Reebok Tennis Pump (1990)

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With the amount of attention being given to the re-re-release of the Nike Air Tech Challenge Hot Lava at the moment, I figured I’d take a few minutes to talk about Reebok Tennis from that same year: 1990.

Believe it or not, Reebok really gave Nike a run for their money during the 1980’s. During the first half of the decade, Reebok was actually smoking Nike thanks to their ability to capitalize on the fitness and aerobics trends that took over the world at that time. In fact, Reebok’s success in this category is one of the reasons Nike began developing shoes for what they later termed Cross Training. For that full story, check out my essay on The History Of Cross Training.

Once Nike introduced Visible Air in 1987, Reebok began to scramble a little bit, but came back in a big way in 1989 with the invention of The Pump. This new technology captured everyone’s imagination, as it seemed like it was the next level of using air in sneakers. As an eleven year old, I swore these shoes could pump air throughout the entire sole unit, but a visit to Footlocker revealed that the air bladder was only contained in the ankles and provided the same level of performance enhancement as tying your shoes tightly.

Although the basketball Pump could be the most well known in the catalog, Reebok also incorporated this new technology into some cross training and tennis sneakers. In fact, Reebok began competing heavily with Nike again in the tennis shoe world. The Court Victory Pump was the most famous thanks to Michael Chang’s endorsement, but this guy didn’t have the charisma of Andre Agassi or the marketing of Wieden + Kennedy. Despite their lack of a genius ad campaign and counter-culture heroes, Reebok was able to rally with Nike during the Andre Agassi era of 1989 – 1992. More of this story appears in my Anyone For Tenns? article.

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