Sneaker Theater: White Men Can’t Jump

There are few better duos in American film history than White Men Can’t Jump’s Billy Hoyle and Sidney Deane. Others will argue Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Thelma and Louise, Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne, and Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield were more impactful in their respective roles. (Kobe and Shaq certainly dwarfed many of these names with their own on-court drama.) But for hoops fans, Hoyle and Deane reign supreme. Played masterfully by Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes, the two not only played believable streetball hustlers, they were also early ‘90s fashion icons.

Bringing a style that can only be described as unique to the street courts of Los Angeles, Hoyle and Deane certainly didn’t have the everyday look of hoopers. Wearing biker shorts and hats, sweatshorts, sweatshirts, and just about every other article of clothing you wouldn’t associate with basketball, the two hoopers/hustlers thrived when it came to footwear. While Billy and Sidney stuck to Nike, the Swoosh wasn’t the only brand represented. LA Gear, Jordan, adidas, Reebok, and pretty much every popular early ‘90s brands make and appearance at some point throughout the flick.

With ballers like Gary Payton (in an uncredited role) and five-time All-Star Marques Johnson appearing during game action, plus Harrelson and Snipes showing that they have actual game, White Men Can’t Jump is easily up there as one of the best produced basketball movies ever. Check out a few of the kicks featured in the movie in the latest version of Sneaker Theater.

illustration by Marcus Allen/@marcusallen

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For sneakerheads, Billy Hoyle’s Nike Air Command Forces are the lasting memory from White Men Can’t Jump. The super high-tops were David Robinson’s signature kicks during the Hall of Famer’s early years in the L, but ask anyone now and they’ll likely associate the sneaker with Hoyle over the Admiral nine times out of 10. While Robinson is easily one of the nicest guys to ever suit up in the NBA, Hoyle made his bones by trash-talking with the best of them and backed it up with his skills. Nike re-released the Air Command Force in 2014 with Hoyle in mind, releasing the sneaker in the same colorway he rocked in the ‘92 film.
Nike Air Command Force

While Hoyle kept it funky with the Air Command Force, Deane opted for the Nike Air Flight Lite. The consummate hustler, Deane had tricks for days to gain the upper hand over his opponent. Always rocking loud outfits, Deane’s sneaker option may have been the most tame part of his ensemble. Much like the Command Force, Nike released a White Men Can’t Jump-inspired version of the shoe.

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Nike Air Flight Lite

By 1991, Michael Jordan was at the top of the basketball world and had fans all over the planet–including in Laker-mad Los Angeles. Junior, Deane’s confidant played by Kadeem Hardison, was equal part instigator and antagonizer. Rocking a red Bulls “23” jersey and Black/Infrared VIs, Junior easily had the most fire get-up in the movie. Also, shoutout to Deane’s infant baby rocking the VIs…gotta start ‘em young.

Air Jordan 6

Walter, aka Floyd Henderson from Smart Guy, had a small role in White Men Can’t Jump but his sneakers made his bit part memorable. On the wrong side of Deane’s trash talk, Walter gets embarrassed by the more athletic Sidney and finds himself taking a seat on the asphalt.

Air Jordan 5 Fire Red

LA Gear Catapult
Made popular by Karl Malone, LA Gear’s foray into the hoops world had little long-term effect but one of the sneakers that does stand out is the Catapult. We get a closeup look at the sneaker in an early scene side by side with the Command Force and the kick definitely holds its own weight.

LA Gear Catapult

Raymond, played by Marques Johnson, didn’t take too kindly to being played as a dummy on court by the duo of Deane and Hoyle and drags his massive adidas Artillerys across the court to pop the trunk. Made for big men play, the Artillery’s tough look fit Raymond’s hardcore attitude perfectly.

adidas Artillery

We’d be remiss not to include one of the quintessential sneakers of the ‘90s. Immortalized by Dee Brown at the 1991 Dunk Contest, the Pump popped up in White Men on, where else, the streetball court.

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Reebok Omni Pump

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