Basketball, one of the most important sports in sneaker culture, was invented in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts, the very same town where Charles Goodyear had developed vulcanized rubber fifty years earlier. Originally developed by James Naismith for the YMCA Training School, the sport was enthusiastically adopted by universities and secondary schools, and it proved especially popular in urban centers since it required relatively little physical space or specialized equipment.

Basketball’s popularity was not lost on sneaker manufacturers. The exact date of the first dedicated basketball shoe is difficult to pinpoint, but by the 1920s major brands such as Keds and Converse were offering footwear designed for the game. In the early 1920s, Converse contracted basketball player and coach Chuck Taylor as both a spokesman and design advisor, and his name was added to the All Star in 1934.

Basketball shoes continued to develop through the mid-twentieth century, and by the 1970s the fashion for fitness gave birth to the status sneaker. It was in New York City that sneakers became cultural icons: on urban courts, the cults of personality and fashion combined, making basketball shoes a means of flaunting individuality both on and off the courts.