In June of 1996, a 19-year-old soon-to-be NBA rookie had a tough decision to make. Sign an endorsement deal with one of the established sneaker brands or go with a three-year-old apparel company that had zero history with NBA players or even with producing a single shoe.
He chose the latter.
Stephon Marbury became AND1’s first-ever NBA endorser. And it didn’t take long for him to prove he was a trendsetter—by 2002, AND1 had gone on to sign dozens of NBA players.
The Brooklyn native and the Philly-based sportswear outfitter were a perfect match. Marbury, who grew up in Coney Island, Brooklyn, and spent one season at Georgia Tech, was a highly heralded NYC point guard known for his grit, flare and hard-nosed demeanor. Meanwhile, AND1 had already begun building some momentum in the basketball community with its famous “trash talk” tees prior to signing Marbury; up to this point, the brand was mostly regarded for its streetball influence more than anything else.
“People knew us for our apparel,” recalls Dexter Gordon, AND1’s Director of Player and Grassroots Development. “This legitimized AND1 from streetball to the League, so this was a big step for the brand.”
And so the signing of the 1995 McDonald’s All-American would officially bring them onto the NBA hardwood. When the Marbury 1s were introduced in 1996, their TV commercial showed Marbury dribbling through a subway station and in and out of a train car while putting moves on straphangers. The only words uttered by him are “all day long” in the ad’s final seconds. Serving as AND1’s first-ever basketball shoe, it became the silhouette that paved the way for the legendary Tai Chi, which Vince Carter would bring into prominence just three years later at the forever-classic 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest in Oakland. It was also the prelude to what would become an international offseason phenomenon—the AND1 Mixtape Tour.
Marbury would go on to earn an NBA All-Rookie First Team nod before being named an NBA All-Star in 2001 and 2003. He averaged a career-high of 9.3 assists with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 1998-99 season, and his best scoring season came with the New Jersey Nets in ‘00-01, when he put up 23.9 points per game.
The shoe’s 2017 return was the result of a continuous outreach from loyal fans who were there from the brand’s inception and still share memories of what it was like to own a pair in the ’90s. With fans flooding AND1’s social media channels over the years with inquiries into the possibility of a retro version of the historic shoe, the brand both realized that there was a high demand for them and that such a release was long overdue.
Rebranded as the “Coney Island Classic,” the latest version pays homage to its Brooklyn roots. Not only was AND1’s first NBA endorser and the subject of the shoe that expanded the brand into the footwear category a Kings County native, their current lead pitchman, Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson is, too (and coincidentally attended Lincoln, the same high school as Marbury). It just goes to show that two decades later, the brand has remained true to its identity and tradition.
The Coney Island Classic features a full-grain leather upper recreating the original Marbury 1 pattern as well as a translucent rubber outsole with multi-directional herringbone for traction when cutting laterally. Its EVA (ethyl vinyl acetate) foam midsole is also recreated from the original. The most obvious difference from its original version is the missing ‘S’ emblem on the heel, which featured a basketball in the middle and served as Marbury’s logo at the time.
And while the release of the Coney Island Classic was a nice treat for nostalgic hoop fans and sneakerheads alike, it looks like AND1 has something bigger up its sleeve for 2018.
“We just had an overwhelming [amount of] requests from fans and sneakerheads to bring it back,” Gordon says. “It was just something that kept coming up and we had been talking about it for years. Last year, talks ramped up and we decided to do it as an introduction of things to come for our 25th anniversary in 2018.”
Franklyn Calle is an Associate Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter @FrankieC7.
Photos via Getty Images