The Sneaker Don

By Jammel Cutler #33

For years, Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton and Quentin Richardson were the NBA sneaker kings. Anytime they laced them up and took the court, you can expect something special on their feet. Of course, this was all before social media, which meant you had to either have good seats in the arena, you were good at squinting at the TV or zooming in on photos sourced from the internet.

These days PJ Tucker holds the title. When the NBA did away with its rules that required players’ footwear to match the uniform, it opened up opportunities for players to wear any sneaker. Players—and especially Tucker—now had free rein to unleash a sole assault on the NBA. This season he has brought out some of the rarest kicks that we’ve seen, including the Nike LeBron 2 “Beast,” one of the rarest sneakers in existence and previously thought of as a one-of-one that only LeBron owned.

Unlike some of the other more high-profile NBA players who have their own signature line or access to a brand’s rarest catalogs, Tucker is a sneaker dude first and NBA player second. Just like regular sneakerheads, Tucker can be found using all his resources and connects—granted, they are more extensive than the average ‘head—to cop the shoes he has his eyes on. And when he does, don’t expect Tucker to tuck em away. As much as he might cherish a hard-to-find pair, Tucker loves nothing more than donning them on the court.

Some of Tucker’s other memorable sneakers have included—but not limited to—the Marty McFly Nike HyperDunk, the Air Jordan IV “Cactus Jack Friends and Family,” and the Air Jordan XIII Oregon PE. Through sneakers, he also pays tribute to the past. Tucker wore the Nike Air Force Sheed 1’s, and he’s even given homage to Diana Taurasi when he wore the Nike LeBron 8 V/2 Taurasi ASG. Tucker has gained the respect for his sneakers from his peers and from fans. The most famous sneaker that he’s worn this season is the Nike X Fear Of God by Jerry Lorenzo. Tucker wore these coveted sneakers against The Brooklyn Nets in early November.

We recently sat down with Tucker and talked about his love of sneakers, his favorite PE, the resurrection of dead brands and sneaker gentrification.

Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

You have a wide array of sneakers that you wear on gamedays. Sometimes we’ll see you with a pair during pregame, another pair during the actual game and sometimes a mid-game switch. What thoughts go into what sneaker you’re going to wear on the court?

I usually go by what colors we wear, what new or old shoes I have. it’s a combination of that and how I’m feeling and what I feel like wearing that day.

To sneakerheads, sneaker rotations hold the same importance as a balanced NBA roster. How many pairs do you have in your rotation?

In my rotation it’s probably a lot, I usually have around a few hundred for everyday use. If I need something else I have to go in my secret stash and find some heat.

Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

Recently the NBA lifted their sneaker/uniform policy that allows players to wear any sneaker they want regardless of the colorway. Were you happy when they made the change to this policy? 

Yea, it was cool for the players. It’s a good thing that we get to wear a lot more stuff with more unique colors. The way the new sneaker/uniform policy has been universally accepted by fans and the players is huge for the sneaker culture. It’s a win for everybody.

For me personally, my grail changes from time to time. Do you have a grail that you’re currently after?

I don’t have a grail that I’m searching for, however, I currently have my eyes on those Wahlburger 4s—that’s the shoe I’m looking for right now. Hopefully I can get them and wear them within the next few weeks.

Recently resurrected popular brands from the past are on the rise—AND1, PUMA, and other brands are making a comeback. Which retro sneaker do you want to see make a comeback? Do you see other brands such as DADA making a comeback?

I have some shoes that I would like them to come back out with. I would like some of the old Huarache stuff come back. I love the original Huarache 95s.  As far as DADA goes, I was never a fan of those. They just weren’t my style. I know a lot of guys that liked them, but they just weren’t my style.

Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

Since its infancy sneaker culture has grown and now it’s universally accepted by the masses. Where do you see sneaker culture going in the future?

Sneaker culture can go wherever it wants to go. The way things are going now with different collaborations, the sky’s the limit for sneaker culture. There are so many things, so many choices that can be made. I can’t wait to see how far people take the sneaker culture and how far it goes.

A big part of sneaker culture nowadays has been the rise of consignment shops. Do you feel that consignment shops are killing the mom and pop stores, and sneaker culture, as a whole? 

I love both consignment and mom and pop stores. I think they are both such a huge part of the culture. I like that consignment shops have shoes that are currently unavailable and were sold years ago. It’s a good way to find sneakers that might not be in regular stores anymore. This is why consignment shops are essential.

Do you ever see the sneaker market being gentrified and oversaturated at some point?

It’s city-based. In NYC they have a lot of mom and pop stores and a lot of consignment stores.They have stuff that most stores don’t have. I think it sucks that a lot of smaller stores lose out to bigger stores but it’s one of those things that change with the times.

What are some of your favorite drops that came out this year?This year the Sean Weatherspoon Air Max is one of my favorites, The Fear Of God basketball sneaker is another of my favorites and the Union 1’s are so dope. I love the craftsmanship they put into those, it’s crazy.

Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the Nike Fear of God 1s?

On a scale of 1 to 10, the Nike Fear Of God is an 11. Those shoes are crazy—the silhouette of the sneaker, the performance of the sneaker, the way you can wear it on and off the court—everything they put into the sneaker is so dope, it’s everything.

How do you feel about The Virgil Off-White Collection? 

I love it, it’s one of those collaborations that is awesome for the culture. What Virgil brings—the exclusiveness of the sneaker and how they’re so valued—I think everything he’s done for the sneaker community is so great.

If you can take any sneaker that hasn’t received the Off-White treatment what would it be?

That’s a good one, I think I would go with the Air Max 1s.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

During the first week of the season, you wore The LeBron 2 “Beast” PE. It’s one of the rarest sneakers on the market. How did you come across that sneaker? 

I keep my ear to the street and I have a lot of friends in the sneaker community, so when grails and certain things like that come up, I get one of the first calls. I don’t know that the LeBron 2 “Beast” is one of the rarest sneakers, but it’s one of my greatest finds. The Stewie LeBron’s are right up there with one of the rarest sneakers that I have.

Do you enjoy being a sneaker free agent? What went into your decision to not sign with one of the major companies during your career? 

I’m not a free agent, I’m with Nike, that’s the biggest misconception about me, I’ve been with Nike my whole career and I’m still with them.

To many, you’re the biggest sneakerhead in the NBA. Other than yourself, who in the League can challenge you for that claim?

It’s a lot of guys. You see a lot of guys that people wouldn’t think is a sneakerhead—Jarrett Jack is a big sneakerhead, Swaggy P is another big sneakerhead, it’s a bunch of guys that are sneakerheads.

Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Speaking of Nick Young, you guys are the only players that I recall playing in Yeezys. [Ed. note: Tucker played in the Nike Air Yeezy 2 “Red October.”] What was the comfort level like playing in a shoe that wasn’t designed for basketball? 

It’s a really comfortable shoe. It’s not really made for basketball, but the grip is good and they’re pretty lightweight. I think they can pass for basketball shoes.

Do you remember the first kicks that you brought with your own money?

The first shoes I brought with my own money were the Space Jam Jordan 11. I was a big fan of that movie.

You’re one of the most fashionable guys in the League. How would you describe your fashion sense? 

My fashion sense is me being me. I look for pieces that feel like me, stuff that I would wear. I don’t chase any type of look. It all depends on how I feel that day and what I want to wear that day. It’s all inspired on how I’m feeling.

Do you have a fashion icon that you look up to?

I love David Beckham. He has impeccable style. I love how he does his own thing. He can do it all from suits to peacoat to everything. His style is super dope.

The NBA has a lot of fashion icons. If you can make your own All- Swag teams who would make the cut? 

I would go with myself, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Chris Paul and Kyle Kuzma.