Athletic Propulsion Labs founders Adam and Ryan Goldston on learning their shoes were banned by the NBA.

Portland Trailblazer Clyde Drexler (here, in 1992) clocked an all-time high jump of 43 inches, photograph by Brian Drake

RYAN GOLDSTON: Adam and I aren’t the tallest guys in the world —

ADAM GOLDSTON: We spent four years — starting as freshman at the University of Southern California, where we played basketball — developing the technology behind APL, which gives the average athlete one to three and a half inches on their vertical leap.

RG: We’re six feet, but we were playing ball with guys who were 6’10, 6’11, seven feet, so any extra inch we could get on the court was huge.

New Jersey Net Julius Erving aka ‘Dr. J’ (here, in 1975) leapt up to 41 inches, photograph by Walter Iooss

AG: In 2010, at 23 years old, we were invited to the NBA suite [at the Staples Center] to watch the [Boston] Celtics play the [Los Angeles] Lakers in the championship game. A lot of the guys in the NBA were interested in APL and the NBA told us if we wanted to be approved for on-court use we needed to set up a meeting at their New York City headquarters prior to August 1 [of that year].

RG: In college, certain professors doubted our ability to succeed. One of the things they said was that we couldn’t create shoes that make people jump higher instantly.

Legendary L.A. Laker Magic Johnson’s vertical jump reached upwards of 30 inches, photograph by Jon SooHoo

AG: We flew to New York that July to present to NBA executives, who said they’d contact us 24 to 48 hours after our meeting. Two days went by, nothing; a week, nothing; a month, nothing; two months, nothing. In October, we finally heard back from the director of the NBA, who said our shoes weren’t approved because they gave a wearer ‘undue competitive advantage over his opponent.’ Ryan and I started freaking out. We felt like this was going to be a big story, so we contacted one of Ryan’s college professors, Larry Winokur from [the public relations firm] BWR. He sent out a press release the next morning that completely changed our lives. The ban on APL became the number one news story in the world. We sold nine months of inventory within three days.

L.A. Laker Kobe Bryant mid-shot in Game 6 of the 2010 NBA Finals, during which, the Goldston brothers introduced APL to the NBA, photograph by Mark J. Terrill

RG: You’d think that when we got the news we wouldn’t be allowed to do something —

AG: That we’d be disappointed.

RG: But it was so exciting. We created the first shoe that was banned by the NBA for performance reasons.

— as told to The Thick

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APL’s Concept 1 basketball shoes, which were banned by the NBA