by Jarrel Harris
Veteran forward Rudy Gay is one of the NBA’s most underrated sneakerheads. Through 11 seasons, Gay has been known to rock some crazy Air Jordan retros while also wearing the latest Nike performance sneaker models. Being a Swoosh athlete comes with some amazing perks and a bunch of sneakers that have flooded his sneaker closet. We chatted with Gay about the DMV’s influence on his sneaker style, his favorite sneakers, other NBA sneakerheads, and more.
Jarrel Harris: How would you define the word sneakerhead?
Rudy Gay: I would say someone who gets what they like. A lot of people get sneakers because that is what everybody else likes. If you are a sneakerhead, you really know what you like and that’s what you go for.
JH: Where did your love for sneakers come from?
RG: It was in middle school. I got a pair of Jordans, I forgot which one they were but I got those [older] Jordans after the new ones already came out—that meant that they were on sale. Back then it wasn’t just about wearing Jordans, it was about wearing the newest Jordans. I had them on and they were making fun of me for having the old Jordans.
JH: If you could describe your sneaker closet how would you explain it?
RG: I will say it is versatile. Of course, I am a Jordan head so I have a lot of that. A lot of Nike in there. I always loved the Air Max and that’s the biggest thing. And it’s not even just Nike, I have Yeezys. As I got older I kind of shied away from the bulkier shoes, so now I just wear a lot of low-cut shoes.
JH: Do you know how many shoes you have in your collection?
RG: Only God knows. I have storages, I have garages, I have a closet full of them, so I would say over 1,000.
JH: If you had to wear three sneakers for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?
RG: I would say the Flyknit Nike. Any kind of Flyknit I will wear because they are comfortable as hell. I would say probably a pair of low-cut Air Force Ones, because people stopped wearing them but the style always comes back. I am actually wearing a pair right now. And a pair of Jordan IVs.
JH: Is there one sneaker in your closet that stands out amongst the others?
RG: Yeah, I have the Yeezy 1s. Actually it’s not just one, I also have the Oregon Air Jordan IVs. But the Yeezy 1s, every time I turn the light off in my closet they always glow and light up, so it is pretty cool.
JH: You're from the DMV (Washington, D.C.) area—how did that influence your style, and what sneakers did you wear growing up?
RG: Since I'm from the DMV, growing up it was Pennys, Air Maxes and New Balance. I stopped wearing Pennys as much because they weren't that comfortable. At this point in my career it is all about comfort. I can’t be walking around with my feet hurt. Speaking of that, growing up, because I was taller, I had to buy shoes and couldn't afford to get bigger [sizes]. So I would get a size 13 and take the sole out.
JH: When it comes to choosing what sneakers to wear, what is your mind-set? Is it the design? The colorway? How it feels?
RG: What's funny is I start my outfit with my shoes. It’s weird, people don’t really do that. But I start my outfit with my shoes and then it depends on what kind of jeans I want to wear and how crazy my colors are. With the style now, the longer the jeans, the shorter the shoe has to be. And sometimes I wear high-top shoes but I usually just save that for the court.
JH: How do you get the majority of your sneakers?
RG: I don’t really go on websites. I have been blessed, I have been with Nike for a little while now and for the most part they send me stuff. But even if you have a contract they don’t send you everything—sometimes you have to go through a different alley to get what you want. Like the Kaws Air Jordan IVs, they held them tight, because I'm a Nike athlete, not a Jordan athlete. I had to work my magic to get those.
JH: I was about to ask that—whenever you want kicks, how does that process work? Do you just ask a brand rep, like, Hey I need these?
RG: No, because they be acting like they are Barack Obama—you can’t get to them. I don’t even do that anymore, I just go about it my own way.
JH: What was the best game of your career and what sneakers did you wear?
RG: I was young. I had 41 against Miami and at the time that was my career high. I remember I had my PE on and I forgot what they were called—they had two straps on them and they were also available in retail, but I forgot the name of the shoe (laughs). But they were basically my shoe. I felt like I made it.
(The sneakers were the Nike Zoom Sharkalaid Rudy Gay PE)
JH: What is the most important thing to ever happen for sneaker culture?
RG: The most important thing to happen to sneaker culture is retro-ing. Air Jordans have always been retroed but it wasn't always as cool as it is now. You hate to say it, but Kanye wore the Jordan VIs and the IVs and brought them out all the time, and he would wear them with everything and people took a liking to that. Even Kid Cudi, people like him, he always wore Jordans.
JH: Have you ever had a moment while playing where you stopped and was like man, what are those? Who was it?
RG: Yeah, it was against Ray Allen when he was with the Boston Celtics. We played against them around Christmas and he had the white and gold Air Jordan elevens on and I remember we went to the same college, so I already thought in my mind he was going to give me those shoes right after the game, and he was like Nah, these are the only pair I got. It was one of those situations, because he wears a 13 and I wear a 14, that I would have had to take the sole out (laughs).
JH: Who are some other NBA sneakerheads you respect?
RG: It's a lot of them. Jarrett Jack has a nice collection. P.J. Tucker, but I think he is more of a Hypebeast [guy] though. He be wanting to crack everyone over the head like, yeah, I wore these. And I've done that before—it is what it is, but man, he be wasting money. He be making people in the crowd cry over those shoes. They spend thousands of dollars on them and be guarding LeBron in them.
JH: Do you have grails you still need for your closet?
RG: I gave them away [to a friend], and I don't know why I did this, but the Nike Yeezy 2, the grey ones. I have no idea why I gave them to him. They were a size too big, they were a 15, but where I'm from we call that jail feet—make yourself fit into any pair of shoes because they are nice.