Stick to the Script: Paul George

The months following the NBA Finals are full of surprises—from the NBA draft, Summer League play and especially free agency—there is never a dull moment and there is always widespread rumors that keep Twitter feeds refreshed.

While there was widespread speculation on where LeBron James would take his talents next—be it Houston, LA or remain in Cleveland—most of the so-called experts made a surefire conclusion that Paul George would return to his native southern California roots and sign with the Los Angeles Lakers.

George quieted the chatter quickly, making an announcement shortly after midnight on July 1. As a guest at a party hosted by Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook, George made public of his decision to stay in Oklahoma City.

I had an opportunity to speak with the five-time All-Star about his background, jersey numbers, shoes he’s worn in games and Kobe Bryant’s impact on him.

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

You seem very chill and humble. Where does that down-to-Earth disposition come from?

This who I’ve been. I wasn’t…I didn’t have the camera on me, you know following me my whole life. I come from nothing, so it’s easy for me to just remain who I was and stay in my lane. That’s all it really is—I know where I come from and I keep that first.

So it’s not difficult for you?

It’s not a change, you know? I sorta don’t like the attention…it’s not like I feel like I’m above or over the attention, I kinda just like staying in my lane. I’m obviously blessed to be in my position, I never undermine that.

That Nike commercial you did with the children, is that the real you?

I fish. I’m not really into books, but I fish a lot. Off days, good weather—I’m on the water. If it’s a nice day out, I’ll be on the water.

Steve Freeman; Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images

You started out with #24 for your first four years in the League, but changed it up in 2014-15 to #13. Was there a particular reason?

It was just a fresh start. I just went into that season with a fresh start and I kinda came into my own with 13. You know, obviously it was a good idea with PG-13, but really the whole idea to change the number was so I could have a fresh start.

What did #24 mean to you?

Twenty-four has always been my number. In childhood, my best friend used to say, “too [2] much, for [4] you,” so that’s where I got 24 from and it stuck with me. A lot of people think I got it from Kobe [Bryant], who is one of my favorite players, but it actually came from childhood.

Layne Murdoch Sr./NBAE via Getty Images

You have your own signature shoes with Nike and they’re comfortable. Is comfort your main priority when it came to your shoe?

I like a shoe that feels comfortable and feels good. As long as it’s comfortable and feels good, I don’t want to play in anything else. I don’t like anything that makes me feel heavy or that will weigh me down. From there, I like the creativity in my shoes.

Before you the PG signature line,  you were definitely known for wearing a wide range of shoes, from the Jordan III to the Foamposite. What was it like wearing the Air Foamposite One in an NBA game?

It was different because I never…it was the first time I actually wore Foams to play in or work out in, or whatever, so it was a different feeling. But I’m a huge fan of Penny [Hardaway], so I thought it was right to rock those.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

What did Kobe’s last season specifically mean to you?

It meant a lot. I’m happy that I was healthy coming into his last season and healthy in our matchups against him. You know it was a good farewell for somebody I grew up watching since I was a little kid. He is the person that inspired me the most playing basketball. It’s heartbreaking but I look at it as…for us young dudes, you know everything we’ve learned by watching him [and] his work ethic. It’s only right that we keep that alive in this game. So every time I approach the floor, when I get a chance to get out and play, I talk to younger dudes about what I learned watching veterans like Kobe and what he meant to me. I just try to keep that legacy alive.