• Spencer Dinwiddie has always bounced to the beat of his own drum, and he has continued to do so with his latest venture. The Nets guard is making a difference through sneakers and original designs.
By Elizabeth Swinton
December 14, 2018

Spencer Dinwiddie is not much of an artist, but he’s always been drawn to shoes since he was a kid.

The Brooklyn guard always dreamed of having his own sneakers, taking pen to paper and sketching designs he imagined between his highlights in the gym while growing up. Now, Dinwiddie has found his newest canvas: the sneakers on his feet.

Before this season, Dinwiddie announced his mission to wear 82 different custom sneakers, one for each game this season, with all pairs raffled and their proceeds donated to charity. His sneakers from game to game don’t just differ by the colors they sport, but by the stories each one tells. Every pair is an opportunity, either to pay homage to a city the Nets are visiting, or to honor an important person in his life at home in Barclays Center.

“That’s the thing and I think the dopest part about this, and the thing I don’t think anyone ever saw coming,” Dinwiddie said. “If you watch what we’re doing, we’re telling a story moreso than anything.”

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Dinwiddie has used his opportunity at away games to dedicate his sneakers to local figures such as Dwyane Wade in Miami, Rosa Parks in Detroit or Prince in Minnesota. At home games his shoes can be fun or serious, from his Creed II kicks, to a pair with his favorite manga show from childhood, to an edition that honored his friend Bryce Dejean-Jones, who made it to the NBA but died at age 23.

Dinwiddie, who recently signed a $34 million, three-year extension, does not take lightly that he has found a home with the Nets after bouncing from NBA rosters to the G League, and the 2017-18 Most Improved Player nominee is using the first stability he has felt since being drafted in 2014 to stand out with his kicks. That means using his newfound expression on his feet to make statements, as he did with shoes that sported Colin Kaepernick on Nov. 10 in Oakland.

“All these people I wanted to put on my shoes, I wanted people to see them on my shoes,” Dinwiddie said. “I’m not afraid of it because this is exactly what I wanted. I want people to know that I stand by what Kaepernick did, you know? Why would I be afraid if that’s an authentic statement from me?”

Paul Bereswill/Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Beyond the designs, Dinwiddie is making history in the NBA with the type of shoes he is wearing. Dinwiddie started his own shoe brand with the assistance of a company called Project Dream—a brand development organization that helped Dinwiddie create his own shoe, called K8IROS. From the start, Dinwiddie was given the freedom to test the shoes, design the logo, pick the release date and create the designs fans see each game. 

The shoe venture is something that has never been done before, and something Dinwiddie sees as groundbreaking and sometimes unrecognized.

“Just calling a spade a spade, if my name was James Harden or something like that, this would be the biggest story in the NBA,” Dinwiddie said. “That’s just the way it kind of works, which is fine with me because this journey has been, in a lot of ways, a very personal one and I’ve had a lot of fun with it. But I think when people actually catch on to it, like seriously catch on to it, it’s going to be seen for what it is in terms of how different and revolutionary it is.”

Rather than join a big-name company, Dinwiddie set off to create his own. The shoe design, technology and cushioning are completely unique to his brand. This is an accomplishment no other player in the NBA can hold to his name, including the Big Baller Brand, which uses a subsidiary brand of Skechers to help make its shoes.

“At what point do you bet on yourself and you say that you think you can either A) make more money, or B), make the same amount of money and you get to do what you want to do, and you have that freedom,” Dinwiddie said.

The NBA removing color restrictions on footwear allowed Dinwiddie to make a big splash with his shoes, but he always planned to do the designs, just in Brooklyn’s colors of black and white.

For the most part, Dinwiddie’s 82 shoe designs have already been set. In the summer, Dinwiddie sat down with his best friend and made a list of about 100 different designs that honored cities or people in his life. Since then the list has been cut down and sometimes changed, just as it was when Stan Lee passed away.

Shoe artist Kickasso creates the finished products for Dinwiddie, and the Stan Lee shoe stands out as a favorite to them both.

“When Stan Lee passed, obviously that wasn’t planned,” Dinwiddie said. “That was a very quick turnaround. I called Kickasso, I told him, you know, I’m a big Marvel fan, he’s a huge Marvel fan as well, so I was like, ‘Hey, we gotta do this,’ because obviously he was so influential in not just our lives, but a lot of people’s lives.”

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Dinwiddie’s motivation to go on this journey is rooted in giving back. He started his charity, the Dinwiddie Family Foundation, at the start of the 2017-18 season, during which he auctioned off game-worn and signed shoes and apparel from himself and other NBA players.

So far, Dinwiddie’s foundation has raised enough money for two students to go on full rides to college, providing the ‘gap’ coverage they need after financial aid is accounted for.

Contributing to education has been a family affair for Dinwiddie, as his great grandparents had a scholarship fund at his childhood church, and his mother owns a preschool and used to be a professor at USC. This footwear step for Dinwiddie is continuing his family’s history in education, with a chunk of the retail earnings from his shoes also going to the foundation. 

“It’s just part of my family’s legacy and how I help carry it on, and we want to expand into programming that spans elementary all the way up to college, so we’re kind of working backwards I guess in a sense,” Dinwiddie said. “A hundred percent of [the proceeds of] all the game-worn shoes goes to charity, and 25.08 percent, my two numbers, from all retail proceeds go to charity as well.” 

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Dinwiddie's shoe released on Dec. 8, a date that holds many meanings for the Nets guard. Dinwiddie chose the release date to honor the birthday of his late grandma, who he calls his favorite person in the world. His brother was also born on Dec. 8, and the release date was picked to celebrate the people who have molded him. Dinwiddie, who also wears No. 8, was signed by the Nets on Dec. 8 in 2016. 

As he has done throughout his career, Dinwiddie is doing it his own way while honoring his loved ones, and he is creating a path of his own.

“To be able to make a statement, to be able to draw attention to something, to be able to pay tribute to something, or pay homage to someone," Dinwiddie said, "it’s just continuing their legacy or hopefully furthering their cause and doing my little piece in showing that they matter and what they’re doing is important. [My shoes] is my way of doing that.”

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