In the history of sports equipment, athletes have always been looking for an edge over the competition, or a level of comfort to help them perform their best. Imagine Alex Ovechkin playing with an old pair of brown leather to-your-elbow hockey gloves. Or Peyton Manning rocking a leather helmet. Or Albert Pujols picking a throw with one of those puffy brown mitts with three laces instead of a pocket. My elusive point is, it’s not the case. Sport has evolved, and with it, its equipment has evolved. Athletes today are bigger, stronger, faster, and therefore; the equipment is bigger, lighter, and works better. So when I heard about the NBA banning a shoe, I was a little surprised.
The shoe in question is the Concept 1s from APL- Athletic Propulsion Labs. I took a gander at their website, and they’re actually quite proud that they are banned by the NBA. Which, as a marketing guy myself, is the perfect route to go to attract the high school kid willing to shell out the $300 for a basketball shoe. I looked at their testing data, and it’s actually a little surprising. They tested that 11 out of 12 participants increased their vertical leap by using the shoe. The problem I’m seeing is that most of them increased their leap by only an inch, with the most being 3.5 inches. An inch is great, it may get you a fingertip block or two at some point during the season, but seriously…
The NBA is banning a shoe that increases vertical leap by an inch? Seems a little overzealous. Imagine it if the NHL took this stance when one piece sticks came in, or baseball when maple bats became popular(even though they might regret that now)? I instantly saw right through this as the NBA doing a favor to their boys- the Adidas, Nike, Converse, Reebok, etc that help pay the bills at Mr. Stern’s office. I get that. But it kind of represents a disturbing precedent, with the NBA saying “Hey they are the little guy trying to improve the game; you’re not a big money sponsor, so no one can wear your shoes regardless of your product.” Seems kind of messed up to me.
Of course, we’ve seen this before, if you recall the controversy surrounding the full body swimsuits used in competitive swimming but were subsequently banned in the Olympics. I can sort of understand that one. All of the major brands made a suit like that, and swimming has always been about nakedness in the water, whatever. But the NBA banning a shoe, is a little different. You can make the argument that basketball shoes have evolved to increase performance. Nothing against Chuck Taylor’s, but compare the ankle support on those to the latest pair of Jordan’s. See my point? Ingenuity is a great thing, it keeps things fresh, and in sports, it improves the game.
So as much as I’d like to support the NBA, I can’t. As a sports nut, and a sports equipment nut, I don’t like the message this sends to small equipment companies with great ideas, even with marginal improvements.
If you play basketball and your looking for extra height on your jumps, check out the Concept 1′s here.