The Magic Happens at 7 1/2 Pumps

Published in Sneakers on Jul 5, 1994

Ever since the day Dee Brown pumped up his Reeboks and went on to win the 1991 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, I had been saving to buy a pair.

It took me 2 years, 1 month, and 21 days, but I'm a proud owner of those black, white, and orange Reebok Pump Omni Lights.

Reebok Pump Omni Lights

Only, they didn't work as advertised. The commercials promised that with just a few pumps and I'd soar like Jordan, like an eagle, like a feather on the wind. In reality, I lost 2mm on my vertical jump because they're heavier than my previous kicks. I was devastated, but determined.

I hunted down a VHS tape of the dunk contest and watched it a dozen times. It was undeniable! Dee Brown lined up for a dunk bit first paused to reach down, pump his Reeboks, and immediately dazzled the crowd. This was no fluke. It was the shoes. I studied the footage. Closely, carefully, and methodically.

At first it appeared that Dee pumped his sneakers 10 or 11 times. He really went to town on those things. But neither 10 pumps nor 11 pumps made any difference for me. In fact, 11 pumps started to cut off my circulation which one time caused me to stumble and fall into a chain link fence which left diamond shape marks on my face for the better part of a day.

So I went full scientific method. In order, I tried:

  • 8 pumps 3 times
  • 9 pumps 3 times
  • 10 pumps 5 times
  • 11 pumps 5 times
  • 12 pumps once, even though 11 was already too many

Nothing. Shame. Regret. I had spent almost 2 years of allowance on these sneakers! But then I noticed something. I was reviewing Dee's footage and even though the VHS tape was worn and tracking poorly from all the use, I saw it. 3 missed pumps and one single half pump. It's not clear if his fingers were sweaty and he mis-pumped a few times or perhaps he was masking the secret to his greatness. Either way, the secret knowledge was mine, and just time too because my VHS tape was worn thin and nearly unplayable.

The magic happens at 7 1/2 pumps.

With Dee and Reebok's secret knowledge in hand, I could dunk! I could soar! I began playing street ball downtown for money, and started to rake it in. I made friends more easily than any point in my life and enemies even easilier. I found I, just like Dee Brown, had to mask the number of pumps lest my competitors gain the hard-earned secret to my success.

“Where'd you learn how to jump like that, kid?”

I spun around to see NBA legend Clyde Drexler towering over me. I had just schooled a trio of posers in a rousing game of 3-on-1 and had literally dunked over two of them at once.

"Oh you know, here and there." I replied. He eyed my pumps. I eyed his pumps. We made eye content and something of a shared secret passed between us. The corner of his mouth cracked upwards in a smirk. "I expect I'll be seeing you in a few years, kid."

I expect he shall. I expect very much indeed.