When the Phoenix Suns wrapped up practice, forward P.J. Tucker made his way to the sideline and surrounded himself with sneakers. Tucker's team was in New York to play the Knicks, and as one of the game’s biggest sneakerheads, he was in his element. Tucker began to debate about what sneakers to wear at Madison Square Garden, digging into a huge black bag of sneakers that bloggers would kill to see and juggling between Kanye West’s Nike Air Yeezy 2 ‘Red Octobers’ and the Nike I.D. Kobe AD ‘Black and Orange’ colorway. He eventually settled on a pair of Air Jordan V retro Bin23 that were released back in 2011.
In a league where you can find sneakerheads on every team, only a few can match Tucker's collection. He has over 2,220 pairs of sneakers, housed between Phoenix and his home in North Carolina. It's not the quantity that has made Tucker a sneaker mainstay but the quality of rare sneakers he wears every single game. The 31-year old journeyman understands he is not LeBron James or a Kevin Durant, who both have their own signature sneakers. He has found his niche, however, in a lane he says is part of his “identity”. He is living out a hypebeast’s dream, wearing sneakers like Yeezy’s, Air Jordan 12 PSNY, Air Jordan 2 Don C “Beach” and a select few of retro Air Jordan PE models from past Suns players, like Shawn Marion and Joe Johnson.
The Crossover had the opportunity to chat with Tucker about his sneaker collection, his fellow NBA sneakerheads and his decision to pay homage to Kobe Bryant during the Lakers star's final season.
Jarrel Harris: You are regarded as one of the biggest sneakerheads in the NBA. Where did your love for sneakers come from? Was it a certain pair of sneakers you received?
P.J. Tucker: Nah, all my life. My first pair of shoes my mom bought me. I was born in 1985 and my mom is the biggest North Carolina/Michael Jordan fan there is, so when those first Jordan’s came out those were my first shoes ever. I don’t remember but I guess it started from there. Shoes have always been my thing, you know. My mom didn’t always have but she will spend her last on me getting me shoes I wanted as a kid. So it is something that has always just been my thing, my vice.
JH: Where would you rank yourself amongst sneakerheads in the NBA?
PT: For me, it's not even about the rankings and all the stuff that people make it out to be. For me, it’s like a culture. When I was kid it was all about having the fresh shoes. The J’s that just came out this past Saturday (Air Jordan 13 “Black Cat”) I wore them that Monday at my game. It’s just about the culture and the love of the game, and I think shoes are such a big part of that. It’s not about who is the biggest one but just about people appreciating the culture of shoes, especially in the game of basketball.
JH: How well do you think the NBA has embraced sneakers?
PT: I think there is so much into it. Guys getting their own PE’s and their own signature shoes. And the guys like me that don’t have their own signature, I like to kind of mix it up and wear different stuff. It gives a lot of your personality—the shoes you wear, the style you wear—whether you like hi-tops, three-quarters or lows, it’s all about your personality.
JH: What are some of your most memorable sneaker moments?
PT: My most memorable sneaker moment has to be when I wore the Red Octobers. No one thought I would do it after I told them. I've actually worn every single pair of Yeezy’s in a game. Some people—which I don’t understand—kind of get mad like I’m disrespecting shoes. I’m like, 'They are sneakers, they are meant to be worn, meant to be played in'. And I hate when people use them as trophies. They are sneakers. It’s one of my pet peeves. I got pairs if I don’t want to wear, I will get a couple pairs of them. Shoes are meant to be worn for me, and that’s a part of the culture as well.
JH: You have made a name for yourself by wearing Yeezy’s, Air Jordan retros and other sneakers. What tricks or surprises do you have up your sleeve this season?
PT: Man, I am not even going to lie, it is getting really hard. And it’s so funny my friends and different people I consult with in the sneaker world, they try to find me the craziest stuff I haven’t worn. But I have been doing this for so long now that is getting difficult. People have been trying to get me to wear the (Nike) Mags in a game. It’s so funny, I thought about it, I put them on but I was like no there is no way. People tell me to do it for like a quarter or something, but there is no way I can guard someone wearing the mags.
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JH: I played in the Nike HyperAdapt, the other auto-lacing sneaker and they weren’t that. You should give those a try.
PT: Oh yeah, I can see those being played in. They are a little more wearable. The Mags are just heavy and just not a basketball shoe. But maybe one day I would reconsider that.
JH: What is the process when it comes to selecting sneakers for a roadtrip?
PT: Our equipment manager, Jay [Gaspar], he really enjoys it, and he always texts me a day or two before we go on the road and tells me the uniforms we are wearing so we can plan out a couple days in advance. Most of the times he brings me extra bags because I like to switch it up. I have a whole thing where he stores all my shoes. So I kind of just let him know what I want to wear and he packs them all up.
JH: What kind of comments do you receive from players about your sneakers?
PT: Now it’s just really people wanting to know what I am wearing. They wait and see what I am going to wear all of the time. Like I said, it’s part of the culture for me. Basketball and the types of shoes you wear tells a lot about your personality. It’s all fun. I like the flair it brings to the game.
JH: How do you get most of your sneakers? Are you one of those guys that go online searching for stuff?
PT: I am sponsored by Nike, so I get a lot from them. But I love shopping for shoes. Whether it’s Ebay or different sneaker collectors that hit me up and want to sell. I get so many DM’s all of the time from people like, 'Yo I got these, come by here, do this and that'. The chase for a pair is always fun.
JH: Who are some other big sneakerheads in the league that you respect?
PT: Oh, man, there are so many. Obviously, Swaggy. Nick Young has a bunch of shoes. He is with adidas now so he doesn't wear a lot of crazy stuff but he has a lot of shoes. Andre Iguodala got a lot of stuff. Jarrett Jack got a lot of stuff, he is one of the best as well. There are a few dudes who are really into it and have a lot of stuff.
JH: Last year you paid homage to Kobe Bryant by rocking several of his sneakers. Can you talk about that?
PT: That Stash Kobe 1, that is probably my number 1 shoe I have ever worn on the court. To wear it against Kobe in his last game against the Suns it was real fun, and for him to say something to me about them it is crazy. He is signed them up for me and personalized it. It was pretty dope.
JH: Are there any sneaker grails you are missing out on?
PT: That Stash Kobe 1 was the number 1 thing that I wanted. I think now I want to finish out my Oregon collection. I need the white Oregon Jordan IV’s and the white Oregon Jordan III’s. I think those are the two in that collection that I need, so if I get those I will be pretty much be set (laughs).
JH: You do a lot of charity work that revolves around sneakers. Can you talk about some of the work that you do and name the organization?
PT: I know a lot of people do charity work, but I always say find something that you are interested in to be able to give back. Obviously for me, it's sneakers. We do Kicks for Kids every year, where we give out thousands of shoes to kids and I always donate a lot of shoes I wear every year. And the shoes I don't wear I donate them after the season to different AAU teams, and to different kids around the country that don't have shoes. So that’s my passion, I like giving back as much as possible.