Nike designer Tony Hardman said there was a point where nobody at the brand knew if they’d be moving forward with a Paul George signature shoe or not. “You don’t know if a guy is gonna come back from an injury like that,” Hardman told Sole Collector. “That’s a crazy injury to try and come back from. So, even for me as a designer, it was almost like the resource was kinda put on hold for a little bit. We don’t know what’s gonna happen with Paul.”
“It wasn’t really on my mind whether I lost the shoe or if that dream was out the window or not,” George told Sole Collector. “During that time period I was more concerned that my job was at stake.” In retrospect, Hardman calls the injury a blessing in disguise in that it gave the design team more time to get to know George. It also pushed back the debut date of the Nike PG1 shoe, which was originally scheduled to release in 2016.
“We’re changing things up,” said Kevin Dodson, Nike Basketball’s senior footwear product director. “For a long time, we had a great run and did some moments that you could count on every year that Nike was going to show up at. Like all good things, it’s about doing something new and something fresh.” This year, the brand debuted the newest signature sneakers from Kyrie Irving and LeBron James instead of styling existing shoes already on the market.
Rather than tie itself to the 15-plus theme nights allowed by the league throughout the course of the season – including Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day and Easter – Nike is looking to latch onto just a handful of moments. “Celebrating Black History Month and starting on MLK Day will always be [big] for us to make statements,” Dodson said. “It’s always a fun opportunity to tell great stories, but the thing that we’re really focused on is trying to refresh that whole model.”
Last night, the National Retail Federation held its third annual Gala in New York City. While the event’s purpose is to recognized and honor individuals who are impacting the retail industry today, Kobe Bryant highlighted the event in a surprise appearance to present Nike CEO Mark Parker with The Visionary Award. Bryant, a long-time Nike signature athlete, talked about the Nike CEO’s impact on him personally, calling Parker one of his muses and someone he could turn to all the time for advice. When Bryant was beginning to plan his post-retirement life, he said Parker gave him a 944-page book on own his muse, Abraham Lincoln.
“I would think that after all these years working at Nike, spending time with athletes, that he would know that the last thing an athlete wants to do is read a 944-page book in a 10-point font,” said Bryant. “But when I read it, I immediately saw the connectivity between the sixteenth President’s and Mark’s leadership style. A quiet, empathetic leader who bands together people with different points of view to build a stronger team, because maybe, just maybe, an off the wall idea can change the game. You just need to be willing to listen. So for every Mark Parker in the world, there is an Abraham Lincoln. For every Kobe Bryant, there is a Mark Parker.”