In the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, showmanship is just as important as athleticism. That may have never been more evident than it was in 1991, when Boston Celtics guard Dee Brown upset freakishly athletic favorite Shawn Kemp to bring home the trophy. That's not to say Brown wasn't an elite athlete — with the hops he showed at just 6-foot-1, he clearly was. However, it was his creativity that set him apart from the field. Fans primarily remember the '91 contest for two reasons: Brown flying in blind in the finals and pumping up his Reebok sneakers before dunks.
"When I did it, I didn’t really think about what I was doing," Brown told Sole Collector about pumping up his shoes. "Reebok didn’t tell me to do it. It was my own idea. I didn’t know it was going to start this whole 'shoe war' at the time, when people started really identifying players with shoes. Obviously Jordan was Jordan. For me to be able to put a shoe on the map for something I did in the Dunk Contest is unbelievable, and 26 years later we’re still talking about it."
Despite the contest's inconsistency, Brown says he still watches each year, offering praise to another former Celtic who also won the title in Reebok Pumps in 2007.
"When Gerald Green did my dunk with my jersey and stuff like that. You feel good when people copy your dunk or do your dunk. It’s an honor when people do that."
Brown is of course speaking about his iconic "No Look" dunk, ahead of its time and still holding up well today. In an assessment of where the dunk ranks all-time, Brown finds it tough to assign it a number, but rates it on par with some of the best efforts from Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins.
"Everybody in every contest has something special. Mine is more identifiable because it was in the early ‘90s and nobody had ever seen that dunk before. I pumped up the shoes which obviously helped sell everything. And that was my last dunk–the icing on the cake dunk."
On the other hand, Brown has no problem telling you where his shoe, the Reebok Pump Omni Lite, ranks in Dunk Contest sneaker history.
"I put mine up there at number one. When people think about the dunk contest, they know that shoe. When they see a Reebok Pump, the first thing they do is cover their eyes and pump their shoes. Nobody can probably tell you the exact shoes that Michael wore when he won the dunk contest in Chicago. Sneakerheads can, but your average person can’t. But if a person says what shoes did Dee Brown wear in the dunk contest? Reebok Pump."
Fittingly, Reebok is celebrating All-Star Weekend by bringing back Dee Brown's Pumps, available now at reebok.com, Sneaker Politics and Foot Action.