Heart and sole: sneaker rule gives players a chance to express themselves
Ahead of the first home game of the season, Adam Klauke, Utah Jazz’s equipment director, hung a clean white jersey in each locker.
Rudy Gobert wanted a little something extra with ESPN there to broadcast the Jazz game with defending champion Golden State Warriors.
“I like to play with colors,” said Gobert, “and do things that are a little different from the ordinary.”
So this time around, Gobert turned to Kickstradomis, the Los Angeles-based artist who customizes sneakers for Gobert and other NBA players. The artist hand painted a pair of size 20 sneakers, covering them in blue and green and Gobert’s No.27.
“On that one, I let him do his thing,” Gobert said. “Sometimes I ask him to be more specific. But most of all I like to tell him what I like and what I don’t like and let him do his thing. It’s just a little detail, but it’s fun to feel like you’ve got that little extra, a little extra sauce.
– Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) 20 october 2018
The NBA also wants its players to feel good about standing out. League officials this season allow players to wear shoes of any color, loosening old restrictions and giving players another way to express themselves more on the pitch. And the NBA, arguably the most stylish league in the world, plans to take full advantage of it.
“We have guys in the league – it’s good to allow them to show their personality and to be able to reach different markets,” said Utah Jazz center Ekpe Udoh. “Dude, we have characters when it comes to style.”
Like Gobert, Jazz playmaker Ricky Rubio turned to Kickstradomis for a custom look, filled with hand-painted notes, for last week’s home opener against Golden State. Donovan Mitchell has shown off a number of different looks before, including a pair of bright red Adidas Pro Bounce 2018 socks. Alec Burks, meanwhile, chose to honor a family member’s battle with breast cancer by wearing hot pink Adidas Dame 4 sneakers.
Players say the easing of restrictions is another example of the NBA’s willingness to let its players be themselves and speak out.
“We are in a time where we have a platform,” said jazz guard Danté Exum. “We can express how we feel and who we want to be as people, not just as basketball players. I think that’s what the fans want to see. They don’t just want to see a guy who plays basketball every night; they want to see the real person. If we can express that somehow, whether it’s through our shoes or something, why not? “
In the ranks of jazz, there is a permanent competition.
“You have some stylish guys on the team,” said forward Royce O’Neale. “AB, Thabo, Jae, me, Donovan. There is a kind of little competition. We always want to stand out. “
O’Neale, sneaker-loving since getting his first pair of white and red Jordan 13s, declared himself the winner.
“I have to work my magic,” O’Neale said. “I have a wide variety of kicks. I like to bring out things that I haven’t worn in years. I have heat in the closet.
Burks – who tends to be flashier off the court than on him, with an affinity for high-end Balenciaga sneakers – has a different take.
“You talk to him,” he said when asked about the most stylish player on the team. “You know that. It’s nothing to be gained. It’s obvious.”
When it comes to sneakers, Mitchell might have something to say about it.
The peerless guard borrowed shoes from his Louisville teammate Ray Spalding. “I would wear his shoes, so it looked like I had them,” Mitchell admitted. “Now he’s asking me.
Mitchell’s closet has transformed over the past year.
“I didn’t own my first pair of Yeezys until this year,” Mitchell said. “I loved them. I always wanted them. I just didn’t have any money for them. Everyone wonders if I have always been a sneakerhead. No. I have never been a sneakerhead until that I have the money to be a sneakerhead. “
He estimates he has between 250 and 300 shoes in his closet.
“Now I don’t even have to pay for them anymore. They’re right there, ”Mitchell said. “There are shoes in my closet that people would go crazy for. This is where I give back. I might never wear these shoes, but some kids would go crazy for them.
The second-year goalie might have more surprises in store when it comes to his shoe choices this season.
“Just in time,” Mitchell said when asked about the league’s lifting of the sneaker restrictions. “I’ll stop there.”
Sefolosha appreciates the league’s willingness to let its players express themselves through fashion and other avenues.
“They were great,” said the veteran forward. “I think it’s important that everyone can express themselves in one way or another. I think the fans like it and it doesn’t hurt the game at all. The league has given rules well and in those rules you can express yourself. It is the same with the movement for social justice.
However, Sefolosha won’t be making any major changes to her shoes this season. He will always be the only man on the floor wearing Nike Air Max 90s.
“I’ve already gone with some sort of unorthodox shoe for basketball,” Sefolosha said. “I think I’m going to stick with this just because it feels comfortable to me. It is also a stylish shoe. I really like his style. But I think I’ll be releasing other colors this year.
Not all gamers will benefit from the new freedom of fashion.
“I don’t care,” Joe Ingles said. “I’m going to wear white shoes the color Klauke gives me. I am not very picky. As long as I can tie them up and they stay standing, I’m fine.
The only shoe that might pique Ingles’ interest? A pair of Chuck Taylors canvas.
“I wish,” he laughs. “I would probably be on average 30 years old if I could play it. And I would break all the bones in my foot.