How many pairs of shoes do you own?
Honestly, I don’t know. Well you know, someone got paid because when I went from doing Nike to just JB, I probably gave away 600 pairs of shoes that were anything from original Pennies to crazy stuff. I was just like, “I’m gonna be a Jordan guy now.” So I took them down to a local thrift shop and was like, “Here you go!” I started doing all the Jordan stuff, and in my collection now–I did an article, they came by and asked but I said I really don’t know–so I did an estimate, and at that time which was probably about 4 years ago, it was 3,154 pairs. Now I’m really, really selective about what I take on, but if I had to guess, probably around 3,500.
Everyone wants to know–in terms of samples, do you get to choose what goes on there? How do you come up with colorways?
So when we sample up shoes, there are a lot of times where we base it on a story. And even now, with the teams, we talk to the them to come up with a story behind it–a story that is truly authentic to whatever project we’re working on. So I’m not sure how many people know, but Michael played in Europe. He did an exhibition game out there and he wore this European uniform and in the game, he actually shattered a backboard. And to me, there should’ve always been a shoe that played off of that story, Today, I have tons of ideas of how I would bring that out. i think that if you are able to create a story around a shoe that allows people to appreciate the bigger context of why–there’s a lot of stories that you can tell that can help create what the story should be, and so…in the history of what I’ve done, there are stories that I have [in my head] that never made it to market. I have some colors that may never come out, but they could come out.
Do you still have the ability to make decisions to come out with sample pairs for yourself?
Not so much that, but like I said, we usually sample up several different colorways to bring into the marketplace because we’ll have around 150 shoes that will come out in a season and what we have to do is make sure it all makes sense. If we did one shoe in red, black and green, it doesn’t make sense to do a whole bunch of other shoes in red, black and green. We try to merchandise [product] and make the most sense of each colorway to give a lot of variety and opportunities for people to pick their colors, but also allow each shoe to have the best opportunity for success.
What are your best personal memories from Jordan Brand?
There were so many, but the thing I loved most about JB was that as a small group, we controlled a lot of business. We were able to make decisions as a team, and when you get more and more big that becomes more difficult to do. But what I would really enjoy is that we would sit down as a small team, and talk about where we wanted to take our projects–everybody you can count on. That guy’s doing good, this guy’s doing good. Everyone plays a strong part in it because they all have the same vested interest in it and making it right. Things would just come together naturally and that’s pretty special to me.
And the worst thing?
Since there’s so many things in the business that consumers don’t realize we have to do, everyone gets super vocal about certain projects–“Oh you should bring this out, do it in this colorway, you should’ve never done this..”–you can never ever please everyone, and there are certain business decisions made on certain projects. Most people don’t understand that part of it–emotions versus the business side of things.
With Jordan Brand, there’s criticism of releasing too many pairs and releasing too many Retros, and other situations like that. Now that you’re with Nike, essentially you’re seeing the whole problem again, with so many colorways of the Lebrons and the KDs…
There’s a fine line because we always try to do things on the “fewer pairs” side because we want things to stay a little special–there’s a fine line between doing a ton of business and putting a ton in the marketplace versus [keeping something special]. There’s no real answer for that, and not all projects are created equal. So you could do a hot shoe this year, come back next year and think it’s hot, but then consumers don’t want it and you’re doing the same amount of pairs and the shoe flops. There’s no real answer to it, so we just have to try to make the best decisions based on all the information that we have. It’s a tough one.
As a company [Nike] and a product development manager for NSW, would you say that All-Star Weekend is one of the biggest stages for you?
I think for “sport moments,” I really try to challenge our team to capitalize on what’s going on, and All-Star Weekend is one of them. But really, there are a lot of these moments that you can take advantage of to create stories–NBA Championships, special moments like Kobe hitting 81 points–there are a lot of sport moments that you can tell stories with and because those are authentic moments, I think people appreciate what you do more when you craft them around [those] authentic moments. So with All-Star Weekend, you can create a story particular to that city and steer it in a way where the consumers sees the product in the light of what’s happening in that particular city and moment. Again, they can appreciate that product much more. But throughout the year, there are several moments where I try to challenge our team to develop special creative times that consumers can embrace and respect.
In terms of themes, what can we expect during All-Star Weekend?
The team worked together, both performance basketball and sportswear group to come up with a theme. so when you think of New Orleans, what our themes thought about was that N.O. was probably one of the biggest melting pots–you’ve got all types of cultures, all types of food, music, and because it’s an area where you have so many different things that come together as one, it becomes like a different place. it’s really different from any other city in the US. So what we did was kind of try to blend these things. And so, when you think about something that relates to blending things, people think about Gumbo–when you eat Gumbo, it’s a southern dish, there’s a bunch of things in it, so we came up with this idea of the “Mojo Gumbo.” We wanted to give consumers the opportunity to get excited about something, so you got “Mojo,” you’re on the move, but there’s also this concept of “gumbo” where you put everything in it to come up with this new point of view. So that’s kind of the theme that we’re going with, and we’re using a lot of things that are relevant to N.O. to help tell our story. and then we’re trying to do some things that are way different, considering what they went through with Hurricane Katrina, we have a lot of givebacks. N.O. gives a lot through culture, so we want to give back to N.O. so we’re doing a lot of things to work on that as well.
What does Nike look for in an athlete to bring them into the Nike family?
I think it depends on the sport–I can talk about basketball. It depends on a lot of things–the individual, the character of the individual, what you already have in your stable of athletes, if you have a bunch of great guys but you need someone a little nasty and high flying and dunks all the time, you might wanna go with that–so it depends on what you already have. We try to work with the best of the best athletes, guys that are able to really do their thing on the court but also express themselves off the court and fit the Nike values that the company stands for and represents.
Is there an athlete that you would love to build a campaign around?
As I’ve gotten a little bit older, I can see things a little differently. Back in the day, it was by far Michael. Michael was the right mix–he didn’t wanna be like everybody else and I was the kind of kid that didn’t wanna be like everybody else. He’s not afraid to be different. Obviously everything he does he excels at and he just does it at a high level, so to me that was that.
But now, I’m actually seeing things a little different. I met a kid–I actually started a foundation to build basketball courts for underprivileged kids around the world. I built some courts for kids in Brazil, built some courts in Africa. When I [went] to Africa, I met a kid that became my inspiration and it confirmed that what I’m doing was the right thing to do. This kid was 17 years old and at age 10, both of his parents had passed away. His grandparents lived in another country. So from age 10 to 14, this boy raised himself on nine dollars a month, lived in a shack, and just barely made it, but he used school and he used basketball as an outlet to take up his time and better himself. And so at 14, there was a basketball academy that came to his city and one of the coaches ended up adopting him. Now he’s 17, he’s adopted and he has aspirations for playing in college. Kids like that are my inspiration–there’s athletes that have succeeded through things that most people can’t even imagine.
Why doesn’t Nike expand the Doernbecher project into more models more frequently [and more into Jordan Brand]?
The folks that run the Doernbecher project come and meet with Nike, then I try to get involved with the actual child designer and sit down with them and get them to understand why we do what we do so we can try to come out with the most compelling product. Some of the kids are just really really good because they just have great ideas, but then other kids….. As far as the program itself, because there are multiple shoes, I think the main goal is to make sure that there is as much success in each and every model. It’s meant to uplift and do what’s right for the kids themselves.
As a kid, I was kind of crazy with the shoe game–I didn’t know it was gonna be like that, that’s just kind of the way it was. I would always change clothes, I loved sports and even though we weren’t well off, I still had tennis shoes and without even knowing it, I was a shoe guy. So I would say that once I really started to understand that, that’s when it started.
I had a pair of Blazers back in the day, Nike had just came out with them. Actually, it wasn’t the Blazer at the time, it was the Bruin. I’ll never forget this…I was in a ball place in Oklahoma–I grew up in California, and Oklahoma was just country area but my grandparents lived there–and I opened this magazine. and everyday I would just look at this shoe, thinking that I needed to have it. I finally got it, but when everyone else started getting them, I thought that mine had to be different. I would color them and paint them up and do all these things.
Jordan Brand have all these new “packs”–the Fear Pack, Bel Airs–are you trying to direct that at the younger group of people who are just now getting interesting in Jordans or trying to keep people around who are already into it?
Again, I’m not at JB so I’m not really sure what their direction is but I would say it’s a little bit of both. There are a lot of young kids that aren’t familiar with the history of some of the Jordan styles or why they’re popular, so i think they’re trying to target that a little bit, but again having those stories provides you with the opportunity to create fresh points of views on retro projects…it’s a little bit of both. Capturing the younger generation, and making sure that those who are familiar with Jordans appreciate it to the next level. [With younger kids], I wanna educate them on what was hot back in the day so we see how we can make something hot today and it’s up to us to challenge ourselves. It’s just another challenge that we embrace.