Gary Payton is passionate about more than defense and trash-talking.
During Payton’s days in Seattle, his name was synonymous with defense and trash-talking, but you can’t forget about his shoe line, which features one of the most unique and celebrated Nike creations ever. The Nike Air Zoom Flight “The Glove” is a shoe many would like to see back, and Gary is on a mission to please his fans. “Just know that I’m working to bring it back soon, so I want fans of it to be on the lookout,” said Payton. Yet, before that, Gary wants people to know how The Glove was formed.
As the 1996 installment of our Olympic Diaries series, Gary Payton details the creation of the Nike Air Zoom Flight “The Glove”, how the shoe was tailor-made for his style of play, his favorite Olympic Basketball shoe, and the reasoning behind his switch to another brand late in his career.
Nice Kicks: Your nickname was taken literally in the design of this shoe, but how did the thought of creating a basketball sneaker inspired by an actual glove come about?
Gary Payton: During the design process, we checked out different types of gloves for inspiration. I really liked the leather ones that secure your hand with the pull of a zip – the ones that have a zipper on the back part of the glove. I thought it would be nice to have a shoe that featured an element like that. No one had anything like that at the time, and I thought it was a really dope concept. So, when I pitched the idea to Nike in one of our meetings, they were like, ‘Gary, that’s a really great idea.’ That’s what we came up with. To have the first shoe that ever featured a zipper like that was special to me. I just came up with the concept, and they made it happen.
Nice Kicks: Oh, so you approached Nike with “The Glove” concept?
Gary Payton: Yes. The Glove was supposed to be about me. It was a symbol of how I play defense and how fast I was, so I wanted to put a lot into it. When I played, I only wore one pair of socks, so I stressed to Nike that I wanted to have a shoe that was secure and fit like a glove. I didn’t want it to be your regular slip-in-and-lace shoe because I didn’t think it would secure my feet. So, we incorporated the zipper, and we placed the shoelaces underneath so that you can tie and lock the foot in with the “Monkey Paw” technology around the ankle to make it tight and snug – just like your fingers going into a glove.
Nice Kicks: How did Nike initially react to you wanting a shoe actually inspired by a glove?
Gary Payton: Nike is always prepared, so when we went to the first meeting, they had a presentation of things that I reminded them of laid out in front of me. After one of my follow-up meetings with them, they already had a shoe model built, and it threw me off guard. I really liked it a lot, but I wanted something more glove-like – something that reminded me of a glove. That’s when I mentioned the zipper element and how I wanted it to be like the Hallmark glove I mentioned earlier. I remember them looking at me funny and kind of confused. They were like, ‘Oh, okay. That sounds…good.’ I explained to them that I wanted a shoe you could zip up that would lock your foot in and fit like a glove. That’s when they first came up with the “Monkey Paw” technology. After that meeting, we came back three weeks later and they gave me the prototype to play in and test out. It was a process of about two months for both sides to agree on a shoe that everybody liked.
Nice Kicks: I’m guessing you were in Beaverton a lot seeing that you spent the bulk of your career, both college and pro, in the Pacific Northwest?
Gary Payton: I spent a lot of time at Nike’s headquarters in Oregon. I went there every summer to model my shoes and test them out, so I was there on the regular. I went to school at Oregon State, so it was right down the street.