Every night in the NBA, the pregame tunnel becomes more and more of a fashion show. It started in the late 1990s with players like Allen Iverson pushing the boundaries of league fashion, and continued into the new generation with players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Russell Westbrook and PJ Tucker.
Gilgeous-Alexander is often considered one of the best-dressed players in the NBA, combining pieces from Louis Vuitton, ERL and others with footwear from Nike, Converse and Jordan. As a Converse athlete, the star playmaker has the flexibility to wear multiple brands of sneakers under the Nike umbrella off the court, which only helps his ability to be one of the best dressed in the league.
Complex spent a day with Gilgeous-Alexander in Oklahoma City in December during one of his fashion shoots. We talked about the creative freedom that Converse gives him, participating in Fashion Week, his rise to NBA stardom and more.
This conversation has been shortened for clarity.
What was it like to have Converse as a partner? How was it creatively working with them?
It’s fun. It’s a real partnership. We go back and forth with great communication. That’s really the definition of a partnership, and we work together just trying to make special things happen.
Converse really seems to emphasize creative freedom. Guys like you and Kelly Oubre Jr. are some of the more stylish guys in the league. Is that something you really liked when you decided to be a Converse partner?
For sure. I wanted someone who would let me be me and express myself through fashion, shoes, clothes, whatever. And they didn’t disappoint me, for sure.
Being a partner with Converse means you can wear the likes of Nike and Jordan off the court. Is that a plus for you?
Yes, absolutely. Obviously, those shoes or staples for kids around the world.
Growing up watching the league, who were some of your style inspirations?
Allen Iverson. That’s probably the only guy. He was a rule breaker, a pioneer, all of the above.
Are there any specific AI outfits that come to mind when you think about its impact?
The whole baggy vibe. Baggy sweatpants, do-rag vibe, chains, jerseys with sweatpants.
We’ve mentioned the freedom that Converse gives you, allowing you to express your own style, and you’ve shown that with some of the shoes you’ve worked on with them. Can you talk about working on your own branded shoe?
Yes, a dream come true. Obviously, as a child you dream of such things. To have to put your imprint on a shoe and make it yours, it must be a surreal feeling.
What’s the best Converse sneaker you’ve ever worn on the court specifically for basketball purposes?
Latest [All Star BB Prototype CX] for sure. I feel like they’re honestly getting better every year. But just to go back to that partnership we were talking about, I had a couple of ankle injuries last year. These shoes are higher, more stable and good for the ball.
What are the things you look for most when looking for the performance of a football boot on the pitch?
Grip first of all. So I can stop and start. And then just a pillow in the shoe, to make sure that I’m comfortable and that my feet don’t hurt. And then style, three.
What was it like to be a part of Fashion Week as a fashion conscious person? Is this something you could have ever imagined growing up?
It’s fun, man. There’s so much going on, so many people out there, and so much art going on with clothing designers. They usually do it in cities where there are great art galleries and things like that. The creative side of me gets excited when I go to such things. There is so much to learn and absorb.
The International Basketball Federation just placed Spain ahead of the United States in its FIBA rankings. What do you think about it from a neutral perspective?
I haven’t really been following, but I know they have, like, a ranking system based on records, and I’m sure that’s probably why. But obviously both are really good basketball countries. If I had to say which is better, I would say the United States, but Canada is also on the way.
That leads me right to my next question. The Canadian talent in the league is better than it may have ever been. Can you talk about some of the Canadians and how competitive you think Canada can be?
I think we’re pretty good. We have a lot of talent. It’s just about putting it together and I’ll try to make an impression at the next World Cup.
What helped you become one of the best guards in the NBA and a legitimate MVP candidate?
I don’t think it’s just this year. I think I can learn and grow every year. It’s just an accumulation of all the years that have passed and I hope it will continue. That’s my goal to keep improving every year and learning from last year and getting better, and that’s all I’m focused on.
Where would you rank yourself among the other top running backs in the league?
I don’t get too caught up in the rankings, but I will say that every time I step on the court, I tell myself that I feel like I’m the best player on the court, no matter who’s there. This is exactly how I enter every evening. That’s my mentality.