Quentin Richardson wants people to know something when it comes to sneakers: there’s probably no one on this Earth – dead or alive – that can compete with his shoe game. OK, well, maybe one guy.
“I think the only person that could’ve come close to competing with mine as far as PEs was Ray Allen,” Richardson says. “The longevity of both of our careers—especially since I spent my entire career with the brand and he spent maybe a year or two with Nike and then was an original [Team Jordan] member … I would say Ray Allen is the only person [close].”
And when it comes to PEs, short for player exclusive, Richardson said there’d be no competition if there was a “Sneaker Champ” accolade when he came into the league.
“I’d murder that back in my prime,” he says. “It would’ve been over.”
Over for guys like PJ Tucker, a player who, according to Richardson, is the “sneakerhead of millennials.” Tucker’s collection ranges from older Nike Basketball models to sought-after Jordan retros to PEs from players – including Richardson, who’s seen some very familiar kicks on Tucker’s feet.
“I don’t know how he gets all those shoes,” he says of Tucker’s access to rare PEs. “He’s got some of Darius [Miles’] old PEs – the XIs. He has some s**t from everybody though! He had some of Michael Finley’s PEs, Mike Bibby’s PEs, Derek Anderson’s PEs. And I don’t know who he goes through, but he’s never gotten shoes from me. He has a good connect!”
In 1997, Nike announced Jordan Brand, a subdivision of the company, that strictly focused on Michael Jordan-endorsed footwear and apparel. The brand signed Ray Allen, Vin Baker, Derek Anderson, Michael Finley and Eddie Jones, the five original members of Team Jordan. Two years later, the brand expanded its roster with Mike Bibby, Roy Jones Jr., Randy Moss and Derek Jeter.
Richardson joined the Team Jordan family in 2000. As a Chicago native, getting signed to rep the Jumpman on-court was a dream come true.
“For me, it was the best thing ever,” he says. “Being a Chi-Town kid that grew up idolizing MJ and all that, and to be handpicked to be part of Team Jordan, that was, like, awesome.”
Richardson’s first pro stop was in Los Angeles when the Clippers selected him No. 18 overall in the 2000 NBA Draft. That’s where he first debuted his Jordan PEs. At the time, the latest retro was the Jordan XVI, designed by Wilson Smith, that released in 2001.
Playing alongside Team Jordan athlete Darius Miles, the duos’ PE game was serious at a time long before accolades and titles were given to players for the kicks they wore throughout the season. From IIs, Vs, IXs, to XIs and XVIs, the two rookies were bringing out heat at STAPLES Center.
With hip-hop and hoops heavily intertwined, the early ‘00s era was, by far, one of the best times for basketball culture and Richardson was at the forefront of it all. There was the famous SLAM cover. KICKS 5, which released in 2002, featured Miles and Richardson on the cover with “Jump Men” in yellow caps. Look toward Q’s kicks and he’s wearing the all-white low-top XIs with a Jordan headband over a navy blue durag.
“People ask me what was the best time and that’s always going to be my favorite team,” Richardson says, reminiscing about his time with the Clippers. “It was like a part two of college.”
After spending four years in Los Angeles, Richardson was traded to Phoenix and the PEs followed – just in appropriate colorways that suited his new team.
“When I was in Phoenix, I had some sick ass colors,” he says. “I had four or five different ones [at the time].”
During his stint with the Suns, one of Richardson’s most notable pairs were his XIIIs in white and orange, and white and purple with his nickname, “Q-Rich,” stitched on the tongue. When asked what’s his favorite retro, there are three that he’s quick to point out.
“IIs, absolutely,” Richardson says. “I think my all-time favorite to play in were the XIIs. They were crazy comfortable to me, even to this day. And the XIIIs were crazy.”
His 13-year career saw stops in New York, Miami, Orlando and back to New York before retiring in 2013. The PEs accumulated by the season too, and he wore his models with his famous “Q-Rich,” “Q23” or “Q-Rich 23” stitched on IIs, VIIIs, XIIs and XIIIs. And if the stitching isn’t on the shoe, pinpointing a Quentin Richardson PE is pretty easy for sneaker enthusiasts: just look at the “23” on the side of some Knicks-colored Jordan Vs.
Now, at 38, Richardson is long removed from the NBA. He was recently selected No. 10 in the second round of the BIG3 Draft that took place last month. In 2014, he joined the Detroit Pistons’ staff as the director of player development. When it came to working with young players like Stanley Johnson, Richardson passed down more than just wisdom.
Johnson, a Nike athlete who’s usually wearing Kobes or Kyries on the court, switched it up one night against the Cavaliers in 2016 and wore a black and red Jordan XII PE gifted by Richardson.
“Stanley’s situation, he’s like a little brother to me,” Richardson says of Johnson. “He’s a good kid. I like him and that’s kind of how it happened. If I rock with somebody then that’s just how it is.”
Richardson also remembers giving guys like Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade some PEs before they entered the NBA. (Both Anthony and Wade would eventually be Jordan Brand members.)
“You ask Melo and D-Wade, their first pair of [PEs] was from me,” he says. “My custom PEs that I gave them when they were at Syracuse and Marquette.”
Rapper Fat Joe even has some of Q-Rich’s Jordan XII Miami Heat PEs on display at his sneaker store, Up NYC, that opened in November of 2016. But for the rest of his collection, which you can find via his Instagram, it’s a trip down memory lane and an inside look at the perks of being a Jordan Brand athlete. He also said he’s saving some exclusive for his sons when they grow up, with hopes that they both wear size 15s.
As we continue to discuss all of his PEs, Richardson emphasizes how he’s soon going to bring back some of the stuff that’s been sitting in his closet.
“I’m going to bring some,” he says, smirking. “I got a couple I’m going to bring out.”
Eighteen years after signing with Jordan Brand, Richardson still remains a part of the team. Over the course of that time, many athletes have been signed, the brand has expanded tremendously with their footwear, technology, collaborations and storytelling. And while Richardson’s PEs remain atop sneakerheads’ lists of best Jordan PEs, the best feeling for him is reaping the benefits with his family.
“You always knew that MJ was going to have the long-lasting element in him and all of that,” Richardson says. “Just to see everything that’s happened, it’s a blessing to be a part of the brand and be able to still represent the brand and get all of the gear for me and my kids. To be a part of the family and they take care of you is super special to me.”
Sneakers, Evergreen, Jordan, Nike, Sneakers, Top, Derek Anderson, Eddie Jones, Mike Bibby, PJ Tucker, Quentin Richardson, Ray Allen, Stanley Johnson, Vin Baker, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns