How Kevin Garnett’s SLAM presents KICKS Vol. 1 Cowl Modified One Sneaker Insider’s Life

This story appears in an entire special issue dedicated to the Big Ticket. Shop now.

“What’s up with the rubber band?” 

Folks ask me on a regular basis. Explaining that I’ve worn one on my left wrist daily since center faculty is all the time extra awkward than I count on. 

However that’s after I noticed KG on the debut cowl of KICKS. 

“What’s up, canine?” it learn. 

I used to be 13—and that journal modified my life. 

The youthfulness of the League’s first prep-to-pros participant in 20 years was understood. A 22-year-old KG was additionally recent off his very first signature shoe with Nike, had simply inked the lockout-inducing $126 million contract and was re-defining the idea of positionless basketball for a brand new technology. 

He represented the way forward for the League because it developed right into a post-MJ period—and seeing him grace the first-ever cowl of SLAM’s offshoot KICKS journal was an ideal match. 

“Kevin mentioned he needed to be remembered because the one participant that had enjoyable each single time he went on the market,” former Nike exec David Bond recalled on web page 11, of KG’s very first Swoosh assembly.

I’ve all the time liked that quote. Hoops is enjoyable. Sneakers are enjoyable. I’ve tried to hold that very same youthfulness with me ever since.

It’s been an extended ass time, however the rubber band—from an limitless provide of three 1/2” x 1/4” bands that I swap out weekly—has been a each day reminder ever since of why I do what I do. And I’ve acquired KG and SLAM to thank for that. 

When the problem dropped within the fall of 1998, there had by no means been something prefer it. 

“You’ll be able to write about sneakers?” I keep in mind considering, whereas studying about sneakers. 

It was all new territory, and seeing and holding a tangible extension of that meant the whole lot to me. The SLAM staff may not have even realized it, however that single subject opened the doorways to what youngsters across the nation even thought was attainable. 

Our understanding of “working in sneakers” on the time was that working at Foot Locker can be cool, off the power of simply getting a reduction. Nobody even knew a whole world surrounding the sport that all of us liked existed as a profession path. Whether or not that meant working within the sneaker business at a model in design or advertising and marketing, or writing concerning the gamers and pairs that moved the needle, that first KICKS subject was eye-opening. 

A number of sneaker magazines, dozens of footwear-centric blogs, and seemingly thousands and thousands of Instagram pages—targeted simply on kicks—all adopted.

The difficulty was additionally insanely informative, offering each reader with a basis of footwear data that will mainly supercharge the technology of children hopping onto the Niketalk and Sole Collector boards firstly of the 2000s. 

It was one factor to suppose “the patent leather-based Jordans” had been a sick shoe or to have heard the legend of the Air Jordan XIII being impressed by MJ’s “Black Cat” nickname, however when KICKS dropped, there was a full lineage of each Air Jordan mannequin, all collectively on a two-page unfold. 

The ten-page stretch that adopted it was a literal encyclopedia of “each Nike Basketball sneaker ever,” as the duvet promised. Listed out so as had been product pictures of all 378 of the Nike fashions that had hit retail by that time. (No. 278 is the best hoop design of all time, by the best way. The very subsequent one, the Air Thrill Flight at No. 279, was the primary pair of Nikes I owned, because of my $40 finances rising up.)

Later within the magazine, there have been precise options and interviews with sneakers designers—one other first. The one business title that anybody knew was Tinker Hatfield, and right here was a three-page unfold, every on Eric Avar and Aaron Cooper—each with hair! The duo designed Nike Basketball’s most iconic silhouettes of the ’90s for the likes of Penny Hardaway, Scottie Pippen, Jason Kidd and Gary Payton. 

On web page 87, I discovered myself gazing not solely Avar for the very first time, but additionally the sneakers I had simply completed my seventh grade basketball season in—a black and inexperienced variation of Dennis Rodman’s Air Shake NDestrukt that I snagged for $19.99 at Ross. (Our staff colours had been additionally inexperienced—so it’s fairly presumably my all-time favourite discover.) 

The exaggerated grooves of Avar’s sketch, together with a reversed Swoosh and “NIKE” textual content over the heel Air window had been all totally different particulars than the shoe sitting in my bed room, sparking my curiosity and creativeness for what else I might uncover from Nike’s archives of what-if designs and ideas. 

Cooper’s first-person penned piece on Pip’s second shoe linked how an athlete’s perception and involvement might drastically shift the place a design is headed, after Coop admitted he labored up the primary, extra cumbersome, Air Pippen mannequin with out a lot enter from Scottie. 

Each of Russ Bengtson’s options and framing laid the muse of how I envisioned a designer profile studying. So I began to develop a roadmap of how I might get there. I turned the sports activities editor of my highschool’s paper just a few years later. Russ identified that Nike was positioned in Oregon—so I went to the College of Oregon, studied Journal within the College of Journalism, and would make the drive north usually to try to make connections in Beaverton. 

From my very first “Focus: Artist” article in a 2006 subject of Sole Collector that highlighted an undiscovered expertise named Justin Taylor, to the numerous designer interviews I’ve carried out ever since with the likes of Jason Petrie, Leo Chang and the remainder of the staff that carried on the torch at Nike Basketball, KICKS was the blueprint all alongside. 

Every of the primary instances I interviewed that celebrated trio of Hatfield, Avar and Cooper throughout the late 2000s, I keep in mind considering again to the pages of the primary KICKS subject a decade earlier. Speaking to Coop about his Garnett 3 design, a vibrant, fading black and blue sneaker that I wore in highschool, was an all-time second. 

A handful of years after that first subject had dropped, in 2003, I’ve a reasonably distinct reminiscence from round 4 am on a spring Friday evening. I used to be at my highschool’s “Grad Evening,” they usually had a typical train for all the college students to take part in.

A large white paper roll waved out in entrance of us over the auditorium flooring, and I keep in mind one among our trainer chaperones yelling out “Seize a Sharpie, and write down what you’ll be doing in 10 years!” 

I didn’t hesitate for a second. 

“I’m gonna write about sneakers, for SLAM,” I instructed myself.    

And it began with an image of Kevin Garnett and a rubber band. 

KEVIN GARNETT: Anything Is Possible is a feature-length chronicle of Kevin Garnett’s remarkable career and the pivotal moments that defined it. Stream the documentary on SHOWTIME. 

Images through Getty Photos.

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