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The History Of The Reebok Pump

The Reebok Pump is one of the most recognizable basketball sneakers from the late 80s and early 90s. Its technology, a pump, which rested on the tongues, covered by an orange ball, became a sensation. Learn more about the Reebok Pump below.

Origins Of The Pump

The Pump’s main focus was to support athletes and their ankles. The shoe, however, was heavy and bulky. But in 1989, when the shoe debuted, bulky basketball shoes were not completely out of the norm.

Human Highlight Reel

Dominique Wilkins is one of the all-time great NBA stars. Often overlooked today, his highlight reel, which you can look up on YouTube, is still remarkable in 2024. His breathtaking moves and dunks earned him the nickname, “Human Highlight Reel.” Wilkins would become the first endorser for the Pump, he wore sneakers when he won the 1990 Slam Dunk Contest.

Not Just A Basketball Shoe

What made the Reebok Pump unique was that athletes from different sports would wear the shoes. Tennis star Michael Chang, and legendary golfer, Greg Norman, both were a Reebok Pump. The Reebok Pump was all over the sports world. Emmit Smith might have been the biggest star who endorsed the Pump. He wore the shoe while playing running back for the legendary NFL team, the Dallas Cowboys.

reebok pump

The 1991 NBA Dunk Contest

Dee Brown was definitely not the biggest star, or best athlete, to wear the Reebok Pump. However, there is no other athlete in the Reebok endorser camp who impacted the shoe’s prominence more. In 1991, Brown won the NBA Dunk Contest while wearing the Reebok Pump. The Boston Celtics Rookie Card was not expected to do much in the contest. Brown would shock everyone and steal the show. The Reebok Pump was not just on his feet, Dee Brown made the shoe part of his dunk showcase. Before every dunk, Brown would pump on his shoes. The crowd at the contest loved it. It was a viral moment, long before social media. Brown’s showcase of dunks was almost secondary to him pumping up his Reebok Pumps.

The 1991 NBA Dunk Contest

A Pumped Up Legacy

The PUMP technology was secondary to the novelty and spectacle of the PUMP. The shoe integrated an inflatable chamber within the shoe. The wearer could PUMP up the shoe to a customized fit. Reebok would utilize the PUMP in a variety of styles over the years. The shoe stands today as a beloved piece of sneaker, basketball and pop culture 90s nostalgia.


- Adam C. Better