Steve Doud and Addison True have very different basketball backgrounds.
From the style of the game to the fashion behind it, basketball in the early 1980s looks almost nothing like the sport today. Even more so, when it was created in 1891, basketball appeared to come from a completely different world. And basketball shoes tell one story of the sport’s evolution during the past 125 years. Prices, colors, materials — name it and it has evolved.
Doud, Mt. Vernon’s girls basketball coach, for example, remembers a time when high schools supplied shoes. True, a junior-to-be at Eastern Hancock, will pay around $100 to lace up this winter.
Doud worried about his sole blowing out. True — with increased shoe technology — won’t have to worry about popping a tire. True also will sport a bright royal blue while Doud was stuck with mostly black and white options.
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And those changes are just within the past 30 years. Basketball shoes from the beginning wouldn’t stand a chance.
“I couldn’t imagine wearing them,” said True, who averaged 16.1 points per game as a sophomore.
Graduating from Mt. Vernon in 1982, Doud and other teammates didn’t need to buy a pair of shoes — Converse Chuck Taylor’s he said — until their junior and senior seasons. And they were such poor quality, by today’s standards, that when an athlete would sweat the shoes would turn yellow, according to Doud.
“I want to say they were $15, and we had two pairs,” Doud said. “The shoes all the kids like to wear around now as leisure shoes were our team shoes.”
Doud also said the lowest team shoe option was $75 last winter for the Marauders. And the total team package with practice jerseys and all? Approximately $180.
“Right now I want to say our team shoes cost $110 and that’s discounted,” Doud said. “Those are designed for teams. They are a little more durable. They don’t have all the thrills of Air Jordans.”
Nike, which now owns Converse, is the premier brand, too, according to True. Air Jordans, which came to life because of Michael Jordan’s shoe contract in 1984, are a part of the Nike brand, as well.
“They look a thousand times better (now),” True said.
Although shoe styles have changed dramatically, athletes like True and former New Palestine forward Carly Hackler, who will play at Anderson University this season, are still choosing comfort over style when playing the game. Collectors like Frankie Turner from Mt. Vernon (Evolution of Shoe Part 1) would most likely never be caught on the court with a pair of $300 Air Jordans.
“I look for quality shoes that look clean and simple and are also effective,” Hackler said. “No flashy colors or designs, just a stable shoe representing my school colors.”
But not only have the shoes changed, so have the bodies wearing them.
With an added emphasis on weight training, athletes are stronger and quicker than before. Basketball shoes at the end of the season can begin to look rather rough. Not only do players have to worry about shredding their shoes, they must focus on not turning an ankle.
“Bottom line, you don’t wear out the soles (these days),” Doud said. “Now it’s the stitching; we’ve had problems in the past with the boys. They would basically just blow out their shoe from making a hard cut or something like that. But you won’t wear out the bottom.”
True, who will only wear high tops during the season, and Doud are both big supporters of ankle braces.
“I wear high tops to keep my ankles safe even though low tops are more comfortable,” True said.
Added Doud, “I would like to make them (ankle braces) mandatory, but it’s one more cost to the athlete.”
According to Hackler, though, the price isn’t usually the biggest concern for athletes and families. Although expensive, the overall hours spent in the gym make the purchase worth it. If taken care of, basketball shoes can last years.
And like True, Hackler would never dream of playing in a low top pair of shoes like Doud did in the 1980s.
“Playing in a pair of Chuck Taylors would be quite stylish, but I’d imagine there’d be many literal broken ankles,” she said.