March 13, 2014 BY Aaron Kr. / 12
It’s pretty evident that the legacy of ASICS as a brand will be best remembered for their contributions to the running shoe category, but there was once a time when they were a well-respected name in the basketball world as well. In fact, that’s where the company got its start back in 1949 when founder, Kihachiro Onitsuka, began manufacturing basketball sneakers out of his living room. Since then, the brand has branched out and excelled in a number of different sports and footwear categories, but basketball will always remain an important part of their history.
It’s been a while now since ASICS was a competitive force in the b-ball realm, but back in the ’80s and ’90s they had quite a few models that saw significant popularity and even made their way onto the NBA hardwood. In the midst of that run, the most significant milestone would be the signing of superstar point guard and surefire Hall of Famer, Isiah Thomas – a move that not only raised the brand’s profile in the basketball community, but also led to the creation of one of their most beloved silhouettes.
Isiah’s 1992 signature model, the Gel-Spotlyte, upped the ante for ASICS’ basketball street cred, but more importantly helped to usher in the notion of the “guard shoe”. Prior to joining the ASICS family, Thomas had worn high-cut Converse and Pumas for most of his career, but the speed-centric ASICS mindset offered an approach that felt better suited to his size and style of play, not to mention the opportunity to have direct input on the creation of his shoe. The result was a lower, lighter shoe for the smaller, quicker player, and for Isiah, that was a dream come true.
Now over twenty years later, ASICS is paying homage to Isiah Thomas and their underappreciated basketball heritage with the long overdue re-issue of the Gel-Spotlyte, true to its original form in construction and colorways. Two OG make-ups of the Spotlyte will be hitting select ASICS accounts next month, so to properly set the stage, we were able to connect with Isiah himself to talk about the shoe’s original heyday and genesis, as well as his thoughts on the 2014 return. Continue on for our ASICS Gel-Spotlyte preview gallery and an exclusive interview with NBA legend, Isiah Thomas.