It’s 8 o’clock on the Thursday night before Halloween in midtown Manhattan. My older brother Rell is with me to hit the re-launch party for the sneaker brand, ATR (Above the Rim). As we make our way up and down 68th street, a man dressed in a Johnny Cash-esque all black suit stops me and asks, “hey, are you looking for the ATR party?”
“Yeah, is this the place?”
I announce that I’m with Bounce mag and an ATR rep leads us down a stairwell, lit up only by a red light. As we’re walking down two flights another CIA looking character stands in a side door; he doesn’t move or talk. This is getting kinda creepy. Just as I’m expecting a Mike Jackson impersonator to jump out and let me know that this is thriller, we hit the show room and to my surprise it’s not some type of pre-Halloween Stanley Kubrik masquerade party. But the big open space has a half-court enclosed with a net hanging from the ceiling. Streetball legends of And1 fame, High Octane and I’ll Be Right Back, are blessing the part with a light one on one. The new line of kicks, encased in glass fixtures, have that same nothing matters but basketball feel that And1 brought to the table in the 90’s and when I talk to Eric Dreyer, VP of Brand Management for ATR, I find out that’s with good reason.
“We’re only about basketball,” Dreyer said. “We don’t do running, we don’t do fitness. We’re only a basketball brand.”
When Reebok had the helm of ATR, players the likes of Allen Iverson, Baron Davis and Steve Francis were often rocking the shoes. Even Coach K’s Duke crew got their street-cred up by reppin’ ATR. But Dreyer and Co. are looking to move forward and in a new direction. Sure they respect what was done in the past but they want to have more of a connection with younger players in the league. The first attempt at this is with Minnesota’s young swingman Martell Webster and his new sig shoe, the Elevate MW5. As a former backup in one the NBA’s youngest teams (Portland) and now on a roster that looks like it should be vying for a Final Four run, instead of a NBA chip, he’s a good fit for what ATR is trying to accomplish.
“The guys who are high flyers, the guys who can drop 20-we love those guys, but we also love the guys who look out for their teammates and their friends and find way’s to elevate those around them,” Dreyer said. “When we were introduced to Martell, we loved how he played but when talked to him and learned about how hard he works at the game-it was a perfect fit for us. We knew that he was our guy.”
Webster, an Edmonds Washington native, has been big on being a positive influence on his community since his high school days at Seattle Prep. While ATR is definitely about basketball, their acronym A.T.R. has a double meaning.
“With our A.T.R. project, we’ve looked across the country for youth leaders,” Dreyer said. “Guy’s who take youth players and apply their passion for basketball to helping out in their communities.”
Right now, ATR has three major programs running in NYC, LA and Seattle. The kicks are for the player and the programs are taking a fresh spin on what we know as grassroots. Check out the kicks and let us know what you think.
To learn more about the kicks and ATR, go to www.abovetherim.com
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