Shoe manufacturers are constantly trying new and exciting ways to get you to buy their products. When those ways fail, they trot out the old chestnut of celebrity endorsements. The simple-minded reasoning of “I like X athlete. X athlete wears Y shoes. I like Y shoes” is pretty well the Poochie of the sports marketing world, but it reigns supreme.

Rastify those shoes about 10% and we have ourselves an ad campaign!

Sometimes the endorsement of footwear by celebrities works well – the iconic rise of both Michael Jordan and Nike comes to mind. However, sometimes the simple-minded reasoning discussed above gets, well, complicated. “I like Michael Vick. Michael Vick wears Nike. I wear Nike. Michael Vick murders dogs for no reason. I like dogs. Michael Vick and Nike can fuck themselves.” In short, shoe endorsement deals can go very wrong. In some cases, a good athlete picks a questionable product to endorse. In other cases, a good product is associated with a questionable athlete. The most exciting situation is where a shit product is lovingly paired with a crap athlete.  Food Court Lunch has combed its archives for the best of the worst, namely the Top 10 Worst Professional Athlete Shoe Deals. In no particular order, the list:

10. Walter Payton – Roos

Walter Payton was “Sweetness”, a member of the Super Bowl XX-winning Chicago Bears, and, at one time, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. Some argue that he should be remembered as the greatest running back ever to have played the game of football. Others argue that he should be remembered for endorsing running shoes that had little zippered pockets in them. It is discourse like this that makes football America’s sport. Payton’s Legacy: G.O.A.T or surreptitious weed-stashing shoes? You decide!


9. Wilson Chandler – Pony

Wilson Chandler – a playground legend, college superstar, and now a famous NBA pro. Sorry, that’s a misprint. Who in God’s name is Wilson Chandler? Some sort of sitcom character hybrid?

Sure, they can get you cocaine and painkillers, but can they sell shoes for you?

Oh, Wilson Chandler – the new Knick. Jesus, that’s stretching it a little thin, isn’t it, Pony? Surely a classic brand like Pony can find a better athlete to endorse their shoes than a basically unknown quantity from DePaul?

Hmm, I guess not.

Warning: Pony shoes do not come with spare sets of ankles.

At least Wilson will have some fun at the promotional parties. And by “fun”, we mean syphilis.

8. Dominique Wilkins – Brooks

Nothing says “Human Highlight Reel” like a pair of Brooks running shoes. Correction: Nothing says “My dad mowing the lawn” like a pair of Brooks running shoes. The incongruity is breathtaking. It’s like the Amish promoting IBM servers.


“Too bad that Dockers deal fell through”

7. Darrell Armstrong, Rex Chapman, Larry Hughes, Raef LaFrentz, Toby Bailey and Miles Simon – And1

Wow. Could they have picked a worse group of players to promote their shoes? Journeymen and scrubs, here is your brand of footwear! Prepare for mediocrity, undeserved max contracts, injury-plagued careers and Europe!  

Street credibility, this is Raef LaFrentz. I understand that you’ve never met.

6. Damon Jones – Li Ning

Damon Jones? Really? Was Lamond Murray not returning your calls? Was Tony Delk unwilling to commit? What was the thought process behind this choice? The best part of this endorsement is the name of the shoe: the Commander. Apparently “The Bench-Warmer”, “Locker Room Poison” and “Idiot Braggart” don’t translate into Mandarin very well.

This is the most action Damon Jones has seen in over a full season.

5. Karl Malone – LA Gear

He’s called the Mailman because he always delivers. And after he delivers, he goes straight to his aerobics class.

4. Derrick Coleman – British Knights

Reebok, after seeing the high-flying approaches of its basketball spokesmen, decided to fit its basketball shoes with little air pumps. British Knights, after ruminating on its choice of Derrick Coleman as a spokesperson, decided to fit its shoes with breathalyzers. 

It must be the shoes. And the gin. The gin and the shoes.

3. Brian Bosworth – Avia


I cannot for the life of me figure out why Avia had some actor from “Stone Cold” promoting its shoes. Everyone knows that Lance Henriksen was the true star of that movie. Oh, that guy played football once? Three seasons…wow. I better get to the shoe store straight away. As long as I don’t wear these shoes on my shoulders, I should be fine.

“If this is what you call a professional football career, Avia doesn’t want you promoting their cross-trainers.”

2. Vince Carter – Puma

Vince Carter reneging on a commitment? Who would have thought? I mean, besides the whole city of Toronto, of course.

Food Court Lunch trivia: Carter actively tried to get out of the Puma deal when he realized that Puma was not serious about promoting a collection of Vince Carter apron strings.

1. O.J. Simpson – Bruno Magli

Although O.J.’s promotional work with Dingo Boots is already the stuff of internet legend, the trial of O.J. Simpson proved to be marketing magic for this obscure brand of men’s footwear. Sure, they are not great shoes for sports, but if I ever need footwear that can stand up to pools of blood and gore at the site of a double homicide, I know what company I am going with.


This type of publicity is worth its weight in Gold(man).