AND1 began in the summer of ’93 in Philadelphia as a graduate school project of Jay Coen Gilbert, Seth Berger, and Tom Austin who were selling t-shirts out of the backseat of their cars.
The brand was founded with an aggressive, street ball, in-your-face attitude using basketball trash talk slogans on t-shirts, like "Pass. Save yourself the embarrassment." AND1 marketed itself towards the “ballers," those who hone their craft on the streets and always think they’re the best players on the court.
The AND1 brand got off to a quick start as the trash talk t-shirts sold to Foot Locker and reached 1,500 stores nationwide by the second year.
With the increasing success of the trash-talk tees, the iconic AND1 player logo was soon created. The player logo perfectly represented the DNA of AND1 as a true streetball brand. In the words of Seth Berger, co-founder of AND1: “By shining a light on a game that lived in the shadows, streetball started shaping the basketball lifestyle. In the middle of the storm was the Player. The Player made it okay to talk trash as long as you could back it up. The faceless and raceless icon gave ballers everywhere the confidence to take on all comers. He brought attitude back to the courts and swagger to the streets. The Player backed down to no one, and he wasn’t afraid to say it.”
In 1996, legendary NBA player and future Hall of Famer Stephon Marbury became AND1’s first NBA ambassador, paving the way for the scores of players the brand would sign in the years to come. Marbury was named to the All-Rookie Team in ’97 and went on to lead the Timberwolves to the NBA Playoffs in ‘97 and ’98, bringing AND1 much fame in its early stages.
With the Marbury signing, AND1 launched its first pair of basketball sneakers, essentially expanding the brand into the footwear category. The brand debuted its footwear at the 1997 NBA All-Star Game, officially releasing the Stephon Marburys, which wound up becoming one of AND1’s greatest shoes.
THE SKIP TAPE
In late 1998, a videotape containing streetball stunts was delivered to AND1 by a high school coach in New York. The low-quality video was a “mixtape” of hip-hop music and dazzling basketball moves by a streetballer named Rafer Alston, who had just entered the 1998 NBA Draft.
A short while later, AND1 edited and reprinted 50,000 digital copies of Alston’s Mixtape and distributed them across America through basketball camps, clinics and record labels. The tape instantly became the buzz of the basketball world.
The videotape was later known as the "Skip Tape," referring to Alston's streetball nickname "Skip 2 My Lou." Alston, although not yet in the NBA, would soon sign with AND1.
Once the “Skip Tape” created major buzz for AND1, the brand began to produce multiple “AND1 Mixtapes." The Mixtapes were all similar to the Skip Tape - clips of highly entertaining streetball moves with hip-hop and rap playing in the background.
The Mixtape would soon become a major selling tool with the Sports Specialty Retailers. AND1 partnered with FootAction in the summer of ‘99 to start distributing the mixtape nationally, with FootAction offering a free Mixtape DVD with the purchase of any sneakers or apparel. Demand for the tapes reached an unprecedented level as approximately 200,000 tapes were distributed in the span of three weeks, making the Mixtape one of the most successful promotions in US retail history.
The Mixtape’s success resulted in AND1 touring the country every summer in search of the next streetball legends to appear on subsequent Mixtapes.
THE DUNK CONTEST
The AND1 Tai Chis were always one of the brand’s greatest shoes, known for both performance and style with a yin yang look. But in 2000, they were instantly vaulted into the stratosphere. At the time Vince Carter was between contracts, so he decided to give the Tai Chis a go. Carter then put on one of the greatest performances in NBA Dunk Contest history—all while wearing the red and white Tai Chis.
In the words of Ryan Drew, former VP of footwear at AND1: “Not only was that maybe the best series of dunks I have ever seen, because it was just dunks that you’d never even seen before, but it was almost like the dunks that he had done were tailor made for the color-blocking of the shoe. The dunk where he goes between the legs, he’s got one leg up and the ball is under, and you see one half red and one half white. It was unbelievable. Then, every single image for the next three or four months that was NBA related was him in the Dunk Contest with our shoe on.”
Beginning with the Marbury signing and the Rafer Alston discovery two years later, NBA players throughout the league began to sign with AND1, siding with the "underdog" in a major power play competing with the bigger brands. By the 2001 season, AND1 was second in market share among NBA endorsees, just eight years after its inception.
Players like Latrell Sprewell, Kevin Garnett and Jamal Crawford brought AND1 into the national spotlight. The players AND1 signed always matched the brand’s streetball profile, with the in-your-face, best-on-court attitude.
THE MIXTAPE TOUR
In 2002, the brand’s annual summer tour officially expanded into the AND1 Mixtape Tour. Legendary streetballers such as “Hot Sauce” and “The Professor” would go from city to city, court to court to challenge the greatest streetballers in one-on-one’s, entertaining fans and providing much of the footage for the ensuing Mixtapes. The streetballers who prevailed through the very end of the summer tours would receive endorsement deals from AND1.
In the years that followed, while the NBA would own the basketball season, AND1 dominated the summers. For years the tours were televised live on ESPN under the name “Streetball” and competed with ESPN’s “SportsCenter” for the highest ratings.
The summer tours began in America but soon branched into more than 30 countries, giving AND1 international fame and promoting the sale of their products in 130 countries and territories.
NBA FINALS MVP
One of the most prominent appearances of AND1’s NBA endorsees was when Chauncey Billups took home the MVP honors during the 2004 NBA Finals, wearing the AND1 Rises. The mid-top sneakers’ clean and aggressive look matched “Mr. Big Shot” Billups’ game perfectly.
Billups had played a big part in the Pistons knocking off the New Jersey Nets in the Conference Finals, and then led them to the finish line with a 4-1 Finals Series victory against the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers. Billups averaged 21 points and 5 rebounds in the series, leading the Detroit Pistons to their first championship in 14 years and picking up the MVP award in the process - all while wearing the AND1 Rises.
AND1 GOES DIGITAL
In 2006, AND1 made a big splash in the digital arena, partnering with UBISOFT to release its first video game, AND1 Streetball. The games were available on both PlayStation 2 and Xbox and received positive reviews. A mobile version was also released by Gameloft.
The game featured a story mode mirroring AND1’s "Streetball" series on ESPN, where players were able to create their own basketball player and enter him in the AND1 Mix Tape Tour in order to get a contract with the AND1 team. Along the way, players were able to create their own stylized trick moves and pull them off with a two-analog stick system called "I BALL”. The game also included AND1’s vintage Mixtape music, integral to the DNA of the brand and a big part of AND1’s continued success.
By 2008, AND1 had fully taken over America. The revolution which began with a few college graduates selling t-shirts out of the backseat of their car in Philly soon caught fire on the courts nationwide and, shortly thereafter, globally.
Multitudes of NBA players were now wearing AND1 on and off the court, proud to be part of the streetball revolution that had swept the nation. Every game of the Mixtape Tour that year was played in NBA arenas, capping off AND1’s true capture of the basketball world.
Critics would complain that AND1’s style of play was “tainting” the purity of the game, as streetballers would put on shows of extraordinary moves that didn’t always comply with the conventional rules of basketball. But the rest of the world begged to differ. This was basketball.
SKIP IN THE FINALS
In 2009, AND1’s longest-tenured endorsee Rafer “Skip 2 My Lou” Alston led the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals versus Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Skip wore the AND1 Cubics throughout the ‘09 season, all the way to the finals.
After another one of his high-scoring playoff games, Magic teammate Dwight Howard said this about Skip: “He wasn’t Rafer Alston [tonight], he was the playground legend ‘Skip 2 My Lou.' When he plays like the playground legend, he’s tough to guard.”
The Magic ultimately lost the series in five games, but Skip’s presence in the finals brought great acclaim to AND1, as his story was covered numerous times in the papers, always as AND1’s number 1 streetballer.
In 2012, AND1 signed Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson to an NBA endorsement deal. Stephenson had won the NYC basketball championships in all four years of high school, becoming New York’s all-time leading scorer in high school basketball. He signed a multi-year deal with the Indiana Pacers in 2012, the year AND1 picked him up.
Born Ready Stephenson fit the AND1 streetball personality perfectly, with his aggressive never-back-down attitude, and put on national display during the 2014 NBA Conference Finals. After single-handedly leading the Pacers past the Knicks in the round prior, Stephenson was paired against Miami Heat’s Lebron James and put on a show for the world to see. From trash-talking to “mind games” to even blowing in James’ ear at one point, Lance did whatever he could to get into James’ head and under his skin. While the Pacers eventually lost the series in six, no one has forgotten the show Stephenson put on in the 2014 Playoffs, solidifying himself as a true AND1 streetballer.
In celebration of their 20-year anniversary, the brand hosted the AND1 Labor Day Summer Remix in August 2013. The weekend festivities took place in Philadelphia, where AND1 began exactly two decades prior. The main event was a three-day, $100,000 winner-take-all basketball tournament, with the $100,000 prize money becoming the largest cash prize for one event in streetball history. The tournament also featured a $10,000 dunk contest.
Teams were comprised of AND1 NBA players and streetball legends, as well as accomplished basketball players from around the world. DJ’s and live music performers were also on-hand, rounding out the AND1 streetball atmosphere and making it the event of the summer for basketball diehards.
GIVING BACK IN BROOKLYN
Paying homage to Brooklyn Streetball culture, AND1 partnered with SLAM Magazine to host numerous events surrounding the 2015 NBA All Star Game, right across from the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, which was hosting the All Star games.
Leading up to the game, Lance Stephenson and Rafer Alston, both born and raised in Brooklyn, hosted various charity events throughout Brooklyn, such as free basketball clinics for the local youth in Coney Island.
On gameday, AND1 launched an exclusive pop-up retail lounge on Flatbush Avenue, directly across the street from the Barclays Center. The lounge featured an art installation curated by SLAM showcasing iconic basketball superstars and images of New York City streetballers. New product drops were also showcased during the event with proceeds from all sales benefiting Brooklyn-based community organizations.
A NEW GENERATION
In 2016, AND1 solidified itself among the new high school basketball generation by introducing AND1 uniforms, converting hundreds of AAU and high school teams to AND1 within the first year. AND1 also sponsored numerous tournaments countrywide as part of the AND1 Dominate the Game series. The tournaments brought in tens of thousands of spectators and were covered by local ESPN channels and SLAM. The Dominate the Game series led into the AND1 Circuit, a high school cross-state tournament, in 2017.
AND1 also launched the DTG Challenge, where fans were dared to videotape their best moves and send them in, in hopes of being in the next AND1 Mixtape. The challenge brought great buzz to AND1, with fans constantly looking to outdo each other - on the courts and on social media.
KEVIN GARNETT AND THE TAI CHI RE-RELEASE
In 2018, AND1 re-released the original Tai Chi at ComplexCon in Long Beach, California. The iconic Tai Chi shoe had gained fame and acclaim nearly two decades earlier the moment Vince Carter put them on for the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. It was the moment when the raw talent and grit of streetball was fused with the prestige and fame of professional basketball. The Tai Chi really captivated America, remaining AND1’s most notable shoe and an icon in the footwear industry from the day it debuted. It has become a sought-after collector’s item ever since.
The Tai Chi re-release was spearheaded by NBA and AND1 legend Kevin Garnett, who returned to AND1 for the brand’s 25th year anniversary as the creative director and global ambassador. Garnett remains one of the most recognizable NBA players from the last 25 years, frequently seen on TNT during live NBA broadcasts.
PAINT THE PARK
Continuing in AND1’s long tradition of corporate social responsibility, AND1 embarked on an incredible mission to refurbish basketball courts all around the country. Selecting key underprivileged markets, AND1 redid countless courts across the country - everything from the pavement and paint to the hoops and backboards.
Each court refurbishment included a community launch for which thousands of people came out to celebrate their new park. The events were filed with star performances, meet-and-greets with AND1 legends and massive donations of AND1 gear to the local youth. This initiative continues through today, a massive undertaking of the brand to truly support and give back to communities across America.