HOW A TINY SCHOOL PROJECT HAPPENED TO START A BBALL REVOLUTION
MAKING MONEY WITH TRASHTALK
Rags-to-riches stories are the heart and soul of the American Dream. Thousands tried, hundreds failed and some few succeeded. AND1 has such a story to tell: Founded in 1993 by a trio of young American students, the brand began as a grade school class project and turned into one of the most revolutionary companies not only in streetball but basketball culture. Seth Berger, Jay Coen Gilbert and Tommy Austin, all students of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, loved basketball, had a business idea and the brains to create something big. AND1 it was – the name inspired by their basketball background: When a baller is fouled while shooting, makes the shot as well as the awarded foul shot, he scores the points for the made basket “and 1” for the made free throw. Easy name, easy goal: revolutionize the bball industry.
The boys were crazy about basketball, soon bringing their passion to others. Their initial tees featured ‘The Player’, a faceless and raceless icon, with cocky and reckless captions surrounding him. The “Trash Talk” shirts were much sought-after in such a short time, presenting the infamous slogans like “Here’s 5$, go buy a game.”, “It’s okay. Nobody can check me” and “Your name is as ugly as your girl” all over the nation. A revolution was born. The AND1 apparel almost immediately took off, smoothing the way for upcoming performance shoes. Especially Footlocker was thirsty for pushing AND1 and their notorious name that they made themselves in urban culture. To their consumers, the brand was “authentic” – probably the most influencing marketing magic word a company could aspire. AND1 gained wide prominence in the basketball world during the late nineties and in following years, bringing streetball experience to the masses. The label has always focused on an in-your-face attitude both in design as well as in appearance on court.
From a graduate school project into a multi-million dollar sporting goods empire, AND1 knew how the streets worked. They stayed true to their own style and became iconic in the 1990s. Off the court, the brand’s popularity skyrocketed – everybody owned one of the “Trash Talk” shirts, trying to be part of this huge movement. On court, AND1 brought notoriety to the streetballers of New York. Players, who innovated, exaggerated and dominated the ball game. They inspired thousands of kids and kicked off an avalanche never seen before in the urban scene.
FROM THE STREET FOR THE STREET
Rucker Park, Dyckman, West 4th, Kingdom – New York is the mecca of streetball ever since, its roots running deep on hundreds of outdoor battlegrounds. Little boys dreamed about dunking and breaking other’s ankles on these very courts, immortalizing themselves in the Big Apple’s streetball legacy forever. Everybody wanted a shot of fame – only a few changed the game forever. Six players showed the world that they were the best non-NBA basketball players ever seen – local legends Shane “Dribbling Machine” Woney, Wailyy “Main Event” Dixon, Anthony “Half Man, Half Amazing” Heyward, Dennis “Spyda” Chism and Robert “50” Martin. These “Original Six” took streetball to a whole new level, shaping the game for the masses and pushing AND1 to the top.
The streetball label put on the best shows the world had seen so far, transforming themselves in a high-level sponsor. AND1 was synonymous for jaw-dropping crossovers and insane dunks, for entertainment and fascination, for high-quality basketball from the best non-NBA players. Kids were talking about nothing else than the latest battles on the New York courts. AND1 had successfully claimed the throne of representing the créme de la créme of the streetball scene, in a way competing with the NBA’s players and their “street creds”. Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Vince Carter and other superstars didn’t want to put up with this and therefore dueled with the kings of the street. Rucker Park in Harlem was the heart of streetball, hosting several AND1 events – each blowing the mind of the audience with the magic practiced on court.
And the magic did not come to a dead stop when “The Professor” and “Hot Sauce” entered the stage. Both additions became the magnet that drew thousands of basketball enthusiasts to the streets. Kids were talking about the wizardry happening on the courts; AND1’s name resounded through the land. Rumor has it that from the late 90s through the mid 2000s AND1 was actually bigger than the NBA. Nowadays one would not dare to consider AND1 and the NBA as competitors, but back in the days, streetball ruled the entire basketball scene.”The Professor” was the player crowds would beg to see destroy their opponents, not some NBA players…
STREETBALL AND HIP HOP – A LOVE AFFAIR
… like Michael Jordan. Okay, to be fair, everybody wanted to see His Airness. But you see what I am getting at? Streetball was huuuge at that time. While MJ had his career moments in probably the highest-rated Finals Series in NBA History against the Utah Jazz in 1998, a grainy video was making rounds. Starring Rafer “Skip 2 My Lou” Alston – who would later be signed with an endorsement deal with AND1 – with his sick moves, the video tape was added with the latest tracks of Hip Hop celebs as well as new rappers such as Mos Def. Two worlds – that have always belonged together – were united in this project: the AND1 Mixtape, an overdue fusion of Streetball and Hip Hop!
Music was and always will be the force of athletes, their kick for adrenaline. You listen to it, you work out to it, you play to it, you feel it and you live it. The street shaped Hip Hop, bball and thus, urban lifestyle. One was not imagined without another, you could say both were walking down the street hand in hand. AND1 gave the tape with any purchase, distributing more than 200 000 of these in a span of only three weeks. The tape was watched and listened to night and day, the whole movement a cultural phenomenon influencing especially a whole new generation of hoopers. What started as a viral marketing campaign of AND1, soon turned into a revolution of basketball.
Summers belonged to streetballers. People were not talking about the stats of their favorite NBA player anymore but about the magic taking place at every court and backyard in their neighborhood. The arrival of the AND1 Mixtape Volume 1 sparked the fire, lighting up the Hip Hop and streetball scene. More tapes were about to follow, containing the most extreme and difficult moves to perform. Leaked into the suburbs of the cities, the tape gained a totally new audience and helped AND1 to an increasingly promotion and popularity.
The release of the Mixtape 3 helped skyrocket AND1 into the unchallenged ruler of the streetball scene. As the largest basketball apparel company, the brand expanded their annual streetball tours into the Mixtape tours. These were famous and legendary for giving AND1 international fame. The greatest streetballers were challenging other hoopers from all over the world in one-on-one’s worldwide, entertaining the masses in over 30 countries. The last ones standing were presented with an endorsement deal with AND1. The tours not only promoted their sales but helped to a television take-over. From 2002 up until 2008, the Mixtape tours were televised live on ESPN under the name “Streetball”, competing with ESPN’s “SportsCenter”. Moreover, streetball themed video games started to release and entertain the masses. Streetball and AND1 were synonymous and they were omnipresent.
For all the AND1 Mixtape Volumes, check our youtube channel youtube.com/kickz!
VC AND TAI CHI
AND1’s probably biggest success was actually quite a coincidence. And what a coincidence! When Vince Carter was drafted to the Toronto Raptors in 1998, he was signed by Puma. Already after his rookie season did VC decide to leave his initial endorsement deal and play in several brands for the rest of his second season before signing with a new company. This was the chance for AND1, sending some pairs of their performance sneakers in his way. Even if Carter was not sponsored by AND1, he wore the famous Tai Chi on probably the best and biggest NBA Slam Dunk Contest in basketball history in 2000. The shoes were perfect for this occasion, because they were inspired by the Ying-Yang symbol. While the ‘Ying’ featured one color inside of the shoe, the ‘Yang’ wrapped another color around the outside and toe of the sneaker. So when Vince started his iconic show, the shoes were like perfectly tailored for him: While dunking, he got one leg up and the ball underneath, making you see one half red and one half white.
To this day, VC’s series of five dunks at this All-Star Weekend is considered to be one of the most iconic moments in NBA history. He put dunking to a new level, taking off like never-seen-before. The AND1 Tai Chi took off right afterwards, getting all its traction from the Dunk Contest. It showed that AND1 could not only do events and graphic tees, but shoes as well. The Tai Chi was one of the most popular basketball shoes of all time, thanks to Vince Carter and his powerful dunk skills.
NEVER GIVE UP
AND1 had quite its ups and downs. While the brand could not sign the slam dunk king, they managed to sign two of NYC’s greatest streetball legends. Lance Stephenson and Rafer Alston, who both made it from Rucker Park to the league. They did good in the NBA, had the never-give-up attitude and fitted perfectly into AND1’s philosophy. They have a creative style and extreme ball handling skills. Furthermore, AND1 signed stars-in-the-making like Isaiah Canaan (Houston Rockets), James Johnson (Toronto Raptors) and Mitch MCGary (Oklahoma City Thunder) the last years. AND1 has always been special – they believe in the underdogs, who never give up, bring out the best in themselves and strive for greatness. They gave dozens of players a chance to change their lives, even if the NBA did not turn out to be their final destination. Players like Allen Iverson, CP3 and Kyrie Irving nowadays influence the league by performing streetball moves that break everybody’s ankles. Those scenes remind you of the heydays of AND1 and the influence they had on the hoop culture. For AND1, it is finally time to start a new tour – let’s call it the greatest comeback tour.
AND1 AND KICKZ.COM
As one of the leading online-shops for premium sneakers and urban fashion we always provide you with the newest stuff of the most popular brands. With our deep knowledge and experience in the street and basketball wear market KICKZ is known as THE expert for sneakerheads and street couture enthusiasts alike. Thus, it is actually unnecessary for us to mention that we have a huge collection of AND1’s finest shirts and greatest kicks. New styles dropped in that will remind you of the golden days of streetball. Check our KICKZ online shop for the famous streetball brand: AND1!
In cooperation with FIVE MAG!