The bling-bling era of hip hop was done, but 2006 was a time when the economy of New York City, like many places was on the up and up. “Ballin'” was nothing to be ashamed of as many people at the time from Wall Street to street hustles were getting money. Times were good. REALLY good. ALIFE’s use of the term “Ball Out” did what they do best drawing cultural connections of what was happening in the streets of New York to art, apparel, and sneakers.Original ALIFE web flyer for the “Ball Out” from 2006 (via fixins)
February 11, 2006 was the date that the ALIFE x Reebok Court Victory Pump “Ball Out” released in numbers so small that today brands wouldn’t even fathom producing a run so small due to its development costs. The “Ball Out” Pump release was not the first for ALIFE, but it was a game changer. Game changer not just for the Lower East Side spot, but for the concept of sneaker collabs and how they would be executed.
ALIFE took the roots and heritage of the Reebok Court Victory Pump to tell a story about the shoe to consumers in a way that hadn’t been done before. Up until its release, the few collaborations and limited editions of shoes pretty much came with limited executions with just color blocking swaps or maybe a stitched logo on one of the panels, but the ALIFE team took it one step up with the “Ball Out”.
Most associated Reebok’s Pump technology with basketball. Granted, the first Reebok Pump was a hoops shoe, shades were thrown Nike’s direction with “Pump Up – Air Out” commercials starring Dominique Wilkins and former Nike Athlete Bill Walton on network TV, and Dee Brown “pumped up” his kicks before winning the Dunk Contest in ’91, but ALIFE wanted to tell the story of the other sport and athlete that made the Reebok Pump technology what it was – Michael Chang.Michael Chang in Reebok Court Victory Pump ad (via ClassicKicks)
Michael Chang, the Hoboken, New Jersey born and future International Tennis Hall of Famer was just 17 years old when he set the record for being the younger athlete to ever win a Grand Slam on the pro tennis circuit. In 1989, Chang defeated the Adidas signature athlete Stefan Edberg to win the French Open. Reebok Tennis was officially on the map. The following year, the brand introduced Reebok Pump technology to their tennis line and had Michael Chang involved with the global ad campaign.
Taking the tennis theme, ALIFE covered the shoe in the fuzzy tennis ball material to illustrate to anyone who questioned what was the roots of the Reebok Pump sneaker.
As a sucker for history of sneakers, design, and sports, the “Ball Out” ALIFE Reebok Pumps caught my attention from jump because they were the first collaboration sneaker that told a story in a way that resonated with consumers in a new way. Rather than just selling a limited run of sneakers, for the first time, ALIFE built a themed collection around a collaborative project with accessories, T-shirts, and in-store displays to make the shoe’s debut not just a release but an event.
Not only did the ALIFE “Ball Out” Reebok Pumps connect on the wavelength of consumers with the use of colors and materials, but the back story of history through the shoe was a story that many heads wanted to tell one another. There was no Instagram to share pics, no twitter to tweet a link, and Facebook was still just reserved for folks with .edu email addresses, but ALIFE had created a story that was told and retold through the community that was viral in the sneaker subculture.
With the release in a limited run of only 84 pairs dropping in store only at their shop on Rivington and the word spreading about the shoes around the globe, demand for the shoes was insane. So limited in numbers that eBay hunting took dedication and if they did land at Flight Club, they frequently held a four digit price tag.