Sneak Peak: The Weapon
Magic Johnson and Larry Bird’s Converse of choice.
Every year, hundreds of basketball sneakers are produced, issued, sold and played in on the hardwood worldwide. And at least one star NBA player has a special season at peak of his career, and a signature shoe shares his glory. That’s what Sneak Peak is about—highlighting players and their sneakers from the past 25 years who shared the spotlight with iconic play and iconic style.
Did you know the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers shared appearances in every single NBA Finals matchup of the 1980s? Take that in—every single time there was a Finals series in 1980, ’81, ’82, ’83, ’84, ’85, ’86, ’87, ’88 and ’89, the kelly green and white and/or the royal purple and gold were dominating the CBS airwaves. Literally.
So it should come to no surprise the almighty Converse (at one time, the official sneaker company of the NBA) wanted no other than The Great White Hope and a certain Magic-ian to endorse their once-technological breakthrough sneaker, the Converse Weapon.
It should be noted that the release of the Weapon in the ’86-87 season was the perfect time to big up the game’s top archrivals. Larry Bird just won his third (and final) NBA Championship in the ’86 Finals against The Twin Towers (Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon) and their Houston Rockets, a series which also capped off Bird’s strongest professional season in his entire playing career. In a ’85-86 campaign that saw Larry Legend appear in his seventh consecutive All-Star game, win the NBA MVP and the Finals MVP, make the All-NBA First Team, while leading the entire league in three-pointers both made and attempted, as well as sporting the NBA’s highest free throw percentage and points/rebounds/assists averages of nearly 26-10-7, it’s clear that Bird wasn’t playing any games (well, he was, but that’s beside the point).
In the case of Mr. Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the Weapon’s release to the masses was merely a prelude to the start of a beautiful ending of his championship glory. In a season that shown nearly-identical achievements on the court with the Legend’s, Magic also went to his seventh overall All-Star game, won the ’86-87 NBA regular season and Finals MVP awards, made the All-NBA First Team and won what was to become his fourth title (and the first of two consecutive championships), fending off Bird’s Celtics to the bitter end; not to mention, Johnson also enjoyed his finest season in ’87 with a scoring average of 23.9 points and 6.3 rebounds while leading the League in both total assists and assist per game at a 12.2 clip, directing traffic in those classic “Showtime!” fast breaks.
But let’s move on to the shoe, where the Weapon is much more an object of remembrance for the two icons.
Marking a shift away from the previous focus of Julius “Dr. J” Erving, who ended up retiring at the end of the very season that the Weapon was released, Converse used the shoe to bring new life to the construction technology of the basketball sneaker. The Weapon, in its heyday, was equal parts “serious b-ball shoe” and “style sled,” utilizing a significant amount of stitched leather overlays for both support and multitude of unique color blocking options (as it was a team shoe, not unlike the current adidas shoes of present day).
The main emphasis, though, was placed not on the colors, but the Y-Bar “technology that was so prominent on the high-cut sneaker. Described as a means of achieving of additional foot support around the ankles and Achilles’ tendons of the feet, the Y-Bar was, in reality, a fairly-complex strip of leather that was wrapped around the inner and outer sides of the sneaker, and literally was sewn onto the outside body of the shoe, supposedly for “enhanced ankle support and comfort.”
Just as well, the usage of a concave outsole dubbed as the “Center of Pressure” theoretically gave the wearer a bit of shock protection to the legs when you’d land from snatching a board or dunkin’ on the goal, while also probably ensuring a nice, little bounce from the mound of air that would be trapped between the hollow of the sole’s heel and the actual floor.
(Official Sandy Dover Tech Sidenote/Tangent: I seriously doubt the Y-Bar strip was of any actual performance substance, because the Y-Bar strip was the same material as the main body of the shoe leather and already attached to said body. Just like an ankle strap on an Air Force 1 or even the new Air Jordan 1 Strap shoes, any additional support to the foot from an external source on a sneaker has to be unattached somwhere from the shoe itself, and even more, leather stretches and degrades with time, so the Y-Bar would actually work truly unattached to the ankle and composed of a synthetic material, like thermoplastic. Being unattached to the shoe’s upper (except at the base of the shoe), a new and improved Y-Bar would create leverage and hug the foot more closely, when gripped with corresponding eyelets, and therefore be more efficient in its existence. Just check the Nike Zoom LeBron III—there’s a legitimate reason the straps on that shoe weren’t totally sewn down. I’m not hatin’, though. Dovi out.)
In later times, the Weapon proved to live up to its glorified status as a premier basketball shoe, as Bird and Magic dueled with each other in championship series basketball, wearing their own special colorways of the shoes. (Bird, with the standard black/white, and Magic with the white/gold/purple.)
What brought an even greater audience to the Converse sneaker was it was also the representative shoe for four other official star endorsers on the court, such as Bird’s Hall of Fame teammate Kevin McHale, former No. 1 pick Mark Aguirre, the once-amazing Bernard King, and another one of Magic’s best friends and arch-rivals in Isiah Thomas (who dueled with the L.A. Lakers in the ’88 Finals [when the Lake Show repeated for a second consecutive championship] and in the ’89 Finals, where Thomas bested Magic for the first of his own two-time title run), all of whom were in Converse ads showcasing the Weapon.
The mere representation of the Weapon being worthy of Hall of Fame-caliber talent (everyone except Aguirre is in) gave the shoe new life in the 2000s, where it has been given new material treatments and has even evolved into the new Converse Weapon Evo, a modern, millennium—ready version of the classic using its patented “Balls” technology (…).
In other words, give respect where respect is due.