Before Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan sneakers dominated the NBA’s footwear landscape, there was another basketball sneaker that commanded the hardwood.

The Converse Weapon was the basketball nonplus ultra of the late ’80s. Upon its release in 1986, the shoe was most famously worn by Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, though it's fair to say that pretty much every NBA star except for Jordan wore the Converse Weapon at some point in the late ’80s.

The Weapon was a bulky high-top leather sneaker that represented Converse’s latest evolution in the basketball sneaker space. It was the brand’s most advanced shoe at the time, adding to a legacy started by the Chuck Taylor and continued by Julius Erving’s Pro Leather model. A fully leather upper, which featured padding in the heel and ankle areas for added comfort, sat atop a no-frills midsole.

In 1986, Magic vs Bird was the biggest rivalry of the NBA, made even bigger by the fact that they played for two franchises that hated each other: the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. Both players wore Converse’ Weapon, which opened up myriad possibilities when it came to marketing the shoe.


Converse’s basketball strategy at the time was to outfit a wide range of the league’s best players in their premier sneaker. Magic and Bird appeared in advertisements under the header “Choose Your Weapon,” and both were outfitted with colorways of the sneaker that reflected their respective teams. Magic and Bird had been rivals since their NCAA days in 1979, when Magic-led Michigan State beat Bird’s Indiana State, so it made sense that two of the biggest names in basketball would propel the Weapon into the upper echelon of NBA sneakers.

For the most part, Converse’s marketing strategy worked. Other stars were more than happy to sign on to wear the same shoe as the two greats, meaning Converse soon boasted a roster featuring the likes of  Isaiah Thomas, Kevin McHale, Mark Aguirre, and Bernard King. The Weapon’s popularity was relatively short-lived, however, as Nike soon flipped the script and changed the way professional athletes were marketed. Instead of building up a roster of stars, the Swoosh put all of its eggs in Jordan’s basket. The rest, of course, is history.

After the Air Jordan line took off in popularity, the Weapon — much like the players that wore it — faded from the limelight somewhat. Today, only the most ardent sneakerheads or basketball fans will know what the Converse Weapon is and what it represented, while in the ’80s it was one of the most popular basketball models.

Fast-forward 40 years, and Converse has recently relaunched the Weapon as part of its CX line. The CX project had already reimagined the Chuck Taylor, injecting it with contemporary technology. The same was done with the Weapon, which has seen its outsole completely redesigned and outfitted with a CX Foam midsole. The sneaker’s upper is where Converse has tried to stay as true to the original as possible, using the 1986 original as a blueprint for its design.

Part of the relaunch includes a range of collaborations, the first of which is with freshly-minted Converse partner Rick Owens. Owens, through his DRKSHDW label, has turned up the chunk on the already-bulky silhouette, giving the sneaker an unmistakable Rick Owens twist. The sneaker, dubbed TURBOWPN, features Owens’ signature extended tongue alongside a hefty midsole that is treated with an aged look.

Other brands have found success recently by bringing back old school models that have laid dormant for some time. adidas Originals has brought back the Forum — also an ’80s silhouette — while Nike is famous for its retros. The move makes sense, as sneaker collecting is intrinsically linked to feelings of nostalgia, and what’s more nostalgic than an OG sneaker that used to be in someone’s rotation coming back again?

With the Weapon, Converse is tapping into that nostalgia, while offering fans of the silhouette and newer sneakerheads alike a fresh take through collaborations and by utilizing new technology on the sneaker.

Rick Owens’ TURBOWPN dropped this week in its launch all-black colorway (with more reportedly on the way), while the Converse Weapon is set to be re-released in a range of colorways, including this cream and orange pair available at Highsnobiety Shop.

Time will tell whether Converse’s new-age version of the Weapon will catch on with contemporary sneakerheads. The fact is, though, that the legacy of the sneaker can’t be ignored. The Converse Weapon is a bona fide legend in its own right and a big part of sneaker culture.

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DRKSHDW x Converse

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