words & interview // Nick DePaula:
When a superstar athlete finds something that works on the floor, it can be hard to get them to switch things up.
That’s been the case for Chris Paul and his longtime Jordan Brand signature series. Every shoe has been a beast on the hardwood to hoop in, and CP3 has loved every last element of the line’s performance. From the 5/8th collar height, to the wrapping forefoot grip along the inner toe, the no-frills traction setup and forefoot Zoom Air — there’s been a formula in place that simply worked.
The footwear has helped fuel him all this time in the Association, and after nine All-Star nods and nine All-Defensive team namings, Paul was finally looking to shift things up, even if ever so slightly. The newest addition to his signature series — he’s only the 6th athlete to have 10+ consecutive signature models — looks to take all of the best cues and touches of his sneakers to date, while adding even more support and control.
Partly inspired by a cult classic-slash-point guard’s favorite from over a decade ago — the Nike Air Jet Flight — Paul looked to add a lockdown strap to his eleventh signature model, harnessing his every step through what he’s hoping will be a deep postseason run here this spring.
We recently caught up with CP3 to hear all about his latest shoe, his first season in Houston, and of course, some of his favorite sneakers off the court. Check out the full conversation below, and let us know your thoughts on his new Jordan CP3.11 on Twitter.
Nick DePaula: The CP3.11 — crazy to say to we’re on the 11 now — what were some of the biggest things you were looking for on the design to switch it up this time around?
Chris Paul: The thing that I was most excited about was the strap. For years, and awhile ago on the 3s, I wanted a strap on my shoe, but we couldn’t do it at the time. I’m excited about the strap, and I’m excited about the “rocket fuel” energy shoe that we dropped. I’m sure you know a lot about sneakers, how different things work and how far in advance you have to do it. Pushing the release date back on my shoe actually worked out perfect, in that me being traded, it would’ve sucked coming out with a shoe in Clippers colors. You know what I mean? [laughs]
NDP: That definitely would’ve been awkward. [laughs] But, you guys have to work over a year in advance usually, so that’s part of the process. What’s it like being one of only two players with his own Jordan signature shoe now?
CP: It’s such an honor and a privilege. We all know what the brand stands for – it stands for excellence. For me, I love sneakers and the whole process of it. The thing that I’ve enjoyed over the years learning and trying to get better at is telling stories. When you design anything, it’s all about telling your story. That’s why the brand is what it is. That’s why MJ is who he is. When you think about the 1s and the “Banned” story, the 3s and the 11s, all of those different shoes tell different stories.
NDP: Definitely, and from JMay back in the day to Justin Taylor now, how has the process of working on your shoe changed over the years? How many times do you meet in person, and do you guys do FaceTime, texts or emails too now?
CP: It’s constant. Not only with JT, but with Jamaal Lucas at the brand too. My brother is also always involved, and it’s so collaborative. Obviously FaceTime helps, but they come down and see me too. They always come down during the summer when I have my youth camp, and they’ll show the kids what we’re working on. I’ll see those guys when I go to Portland, and then we’ll group talk year around. It’s not just a one time thing. That’s what’s cool about it. We can always think about the process of it and because we have that relationship – we can be honest about what we like or don’t like.
NDP: That’s great to hear. I know you guys have all gotten super close, and I remember Jamaal was joking about how you had pulled up to one of his Portland city league games to watch, and he felt like he had a little bit of extra pressure.
CP: Definitely! [laughs] That’s the thing with being with the brand. It’s like a real family, and it’s bigger than just the shoes.
NDP: Tell me about the Adjust Force and Jet Flight inspiration, which I found super interesting. What was it about some of those older shoes that helped to shape the 11 here?
CP: I’m sitting here laughing, because a lot of people don’t know about the Jet Flight. I was in high school, and I used to wear those shoes. I remember going on Eastbay, and they were like $59.99 at one point, and I was trying to get every color. They were just so lightweight, and I loved that shoe. Steve Nash wore ’em for a long time, and Luke Ridnour wore that shoe too.
NDP: In LA with the Clippers you of course had Blake [Griffin] also with Jordan — now in Houston, you got James with his huge Adidas deal. Do you and James ever get into any Jumpman vs. Three Stripes arguments or debates?
CP: He’ll come in with some pair of Adidas and I might have some Js on, and he’ll mess with me and say, “Ughhh!” [laughs] The cool part too is we both got AAU programs, and of course with grassroots basketball, there’s different circuits. You’ve got the Nike / Jordan circuit, you’ve got the Adidas circuit and you’ve got the Under Armour circuit. One thing we’ve talked about is getting our teams together to play against eachother.
NDP: Another teammate of yours that’s been wearing crazy sneakers all year is of course PJ Tucker. He said he even caught Michael by surprise in Charlotte when he wore a pair of Shawn Marion 5 PEs. Which pairs has PJ worn that grabbed your attention?
CP: It catches me by surprise with some of the shoes that he’ll play in. I don’t ever really get surprised by seeing that he got a shoe. He has guys’ PEs and has a crazy collection of Brons and a crazy collection of Jordans. He’ll be in some shoes, and it’s like, “You done lost your mind.” [laughs] You know the sole is coming off those – why are you even trying? [laughs]
NDP: PJ told a story about how he tracked down and bought a pair of the navy suede Jeter 11s, which are super rare of course. And then he said you casually wore your own pair into the locker room a few days later. What are some PEs you’ve got that you’ve been most excited about lately?
CP: I’m a big fan of the 11s. I love the 4s, the 3s and the Jordan 1 is my favorite of all time. I just love the 1. A shoe that I think is slept on a lot is the 23s. Not only the design, but I actually played in those in the ’08 Olympics. The story behind the 23, and a lot of people forget about MJ’s thumbprint that’s behind the tongue. Every time you pull the tongue up, you feel like you’re MJ for a second. That’s the stuff that I pay attention to.
NDP: That was one of my favorite Jordans to play in for sure, with the full-length Zoom on top of the IPS, and then the support was great. I remember you had some really clean PEs when you were on the Hornets, with the teal.
NDP: That’ll be a fun one to bring back when they decide to. Do you have anything special planned for the CP3 11 for the playoffs?
CP: I got some fun ones coming out around the playoffs and through the summer. A few shoes paying homage to some of my favorite TV shows and stuff like that. I probably can’t tell you everything, but we got some fun stuff coming.
NDP: Outside of your own line, what’s your favorite Air Jordan sneaker of all time from when you were growing up? Is it still the 13?
CP: The 13 is one of my favorite shoes because of the story behind it. When I was in the 6th grade, I was playing after school intramurals, and I came back to my locker and my shoes were gone. That was the first day that I wore them to school — and I didn’t get another pair of 13s until my fourth year in the NBA. [laughs]
NDP: What sneakers are in your current rotation off the court?
CP: I love the new Jordan Trainer Flyknit, with the strap. I love anything with Flyknit just to wear around. The 11 Lows, I wear those some. The Kaws 4s. Depending on where I’m going, I wear 1s. If I’m going to dinner, I’ll wear 1s. That’s probably the model I have most — I got 1s for days. [laughs]
NDP: Last question for you man — what are some upcoming launches that you’re most excited about?
CP: You tell me first —
NDP: Well, I think a lot of people are looking forward to what more the brand does with Virgil here after the 1s launched, and I’m also looking forward to seeing what you guys are able to do with Don C.
CP: Man, me too, and Don’s got a few sick ones coming out! When you’re over on the fourth floor of the MJ Building on campus, man, he’s got some sick colorways of that shoe!