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Converse Weapon: Choose your weapon

In todays day and age of basketball, every professional basketball player has their own personally branded basketball shoe. The prominent manufacturer in this market is Nike who have the majority of basketball players signed up under their brand. But how did the personalised branded basketball shoe start in the NBA?

The Converse Weapon was launched in 1986 and was the first shoe to be personalised. Converse used the Magic and Bird rivalry to introduce the Magic Shoe in Lakers purple, gold and white. The Bird shoe was understated and simply black and white. However, this was the first time that a trainer had been personalised for a player and from this point on trainers became personalised and unique to an individual.

The success of the bird and magic led to more NBA players getting personalised Converse Weapon basketball shoes. This individuals who were signed to the Converse Weapon campaign were the stars of their teams and therefore, their shoes were their teams colours.

Who had a personalised Converse Weapon Trainer?

The Converse Weapon came in an array of colours, mostly to reflect the team colours which the players represented. For instance Magic Johnson shoe was gold, purple and white to reflect the LA Lakers. The Converse Weapon excelled as Converse has signed six of the biggest basketball names to one trainer. Having six players wearing the same shoe, albeit with different colours, had never happened before within the NBA and was a unique situation which Converse capitalised on. The following table of stars were part of the Converse Weapon campaign and had shoes in their team colours.

Player Team Converse Weapon Colour
Isaiah Thomas Detroit Pistons Blue and White
Magic Johnson La Lakers Gold, Purple and White
Mark Aguirre Dallas Mavericks Green and White
Larry Bird Boston Celtics Black and White
Kevin Mchale Boston Celtics Black and White
Bernard King New York Knicks Orange and White

How was the Converse Weapon marketed?

Through sports marketing the big stars of the NBA at the time, were chosen to advertise the Converse Weapon trainers. However, to begin with the main drive was highlighting the rivalry between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson who met in the NBA finals numerous times during the 1980’s and were signal handily reviving the NBA from its death bed.  The Converse Weapon t.v. commercial took place on Larry Birds basketball court that he built at his mothers house in French Lick, Indiana. Magic Johnson appears from a limousine and challenges Larry Bird to a one on one. The Converse Weapon may not of known it at the time but they had a major hit on their hands.

The Converse team signed up other superstars such as Isaiah Thomas of the Detriot Pistons, Mark Aguirre of the Dallas Mavericks, Kevin Mchale of the Boston Celtics and Bernard King of the New York Knicks. As well as iconic poster prints known as weapon division posters, the Converse team has chosen an epic tag line ‘Choose your Weapon’ to go on each poster. The Converse Weapon brought so much variety to the basketball trainer world and it was this variety that basketball fans had never had before. People could purchase multiple versions of the same trainers in different colours and Converse were rewarded handsomely for this initiative.

Converse’s next advertising move was to put the big-name stars together in a t.v. commercial. The result was the Converse rap advert which gave each of the six stars a couple of lines to describe what they could do with the Converse Weapon:

The Converse Weapon,
that’s the shoe,
Let’s Magic do what he was born to do,
That maybe so but that’s not all,
They let Isaiah play like he is ten feet tall,
With the kind of moves that never fail,
The weapon is the choice of Kevin Mchale
The same is true for Mark Aguirre,
When I wear weapons I am on fire
What can the weapons do for King
Well I can do just about anything
You already know what they did for me
I walked away with the MVP

The advert was a success and sales continued to progress for Converse. 

What came after the Converse Weapon

After the Converse Weapons success, Converse decided to launch a new trainer the following year. The Converses Con’s followed the Converse Weapon and unfortunately for Converse they never hit the same heights as the Converse Weapon. The Converse Cons focused on the scientific elements of basketball shoe which had be specially produced in a laboratory. Whereas, Nike focused on the personalisation styles with their freshly launched Air Jordan range, which went from strength to strength to strength.

A further factor that impacted the sale of Converse was that the stars which were featured for the Converse Weapon advertising campaign were aging. In 1991 Magic Johnson had to retire following his announcement to having HIV. Larry Bird retired in 1992 due to back problems and Bernard King retired in the same year. By 1994 Kevin Mchale, Isiah Thomas and Mark Aguirre has all retired. By 1994 Michael Jordan had already completed a threepeat with the Chicago Bulls and Air Jordan had become a dominant force. Converse squandered their chance to nail down the shoe market which was as a costly mistake, particularly as Converse went bankrupt in 2001 and was eventually bought by Nike.

Where can I buy the Converse Weapon?

These days the best place to pick up a pair of Converse Weapons is from Ebay. This obviously have a previous owner and range from £50 to £100. There was a re-release in 2014 however, at the moment there are no intentions to re-release the weapon again.