This fall, Reebok paid homage to its rich basketball heritage. Instead of just relying on retro releases, they took key classics, revived them, and bridged the gap from old school to new school. The Q96 and Pumpspective Omni are a great introduction to the brand’s new direction, resonating with nostalgic ’90s sneakerheads and young hoopers alike, by giving them an update to some timeless shoes and fresh performance options to break their opponents ankles in.

There’s no denying the Question Mid’s timeless aesthetics, but it’s 2013, and Reebok knew to be taken seriously on the hardwood it was time to give a new generation of players something that would allow them to strike fast on the court—and look just as fresh as Allen Iverson always did in the process. The new Q96 keeps similar design features from the original Questions, while trimming the fat with its 3D FuseFrame upper for maximum breathability. The cushioning system gets an update as well with the extremely comfortable DMX Foam. And the forefoot flex grooves and herringbone outsole give even the most explosive players enough stability and traction to switch directions on the stop of a dime to fool their defenders.

Who can forget Dee Brown sneaking a peek through his forearm in the Pump Omni Lite to win the ’91 NBA Slam Dunk Contest? The Pumps Omni Lites were an all-around solid mid-cut basketball shoe and featured Hexalite cushioning. They went hard in the streets, having everyone pumping it up in between buckets or between classes. Twenty-two years later, Reebok stripped the original cult classic and combined its latest innovations with the 3D FuseFrame and DMX Foam while keeping the Pump tongue you know and love to create the new Pumpspective Omni. Game recognize game, and people on and off the court do too.

While the sneaker collections of most 20-somethings are peaking, Jeremy Sallee is busy re-creating classics. The 27-year-old Akron alum was chosen by Reebok to help update two of their most iconic silhouettes, which led to the designs for the new Q96 and Pumpspective Omni. Check the interview to find out how the former college ball player turned a scraped John Wall signature shoe into one of the hottest general releases of the new season, as well as what’s next.

Interview by Brandon Edler (@MrBrando3)

Tell us about your history and how you linked up with Reebok for this project.
It basically started when I was 12. I got the Questions and I told one of my friends I could continue to make Reebok better. It was the shoe that made me want to start designing footwear. I loved [Allen] Iverson and played basketball my whole life. I actually got a pair of the black and gold Questions and I was mad because I couldn’t get the white and red pair—I tried everywhere for them. It was around that shoe that I started designing and sketching shoes all the time.

After college I was part of a post-graduate apprenticeship with Reebok, and I was one of the people chosen to participate in its year-long program. Halfway through, Reebok hired me and gave me a great opportunity to start designing on the Classic and Lifestyle stuff. I started working on the Basketball line right around the end of John Wall’s time with the brand.

 

What influenced Reebok to update a classic like the Pump Omni Lite?
The Kamikaze III was the shoe that made Reebok want to go back and start reworking some of its classic basketball shoes. Originally they started with the bring backs (retros) and then the mission was to create updated models of the bring backs. After the changes with John Wall, we didn’t really have that marquee guy—basketball was in our heritage and we wanted to continue that legacy. There was a perfect shift in the brand from classics to tech, so we took that strategy and it influenced us to follow company initiatives and work off the success we were seeing from the retro lines.

You commented you were a player first. Were you a guard? The Pumpspective Omni feels like a guard’s shoe.
I played guard at the University of Akron, and played at a high-level which is one of the best benefits I had. I know what it’s like on the court in terms of a player’s needs. I think I have a lot more knowledge on the performance side thanks to Reebok and my experience on the court gives me an advantage when working on hoop shoes.

What was the most difficult nuisance in keeping the timeless look of the Pump Omni Lite without compromising your vision of an updated sneaker?
The big initiative was to make something reminiscent of the classics, but still push the envelope of our legacy. We want to continue to push the heritage. Over the next year you are going to see us make a bigger impact on the game and have players wearing new things. With the Pumpspective there were so many changes going on at Reebok that caused us to redesign and redesign and redesign the shoe. It originally started off as the John Wall IV, and we went back and redid it a few times. I’d been waiting to do a basketball shoe that I would want to play in since I got to Reebok, and this was my first chance to do it, so I was really happy with the way it came out.

Any advice for kids who want to get into the design game?
Just draw shoes, just continuously draw shoes. I didn't go to Industrial design school like most people do—I just practiced and stayed motivated and learned from some great people.

Can we expect Reebok to remix some more of its iconic models for today’s game?
The Kamikaze IV. Those are certain. We have some other things we are working on that you guys can look out for, but I can’t give away too much.