In 1975, everyone's favorite doctor, Julius Erving, signed an exclusive footwear deal with Converse. Once considered a pinnacle manufacturer of athletic shoes, it was Dr. J's willingness to become a full-time Converse ambassador that dramatically changed consumers' perception of the brand.
Ever since the ink dried on that original deal, Erving has remained part of the Converse empire. He's served on the board of directors and as a trustee, lending his insight to the company's ongoing efforts.
Bleacher Report got the unique opportunity to speak with Irving, discussing all things Converse, as well as the current state of NBA kicks.
B/R Kicks: You were a pioneer when it came to the Converse Pro Leather series, eventually dubbed the Dr. J's. How did that sneaker help define Converse's place in basketball history?
Julius Erving: Well, I think the years when I wore the shoe, Magic (Johnson) and Larry (Bird) did, all three of us were playing on teams that were competing for a title. We were key guys and all-league MVPs. We wore the shoes with pride.
They were an evolution from the previous Converse shoe. There was a lot of tech in that shoe, although it still had the simplicity of white with red trim. People related to it and the people who were wearing it. That was the heyday of the product.
B/R: Why do you think the Chuck Taylor—a simple style originally meant for the court—has had such a lasting impact on style and culture?
Erving: It's an American brand. So despite what people say, they're—Converse—still loyal to products that are made here in America, just like basketball, which is perceived to be America's game because of the Springfield connection.
In its simplicity, it also sounds authentic. It's not complex. No X's, no Q's. No fancy Italian label. It's just Chuck Taylor. Some people even call them the bobos. They have weathered the storm for so long.
B/R: What sneakers outside of Converse today do you love?
Erving: I got some cool Gucci sneakers. High-tops. Michael's been great over the years. Brand Jordan has captured the imagination of people young and old. I don't own any, but the kids have asked for them.
B/R: What are the main differences between today's kicks and the Converse you wore?
Erving: I think the technology contributes to the shoe lasting longer. Being very resilient compared to the original canvas shoe. You got a couple weeks' wear out of it. Now, some of the shoes out there, you can't wear them out. Some of them look like cinderblocks.
B/R: What current athletes do you think will pioneer sneakers moving forward?
Erving: I think Steph Curry is the next guy. What Curry is doing with Under Armour is different. Young people will relate better to him because he's a normal-sized guy. The old quote is, Wilt Chamberlain said, "Nobody likes Goliath." Kids can't relate to big men because they're oversized. Curry would be the poster boy for many.
B/R: Who is one current NBA player you wish you could guard or do battle with?
Erving: I look at Kawhi Leonard and say, that guy, he's got it. He doesn't say a whole lot, but he's got it. I would really love to have him as a teammate as opposed to take him one-on-one.
B/R: What has it been like to watch the brand evolve since you wore Converse on the court?
Erving: Sort of like watching a horse race. At one time, Converse had the largest market share in the industry. Homegrown product with plants across the country. Then things change. With the change, Nike, Adidas, Reebok and Under Armour, these guys came on hard and strong.
B/R: What does the future hold for Converse?
Erving: It won't go away even though competition has tried to make it. Converse is here to stay.
The legacy of the Chuck Taylor continues with the Converse NBA collection. The pack represents all 30 teams through three distinct designs: Gameday, Legend and Franchise. The collection releases September 29.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.