For a lot of sneakerheads, we’ve been capable of watch the whole thing of the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder’s existence—if Russell Westbrook’s rookie season could be remembered, you’ve seen all of it. For some perspective, the Boston Celtics gained their 17th NBA Championship with a workforce that includes Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen, earlier than the Thunder even got here to be.
Westbrook was chosen by the Seattle Supersonics simply six days previous to the workforce’s relocation to OKC, and little did anybody know on the time, however this Nice Plains city identified for its oil wells and cowboys was about to change into one of many epicenters of NBA sneaker tradition.
Sensing the chance to protect reminiscences of the franchise from day one, Dan Mahoney, present VP of Broadcasting and Company Communications, remembers that “it hit us fairly shortly that we must always save all the things we might. Any group, particularly in sports activities, you need to have the ability to maintain elements of your historical past and inform your story for generations.”
Mahoney defined that due to the fast nature of the workforce’s transfer, “we most likely didn’t have sufficient of a course of in place, as a result of we relocated in July and the season began in October. However we fairly shortly caught up and began saving all the things we might and simply saved it away—probably not with a complete lot of group, simply don’t throw something away. And a key a part of that’s the sneakers.”
What that storage would finally change into, no less than on the footwear entrance, was an archive that went on show on the Chesapeake Power Enviornment for the workforce’s 10th anniversary season. “Each participant that’s come by way of our group has contributed,” says Mahoney. “Each person who’s come by way of our group—participant, employees, coach—all people issues and all people’s performed a job. And as we take a look at the gamers, one distinctive method to mark every of them that comes by way of is to have items of what they’ve contributed, and the sneakers are actually an important a part of that and a concrete approach displaying what they had been capable of categorical.”
The significance of sneakers to the sport and tradition of basketball has by no means been larger than it has for the previous decade, not just for the followers, however the gamers too. “It provides the blokes on the courtroom their very own sense of fashion, their very own sense of vogue,” says Thunder guard Andre Roberson. “That’s the one approach they will type of be themselves outdoors of the identify on the again of the jersey.”
The Thunder have made probably the most of this previous decade in the case of sneakers. “We’ve had loads of sneaker-heavy gamers with loads of totally different sneakers of their rotation from early on,” defined the Thunder’s Senior Logistics Lead, Wilson Taylor, who handles the entire workforce’s tools wants. “Through the years we’ve had KD—coping with all of his signature sneakers, now PG’s signature line, Carmelo final yr, and Russ.” That makes 4 signature athletes already within the workforce’s transient existence, and that doesn’t embody James Harden who went on to have his personal line later.
“Even guys like Caron Butler—he was an SMU man, so he wore a brand new pair each sport, and James proper when he obtained to be SMU and began getting particular make-ups. Dion Waiters was a heavy Nike ID man, so we had been sitting down each few weeks and doing IDs,” added Taylor.
George’s line has change into so well-liked amongst his friends that it was reported final yr to be the most-worn signature mannequin within the NBA. “I needed to make a shoe that was nice for basketball gamers and guys eager to hoop in,” George advised Advanced. “The whole lot that went into the shoe was based mostly on what I like in sneakers and what I believe individuals round me would love by way of consolation and efficiency. In order that’s actually the place it got here from. I’m comfortable that the areas what we keyed in on are what’s making the shoe so well-liked.”
George’s teammates not solely are followers of the sneakers, however recognize the entry they get to each his and Westbrook’s sneakers. “We positively get to see the brand new flavors earlier than anyone else. I don’t assume they went fallacious with any shoe to date,” says Roberson. “They’re killing the sport proper now.”
In keeping with Mahoney, OKC “actually has developed right into a sneaker market, and clearly the Thunder get the credit score for that and the gamers get the credit score.”
As for the long-term plans of the sneaker archive, Mahoney says it’s nonetheless a piece in progress. “We’re gathering, we’re archiving, we’re defending these artifacts, and saving them for generations to return.” Ultimately although, the workforce plans to have a extra strong show.
“Our complete philosophy with the Thunder is we’re constructing this legacy with all the things we do day by day, and a giant a part of that—if not the dominant half—is the gamers and what they stand for in the neighborhood, on the ground, throughout the NBA, and the way they characterize themselves,” says Mahoney. “And one of many methods they characterize themselves and categorical themselves is thru their sneakers.”