. AND1 was more of a cultural phenomenon that appeared in the 2000s to greatly influence the world of basketball, create streetball fashion, a specific style of play, and a culture.

AND1 Basketball

AND1: Origins

AND1 began its journey in 1993 when Jay Coen Gilbert, Seth Berger, and Tom Austin started a t-shirt company out of the trunk of a car while studying at the University of Pennsylvania. The t-shirts featured the legendary faceless hooper and different trash talk phrases typically heard on the blacktops across America. The shirts were such a hit that they were snatched up by Foot Locker. Within two years of its launch, AND1 products were available in 1,500 stores across the US.

Then in 1996, Starbury himself, Coney Island’s finest Stephon Marbury, became the brand’s first signature athlete. Marbury was one of a brash new generation of players that brought a fresh street basketball flavor into the NBA. With Marbury´s signature shoe, AND1 launched its first pair of basketball sneakers and dove head-first into the footwear category. More on that classic first shoe later.

In the mid-1990s, AND1 was chugging along as just another basketball brand. That is, until a fateful day in 1998. A tape was delivered to AND1 containing blurry, homemade streetball footage by a high school basketball coach from Queens, New York. The tape featured a spectacular New York City point guard by the name of Rafer Alston, aka Skip To My Lou. Having an “aka” was about to get wildly popular. And the videotape would soon be known as the “Skip Tape”.

Early in 1999, after a failed traditional marketing campaign, AND1 decided to use the “Skip tape” as a marketing tool and reprinted 50,000 copies. Over the next eight weeks, it was distributed to basketball camps, clinics, and record labels. The tape would become the first basketball mixtape, and quickly made Alston an underground celebrity. 

In the summer of 1999, AND1 created a clever marketing strategy that would prove pivotal to the brand. A free highlight tape was given to everyone who purchased AND1 products. The tape was known as the AND1 Mixtape. Approximately 200,000 tapes were distributed in three weeks, making this promotion one of the most successful in U.S. retail history. The effects of this tape were felt in the NBA and in the basketball world for over a decade as a generation of players copied and introduced this new school of streetball into the zeitgeist. Dunks and handles became “a must” in the NBA, while FG% and threes were an afterthought. Think of Jamal Crawford, Allen Iverson, Jason “White Chocolate” Williams, T-Mac, KG, Paul Pierce, Marbury, and Larry Hughes, just to name a few. 

Even though AND1 had Starbury on the roster, they began to recruit more and more NBA players to wear their products – a major power play to compete with bigger brands such as Nike and adidas. Players like Latrell Sprewell, Kevin Garnett, Larry Hughes and Jamal Crawford brought AND1 into the national spotlight. The AND1 logo became one of the most common tattoos in the NBA, as clearly seen below:

During the 2000 All Star weekend, the brand’s most iconic shoe was featured prominently during the best dunk contest in the history of the NBA. Vince Carter strapped on a pair of the classic red and white AND1 Tai Chi and put on the greatest show the dunk contest has ever witnessed.

As the 2001 season rolled around, AND1 was closing in on Nike. In only eight years, they had become the second-largest basketball brand in the United States.

The AND1 Mixtape became a cultural phenomenon. Many streetball players reached legendary status. They were known around the world exclusively by their nicknames: Hot Sauce, Half Man Half Amazing, AO, Black Widow, the Professor, Escalade, Alimoe, Spyda, The Air Up There, Skip to My Lou, and Main Event. If you lived through that era and didn’t try that Hot Sauce move with the spin and tucking the ball under your shirt, we can’t be friends. Just sayin’.

The soundtracks to the mixtapes were incredible, featuring artists like Snoop Dog, Mobb Deep, CNN, MOP, Method Man, GZA, Common, Talib Kwali, and more. 

AND1 also created a world streetball tour, which was sort of like a hip-hop Harlem Globetrotters. They then added a reality TV show and even released a video game. The success of AND1 had the basketball shoe market on their heels scrambling to ride the streetball wave. EA Sports released the NBA and NFL street video games series (some of the most fun games ever made, in my opinion). Nike put out their battleground product line and video series, while the NBA released the NBA street, ankle breakers, and dunk DVD series. The born-to-ball DVD was even a thing.  It wasn’t the best era for technical basketball, but damn, it was fun.

With our hearts filled with nostalgia, we present our top ten list of AND1 basketball shoes.

AND1’s Best Basketball Shoes

 

AND1 Marbury / Coney Island Classic

The shoe is legendary. It’s one of the most iconic silhouettes of the late 90s. Known today as the AND1 Coney Island Classic, these shoes were designed with streetball in mind. They were never a top-of-the-line performer by any stretch of the imagination, but they were an excellent incarnation of the street basketball subculture that took the NBA by storm. 

Stephon Marbury was the perfect player to rock AND1’s first basketball shoe. Marbury was a streetball legend from Coney Island, Brooklyn. Starbury was the prototypical New York point guard: flashy, stylish and could score with the best of them. The shoe prominently features the legendary AND1 logo and was built to withstand the rigors of outdoor play.

AND1 Quest Mid 

These bad boys were worn by several NBA players back in 2003. Ben Wallace, Shawn Marion, and Desmond Mason all got personalized colorways of this shoe even though the marketing was primarily centered around Marbury. The shoe featured very shiny synthetic materials and the heel and the forefoot were two different colors. 

AND1’s slogan for that year, “Get Yours”, was featured on the forefoot in a typeface that would make the Clippers proud. This shoe’s moment-in-the-sun was when Seattle Supersonics highflyer Desmond Mason rocked them during an epic but underrated dunk contest. 

AND1 Rise 

The AND1 Rise is a shoe that felt sleeker and more performance-driven than previous models. The shoe dropped in 2004 and Mr. Bigshot himself, Chauncey Billups, rode these guys all the way to the NBA finals vs the LA Lakers. The blue-collar roster of the Pistons took on the star-studded Lakers and manhandled them. Chauncey would go on to win Finals MVP with the AND1 Rise on his feet. 

AND1 KG 2

Yes, that KG, The Big Ticket, Kevin Garnett!  Kevin Garnett, who had been Marbury’s teammate, also signed with AND1 and rocked a number of different AND1 models.

The most iconic was the KG 2. These guys are so early 2000s it’s not even funny. Red iridescent accents, KG’s thumbprint on the tongue, and a sleek swooping design…just awesome! KG won the 2003 NBA All-Star game MVP that featured an almost 40-year-old MJ. He knocked down an amazing shot to send the game to a second OT. Classic!

A shout out to the KG 1, which didn’t make the list, but gives us this little bit of classic sneaker commercial history featuring Styles P.

KG re-signed with the brand in 2018 as the brand’s Creative Director and Global Brand Ambassador.

AND1 Mad Game 

If you loved Knicks shooting guard Latrell Sprewell, you probably loved these sneakers. The Mad Game was worn by a bunch of different NBA guys, but no one wore them better than Spree. They were low profile and sleek, built for shifty and explosive players. 

Sprewell would eventually get his own signature model, but these were sick.

AND1 Silky Smooth 

The AND1 Silky Smooth dropped in 2001. They were worn by a variety of NBA players including Stephon Marbury, Kevin Garnett, Shawn Marion, and Larry Hughes. The shoe was meant to be versatile so guards and agile big men could both be covered. 

The AND1 Silky Smooth featured a dual-density, compressed EVA midsole, a large partially-exposed heel counter, and full-grain leather. They were conceived (like many AND1 models) to be used both indoors and outdoors. But these land on this list because of Jerry Stackhouse, who personally pioneered the custom shoe job by slapping on a makeshift Nike logo on his pair.

It was actually a touching, sneaker nerd move. Kobe had beef with adidas dating back decades. Harden, as an adidas athlete, had to find a pair of shoes within the brand with which to pay tribute to Kobe. 

As luck would have it, Reebok was purchased by adidas and James got his hands on this iconic pair of the Question Mid. 

Harden would actually go on to release his own colorway of the Question Mid later in 2020

AND1 Spree Mid

The Spree Mid premiered in 2003. This was Sprewell’s first true signature shoe and the first shoe from AND1 to feature a visible version of the company’s Harmonix cushioning system. 

It also featured what AND1 called the Springz Geometry midsole that was supposed to provide cushioning directly under the heel and the Duraspring polyurethane foam that the visible Harmonix airbags are encapsulated within.

Duraspring was a dense polyurethane used to give the sneaker responsive cushioning that would last. AND1 really tried to create a top-notch performance model and, by all accounts, they did.

Like the Adidas Kobe 1, the Spree Mid design was inspired by performance cars. The two shoes actually look like they could be brothers. They had Jordan 14-esque ventilation scoops, a shroud, and came in a box with spinner rims. 2003 was a hell of a time.

AND1 Chosen One Mid 

The AND1 Chosen One Mid was an ugly shoe, there is no denying it. It looks like a cross between a pair of crocs and Formula One racing shoes. But, they did stand out. You have to give them that. They deserve a slot on this list because of their outlandish design and for withstanding the incessant pounding of Big Ben Wallace during the 2003-04 season. 

That year, Big Ben was second in the NBA in boards (12.4 per game), was second in blocks (3.0 per game), was named to the All Star team, and won an NBA championship. And he did it all while wearing these guys right here.

AND1 Desire 

The AND1 Desire felt like the successor to the Tai Chi back in the day. They both shared the two-tone design, and they incorporated updated “performance features” such as the velcro strap, AND1’s Harmonix cushioning, a Springz Geometry heel, Poron inserts (forefoot & heel), and an internal bootie construction. They might not have made our list, if it weren’t for one important detail: they graced the feet of the great Black Mamba.

While Kobe was a sneaker free agent in 2002-03, he laced up a bunch of legendary PEs from a variety of different brands. One of the shoes he reached for was the AND1 Desire. He chose the blacked-out colorway and the white/silver version. He even got a white and yellow PE. Personally, I would have loved to see a black and yellow colorway, but it was not to be. If they were good enough for Kobe, they are good enough for this list. 

AND1 Tai Chi 

One of the most iconic shoes ever? What else do you really have to say about these two-toned beauties. If you were into basketball from 2000 to 2010, you know the AND1 Tai Chi. They have to be in the pantheon of all-time iconic shoes. As an added bonus, they performed decently on court. 

Honorable Mention

We should give an honorable mention to the  AND1 Attack 2.0, a great performance model one of the best of 2020-21.  But our list is much more about nostalgia, than performance. If it were based solely on performance, the Attack 2.0 would get top billing.

Let us know what you think. Did we leave anything out? Is there another shoe that you’d put on the list?  We look forward to hearing from you on Twitter, Instagram, or our Discord community.

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