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Friday, August 19th, 2011 at 12:41 pm  |  14 responses

The Original

Chuck Taylor had to be a first-ballot KICKS Hall of Fame inductee.

Ever since KICKS 3 (summer 2000), each issue of the annual sneaker mag—KICKS 10 not included—has contained two or three new inductions into the KICKS Hall of Fame, where footwear legends past and present are honored. This may not be fresh material for those of you who’ve been copping the mag since before the new millennium hit, but for the younger heads, we’re posting the entire HOF online over the course of the next few weeks. (It’ll be archived under the KICKS tab above.) Enjoy, and don’t forget: KICKS 14 is on sale now! —Ed.

Originally published in KICKS 3

by Michael Bradley

He asked. That was it. Chuck Taylor’s feet hurt when he played basketball, so in 1921, he walked into Converse’s Chicago sales office and asked for a special hoops shoe. And he got it. Eleven years later, they put his name on it, and the legend began. If it were that easy today, maybe Bryant Reeves would have his own signature sled. Call it “Air Overpaid.” That would be a big seller. chuck taylor

The Chuck Taylor model, on the other hand, has been the bomb. Converse has moved more than 500 million of the things, making it the world’s all-time sneaker champ. For almost four decades, it was the only thing found on players’ feet. Everybody wore Chucks. High or low. Black or white. Those plain, canvas sneakers with the rubber soles were everywhere. What was the point? Nobody could slay a giant.

As a result, Taylor’s name was synonymous with basketball, even though he was a journeyman who played for barnstorming clubs when pro ball was a loosely organized confederation of teams that competed whenever they could, against whatever opposition was available. And we think players don’t deserve shoe contracts now. Taylor didn’t even play in the ABL, a short-lived, six-year attempt to start a real professional basketball league. Though he had an 11-year pro career and was known as an accurate shooter, he drifted from team-to-team, spending time with the likes of the Buffalo Germans and the New York Celtics. He had been a two-time all-state performer at Columbus (IN) HS and was part of teams in the U.S. Navy and Air Force, but his résumé isn’t exactly endorsement material., even in today’s instant-stardom climate.

Taylor’s playing career may have been nondescript, but he was a giant off the court, particularly in the game’s formative years. In 1922, he helped organize and run the first-ever basketball clinic, at North Carolina State. He later toured Europe and South America for the U.S. State Department, giving clinics and no doubt espousing the myriad benefits of democracy and capitalism through the game of basketball. As his participation in these endeavors grew, Taylor became known as an “ambassador” for the sport, a distinction that contributed mightily to his election to the Hall of Fame in ’69, the year he died.

Taylor also played a role in the college game, even though his education ended at Columbus High. In 1922, he developed the Converse Basketball Yearbook; 10 years later, he was picking all-America teams himself. When it came time to consider his credentials for the Hall, it was hard to ignore his contributions to the game.

While his career and impact on basketball are interesting and profound, Chuck Taylor will be forever known for his name on a shoe, even if most people who have donned them in past decades have no idea whether their sneakers’ namesake was a player, coach, inventor, businessman or fictitious character. Of course, the brand has lost considerable influence since its heyday, when it was worn by virtually all professional players (Tree Rollins was the last NBA player to sport ‘em on the court, in ’80) and was the official shoe of the Olympic competition from 1936-68. Chucks are now worn more for fashion than athletic purposes, their rainbow colors making them whimsical accessories, rather than sporting tools. For those people who laced up a pair of high whites in earnest, however, the Chuck Taylor legend lives on. The man may not be able to match the shoe’s myth, but there is no denying his major feat—he asked.

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  • Fred

    Salute!

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    This is awesome. I never knew all that about ol’ Chuck T.

  • John

    I remember wearing these shoes. Back in elementary school…

  • rudy

    I wonder how many they’ve sold now? They should be signing some checks over to Wiz for all the marketing he’s done for them.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    I still wear Chucks almost every day.

  • bike

    Most people that wear these shoes nowdays are granola chicks that eat their bean sprouts out of a coconut bowl. Kinda sad when you think about it.

  • rob stewart

    I wonder if a current NBA player would be willing to rock these in just one game. I’m thinking Delonte West or Ron Artest. Maybe even Hibachi?

  • bike

    How about Oden sporting these?

  • robb

    Everybody has worn these at some point

  • iCARNACKi

    I had a pair, once. They are the most uncomfortable shoes I have ever wore in my life. I wore them once and then gave them away, most overrated thing EVER. Also you can’t wear any sort of even slightly baggy jeans with them, because they don’t hold your jeans up and the cuffs drag on the floor, get dirty and ripped and you end up looking like Kurt Cobain rather than a smooth pimp daddy. F*** Chuck Taylor.

  • youngmuggsy

    @ iCARNAKi – You could maybe try wearing a pair of jeans that fit, seriously who wears baggy jeans anymore?

    Personally I think that once they’re broken in, a pair of Chucks are some of the most comfortable shoes out there.

  • Hay

    @iCARNACKi: Then those are not for you, go buy something else. I’m rocking my Chuck

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    Chucks are uncomfortable for a bout the first 2 weeks you own them, then they’re great. They just take a little time.

  • sophmore

    never had a pair but i got respect for chucks all of my converses were skate shoes

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