The History of adidas Basketball: Origins of the 2023 Collection
adidas Basketball's new chapter is built on decades of innovation and cultural breakthroughs. Relive the brand's history through the touchstones that shaped it.
adidas Basketball's History
The 2023 collection from adidas Basketball wipes the slate clean to build on pillars of the past; embodying the ethos of ‘only the best for the athlete,’ it is driven by adidas’ longstanding emphasis on amplifying essential features in lieu of excess. The essence of the brand shines through now more than ever.
More than anything, the path forward was paved by revisiting our roots—to rediscover our Why. adidas Basketball has always been inspired by two things: a love of hoops and the belief that the game can take you anywhere. Starting with its origins in the 60s through the technological leaps of the 2000s and beyond, this is the journey that created the 2023 collection.
Beginnings: 1960s + '70s
adidas Basketball’s history began in 1965 with the introduction of two sneakers: the Supergrip and its high-top companion the Pro Model. This was adidas’ first foray into the sport, following years of concepting and prototypes. Over the years, the shoes were retooled and refined based on feedback from professional players at the time.
This eventually led to the invention of the adidas Superstar, which would go on to converge the worlds of sports and fashion forever after it was first released in 1970. By 1973, it is estimated that 75% of basketball players in the American pro leagues were wearing them, along with the Supergrip and Pro Model sneakers. As its appeal broadened, the shell-toe shoe broke cultural barriers and became a worldwide icon.
In the wake of the adidas Superstar’s popularity, more basketball shoes were released over the course of the decade, including the Americana, the Nizza, the Top Ten and the Tournament—now more famously known as the adidas Campus.
The success of the adidas Superstar in the 70s paralleled basketball’s burgeoning global dominance into the 80s. Alongside this, the adidas Top Ten sneaker helped ring in the new decade upon its release in 1979—paving a path for the brand’s greatly expanded lineup of basketball shoes.
While adidas produced several notable basketball shoes in the early 80s like the Concord, the decade would come to be all about one shoe that has since stood the test of time: the iconic adidas Forum. One of the brand’s most enduring silhouettes, it has been remixed and remade countless times since its introduction in 1984. Like the adidas Superstar, it benefited from a broad cultural appeal that originated from a desire for hardwood excellence.
From the mid-80s onward, adidas continued its streak of crafting sneakers that met the demands of the basketball court’s most elite players. Among these was the Rivalry Hi, which had a measurable impact on culture at the time, and the Conductor Hi.
Basketball rose to a level of international fame at the dawn of the 90s that was previously unmatched; by now, virtually every corner of the globe was following and engaging with the sport. Likewise, adidas’ breakthroughs over the decade were numerous, further establishing itself as a key player in the basketball world.
Among the first of many iconic signature shoes adidas produced in this era was the unmistakable Mutombo high-top, which came out in 1993 to great acclaim for its vivid African-inspired print. It was also around this time that adidas introduced the Streetball II shoe, released as the brand was inaugurating the sneaker’s namesake annual tournament in Europe—inviting fans all over the continent to enjoy basketball, music, apparel and food. adidas also sponsored the yearly ABCD Camp beginning in 1994 until 2003; an abbreviation of Academic Betterment and Career Development, it became a launchpad for many future icons of the sport.
The mid-90s also marked the introduction of Feet You Wear technology, which sought to create a more stable and reliable shoe by mimicking the shape and curves of the human foot. Two basketball shoes that utilized it were the Top Ten 2000 and Top Ten 2010, both part of the Equipment collection’s expansion onto the hardwood.
While the iconic Equipment collection launched in 1991 as a line of running shoes, it expanded into the basketball realm with the release of the Elevation sneaker in 1997, later known as the Crazy 97. Also known as EQT, the Equipment collection very simply and boldly showcased the spirit of adidas by focusing on the essentials, and its principles continue to influence the brand to this day. Another touchstone sneaker, the Crazy 8, also dropped in 1997—setting the stage for the 2000s.
adidas Basketball kicked off the new millennium with the Crazy 1 sneaker in 2000, a legendary silhouette that has since been reissued in multiple colorways. It was soon followed up by the adidas T-Mac 1 in 2002, a classic shoe worthy of Tracy McGrady’s legacy with its blending of versatility and athleticism. The T-Mac line continued into the decade with multiple iterations.
Digging into the past with an eye on the present, adidas also brought back a classic in the Pro Model 2G. Launching in 2003, it took the original Pro Model that helped start adidas Basketball’s journey nearly forty years prior and gave it a 2000s twist, featuring a newly designed upper and midsole with extra cushioning for safety. The shoe marked a new era for the brand, as several iconic players cemented their legacies with pairs of Pro Model 2Gs on the hardwood.
Presaging self-lacing shoes and smartphone apps, the adidas_1 running shoe that released in 2005 was built with a microchip that adjusted the sneaker’s foam cushioning based on the surface you were on. Billed as the world’s first intelligent shoe, the brand included the technology in the adidas_1 Basketball model the following year. Around the same time, the memorable Believe in 5ive campaign launched—rallying together five of the sport's top players of the era, including Tracy McGrady.
Derrick Rose helped usher in the next decade of adidas Basketball with the release of the adizero Rose 1 and 1.5 sneakers, which launched in 2010 and 2011 respectively. A lightweight and flexible shoe, it featured a unique open ankle support system that set it apart from other shoes at the time—laying the groundwork for the creativity of the D Rose signature series produced in the years following.
Enter Damian Lillard. One of the most dynamic players of the modern era, Dame made an immediate impact on the sport of basketball when he turned pro in 2012. His first signature shoe, the D Lillard 1, was released in 2015 to great acclaim, spawning multiple colorways. This was followed by the D Lillard 2 and then the Dame 3, which became the name of the line onward. Of note is the Dame 4, which saw a collaboration with iconic Japanese streetwear brand A Bathing Ape in 2018.
That same year, adidas introduced an updated take on the Feet You Wear technology called Boost You Wear. Using the concept of mimicking the human foot as a springboard, it replaced the EVA foam with Boost foam in the heel. The result was the adidas Crazy BYW X, boasting a distinctive silhouette that goes all in on the adidas spirit. The laceless N3XT L3V3L sneaker followed with a release in November 2018, utilizing Lightstrike cushioning and a Primeknit upper.
adidas Basketball has always equipped the modern athlete to perform their best; while everyone’s journey to the hardwood is ultimately different, progress is always made both on and off the court. The 2023 collection stands as evidence of this: Building on the spirit of eras past, its scope extends beyond sports to culture as a whole. Still, it is rooted in an unwavering ambition to craft gear that is as dedicated as the person who wears it; this much was true in 1965, and it remains so today.
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