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The history of PUMA in NBA

Begun in the 1970s with the first Signature Shoe for Walt Frazier, it now carry on with LaMelo Ball's brand new MB.01

The history of PUMA in NBA Begun in the 1970s with the first Signature Shoe for Walt Frazier, it now carry on with LaMelo Ball's brand new MB.01

It all began with Walt "Clyde" Frazier, the sparkling point guard of the New York Knicks who loved to arrive at Madison Squadra Garden in a Rolls Royce and wear extra large fur coats. In 1972 Frazier was the King of the Big Apple, having won the NBA title two years earlier as an absolute protagonist, and what we would now call a fashion victim, as well as the face of the most famous franchise of the then basketball world. 

A perfect profile for PUMA to enter the American market through the main door. The company founded in Herzogenaurach by Rudolf Dassler created a shoe designed on Frazier's requests, who wanted something light, with a wide sole and enough internal padding to suit his fast and spectacular game. Before that moment, no basketball player had ever had a shoe named after him, an honor that PUMA embellished by embroidering the nickname "Clyde" in italics under the logo on the outside of each pair. This is how the first Signature Shoes of all time were born, and from then on they will be defined in this way because the Clyde literally bore the signature of the player who gave them their name. It was an epoch-making revolution for the world of sports and fashion, the consequences of which we are still living.

Not From Here

Fifty years later PUMA is back on the NBA floor with another Signature Shoe, made with the same attention to detail and dedicated to an equally bright and spectacular talent: the MB.01 for LaMelo Ball. LaMelo in fact is not a player like all the others, as suggested by the slogan that dominates the advertising campaign with which PUMA decided to launch its sneakers - Not From Here -, and in many ways it could not be otherwise. Growing up in the spotlight because of the many, perhaps too many, expectations placed by his father LaVar Ball on his children, already at fourteen years old he was on air on ESPN Primetime with his brothers. 

Their Chino Hills High School team dominated the California competition for years thanks to a non-traditional style made of triples in transition, full-court press and risky passes. The same style that both Lonzo and then LaMelo will bring to the NBA, the first in Los Angeles, New Orleans and finally Chicago while the youngest of the three last year in Charlotte, where he saved the franchise owned by Michael Jordan from anonymity. 

Picked in the third spot  in the 2019 Draft, he immediately made a great impact on the Hornets game, changing the pace and execution to their offense and making them a cult team to watch every night. Passing across the court, one-handed alley-oops and triples off the dribble from unexplored areas of the court, LaMelo has shown in his first year a basketball talent not only effective but above all electrifying, able to attract the interest of those who do not usually follow the Charlotte Hornets or stars and stripes basketball in general. An incredible year sealed as Rookie of the Year awarded without much discussion despite a part of the season missed due to injury. 

PUMA's decision to create a sneaker tailored to his talent was therefore natural. LaMelo is one of the superstars in the making of the contemporary NBA, on the launching pad to become not only one of the strongest athletes - but thanks to his inimitable style on and off the court - one of the most recognizable faces in the league, and PUMA for years had been looking for a pure champion able to bring the brand of the rampant feline to the level that it deserves. From Frazier to Isiah Thomas, from Ralph Sampson to Vince Carter, PUMA has always chosen testimonials that possess a recognizable and engaging aesthetic, in line with that of the German brand. A tradition too important to be extinguished at the end of the nineties.

The big PUMA comeback 

PUMA in fact recently decided to return to invest heavily in the basketball market, signing Jay-Z as Creative Director of Basketball Operations in 2018 thanks to the strong relationship built over time with Roc Nation. And since Hov's arrival, PUMA has begun signing sponsorship contracts with two first overall picks - Deandre Ayton and Anthony Edwards - as well as many other youngsters selected in the top positions of the latest drafts. Among them obviously LaMelo Ball, a bet that immediately proved to be a winner for both parties.

When Jay-Z accepted his role he immediately specified how he wanted to go back to where it all began, with Walt Frazier's "Clyde", to recreate that relationship between performance, sports, music and culture that burned New York in the 70s. When the Clyde soon became the shoe to use in the city playgrounds and then go dancing in clubs and private parties while under the DJs' pins hip-hop was born.

In this LaMelo is instrumental, with his attitude at the same time carefree and futuristic, too cool to waste time with the opinions of other earthlings, to weave a space-time portal with Walt Frazier. In fact, just as Clyde loved furs and Rolls Royces to the point of becoming the model on which the protagonists of Blaxploitation of that period were written, LaMelo scatters his Instagram with shots next to his Lamborghinis while dressed in the same color note, often so bright as to be visible from space. And his MB.01s perfectly interpret his colorful and playful style with a first edition completely bathed in a Martian orange, featuring intricate unique details that echo LaMelo's tattoos and the flames of a rocket taking off on the 3D printed upper. On the tongue of the shoe, LaMelo's creativity is defined as "Not From Here" and the word "Rare" appears on the outsole to describe his talent on the hardwood floor and a sneaker that can't and won't go unnoticed, as spectacular as a no-look pass and as bold as a two-handed dunk.

LaMelo Ball's MB.01 is available at Foot Locker in store and online, here.