Josh Smith doesn’t fancy himself a follower of trends.
“I saw the product and liked what I saw and why not be one of the first of the basketball players to start this brand,” he tells SI.com upon signing with Brandblack.
The Los Angeles-based footwear brand started by David Raysse nabbed Smith as their second NBA player just weeks after signing the NFL’s DeSean Jackson. The other Brandblack player? Smith’s former Hawks teammate and current Clippers playing partner Jamal Crawford.
“Having a familiar face that you know from the Atlanta Hawks and being able to have that personal connection with him,” Smith says, “being able to ask him about the brand, was big.”
As Crawford plays in his third signature shoe with Brandblack—the J.Crossover 3—Smith has started wearing the Nappa leather and mesh Force Vector high top. “It is the shoe they recommend I wear, and I just went with it,” Smith said. “The selection I have is when we sit down and I tell them about color coordination.”
Smith says that while he doesn’t demand all sorts of on-court colorway options, he does like having a hand in the artistic planning. “It is good that they are open-minded to figure out what kind of selection I want as far as the color schemes,” he said.
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The 11-year veteran and former NBA Slam Dunk champion nicknamed J-Smoove most recently wore Adidas, a contract that constrained the off-the-court options for this sneaker collector. “With Adidas and other shoe companies, you really can’t wear what you want to wear off the court,” he said. “I’ve just been going sneaker crazy (since the Adidas deal expired). Before I was definitely looking at them, though, making sure the dust stays off of them on the shelf.”
Now, though, Smith wants to work in plenty of Brandblack fashion off the court too, even if he does have some room to wear whatever he wants. “I’m kinda a loyal guy and they have some off-the-court shoes they are putting together, some Mirages and stuff like that," Smith said. “I see myself wearing those more than anything else.”
And as the Smith-Brandblack relationship grows, Smith hopes he can continue to provide input on the future of Brandblack sneakers. Raysse said we can expect to see other projects currently in development “down the line.”
“When we spoke to Josh it was apparent that he has the same mantra of ‘Look Good Winning,’” Raysse said, “so it only made sense for him to sign with the new guys in basketball doing things our own way.”
The Clippers already offered up one of the most intriguing sneaker selections in the league with Chris Paul’s signature Jordan shoe, Blake Griffin serving as a lead athlete on another Jordan line, and Crawford’s signature Brandblack shoe. But now Smith adds a bit more intrigue to the Los Angeles sneaker lineup, and all because he doesn’t want to follow the trends.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, sneakers and technology for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.