In 1991, a little-known rookie out of Jacksonville by the name of Dee Brown crashed the NBA Slam Dunk Contest and inserted his name into basketball lore. In a year in which former Seattle SuperSonic (and the favorite to win) Shawn Kemp would make his first appearance in the event, the Boston Celtics’ six-foot-one point guard outshined his rival by infusing personality and charisma into a contest known more for the intense rivalry between hall of famers Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins than lightheartedness. But Brown didn’t have the cachet afforded to those who preceded him; he needed to find another way to get people’s attention. He chose charm, and it worked.
Before his first dunk attempt (and while much of the audience likely scrambled to figure who exactly Dee Brown was), Brown casually bent over and pumped air into his Reebok Pump shoes through the mechanism built into the shoe’s tongue. It was a new technology for the company and no doubt a new concept to many of the fans that watched as a shoe war unfolded in front of their very eyes. According to Brown, the stunt was so disruptive and unexpected that it actually caught the attention of “His Airness,” Michael Jordan, a former slam-dunk champion himself. Outside an afterparty that night, he would run into Jordan, who according to Brown had this to say: “You did a great job out there, young fella. Nice show you put on. But you know you started the shoe wars.”
The war didn’t last long.
Brown would go on to win the dunk contest, and Reebok ended up selling six million pairs of Pumps by the end of 1992. But both soon lost that momentum, and each fell to their foes in one way or another. The duo may have faded into obscurity completely if not for that memorable night in 1991 when Brown crashed the NBA’s party. He tried something new on a big stage, and it worked. Because of the playful manner in which he introduced himself to a nationally televised audience, we will always remember that time Dee Brown won the dunk contest.
EVENT: NBA Dunk Contest
MOMENT: Dee Brown Pumping Up His Reebok’s Pre-Dunk
INFLUENCER: Dee Brown