Interview // Myles Jones & Adidas Are Changing The Style of Lacrosse

words & interview // Nick DePaula:

Being different is nothing new for Myles Jones, a Long Island native now looking to change the face of both Major League Lacrosse and adidas Lacrosse, as the sport’s newest rising star.

The League’s 2016 #1 overall draft pick paved a path for himself early on, opting to try Lax as a 6th grader while all of his fellow peers pursued football and basketball. His father Reginald knew early on the emerging sport could prove to be his son’s best chance for a college scholarship, but that didn’t stop the 6’5″ Myles from keeping with both hoops and the gridiron for fun. He graduated from Walt Whitman High as the school’s all-time leading scorer on the hardwood and was an All-County star at Quarterback.

Still, lacrosse was his true passion, as Jones found himself dominating the field as a bruising midfielder ranked in the top 10 all throughout his prep career, and later during his two-time national championship run leading powerhouse Duke. He’s often credited his multi-sport background as the framework for his bully ball style of playing lacrosse — think Adrian Peterson or James Harden careening and powering through opponents, only on a 110-by-60 yard field, stick in hand.

As the recognition has continued to pile up, Jones is now finding himself standing out on the field in yet another new way — he’s the first ever lacrosse player to sign with adidas, who is launching their entire adidas Lacrosse category with Myles at the forefront. As the brand continues to convey a mindset around Creators and CleatHeads, Jones embodies that through Lacrosse, where he looks to leave a generational impact far beyond the sport, influencing both the style and diversity of the game for future kids.

“He’s got a lot riding on him, not for us but for him, for the brand of Myles Jones,” says Jake Steinfeld, the founder of MLL, in an article simply titled Myles Jones Is The Future Of Lacrosse. “It could be huge. I hope he knows he can be the beginning of something great in terms of diversity in our sport.”

A recent NCAA study found that only 1.9% of lacrosse players are African American, a trend Jones is looking to shift. He’s not only keenly aware of the opportunity ahead of him, but Myles has also embraced that responsibility, partnering with programs along the east coast to help raise awareness for the sport. Out in rainy Portland, Nice Kicks recently caught up with Jones to hear all about his decision to sign with adidas, how he plans to add his own style to the sport of lacrosse, and his ambitions to mentor and help bring the game to kids of all backgrounds. You can follow Myles on both Instagram and Twitter.

myles_vets_03_2000x1000-2Nick DePaula: Once you turned pro and started to sort through your endorsement deal options, what was it about adidas that made the deal make sense for you?

Myles Jones: From a style perspective and having a serious interest in sneakers, and also with adidas Lacrosse not having any athletes and being a new brand, so to speak, it fit perfectly. Everyone expected me to do something with Nike, Under Armour or Warrior, and I wanted to do something different and kind of shock people. I went to Duke, and people weren’t expecting that to happen. That’s kind of just who I’ve been and my personality. Everyone is wearing a regular shirt and pants, and I’ll come wearing a bomber jacket and something that’s really different from everyone else. People are getting used to me being different now, but it’s always been something that I’ve never consciously done. It’s just kind of who I am, and me signing with adidas was a perfect fit.

Jones visiting the adidas US headquarters

NDP: You mentioned Duke, and I talked to Brandon Ingram a couple months ago when he signed with adidas. It was also a bit out of nowhere for him. Did you guys talk to eachother at all about the brand?

MJ: I knew Brandon from school obviously, and even though it was my senior year, I’ve always been one of those guys that welcomes all of the basketball players in and would invite them over to our house. We were both focused on our sports and playing, but on the weekend we’d go out and see eachother. Basketball and Lacrosse at Duke have been pretty close during my four years at Duke. Brandon is one of those guys that I’d joke around with. He’s a very quiet and reserved guy, but when we got him around a bunch of people we got him out of his shell. He’s a cool dude, and when you see him and Justise [Winslow] sign with adidas, it’s kind of fun for all of us. They both congratulated me, and Justise was always joking around with me when I was still in college, telling me, “I’ll get you stuff!” It’s cool that we’re all now part of the same brand.

NDP: For someone like me that’s a bit of an outsider to the sport, how would you describe the style of lacrosse?

MJ: Well, lacrosse is a predominantly white sport, and the guys come from a lot of money usually. They wear your typical Sperrys and boat shoes.

NDP: Fire!

MJ: [laughs] Exactly. And guys show up to the locker room in that stuff and khakis, and I’ll show up in ripped jeans and Yeezys and a long tee shirt. Or I’ll wear a hoody over that and show up to the game with my headphones on. Guys respect it, but it’s a totally different style. It was funny, because when I went to college at Duke, the school kind of embodied that whole style too. Even if you didn’t play lacrosse, you had that kind of style. When I walked around on campus, it was always attention grabbing. My teammates, and especially ones also from New York, kind of adopted a similar style. They went from khakis to your skinny jeans and from boat shoes to your nicer sneakers that people are lining up to get.

I kind of changed the style of a lot of guys on the team, and it was funny to see that, because my first game, everyone was khakis, boat shoes and a backpack on. I was just different from everyone else, and I accepted that and wasn’t going to change who I was because my surrounding peers were who they were. It was just always something that people respected about me.

Growing up in New York, I’m a big Jay Z fan of course and had a Yankee fitted that I’d wear to school every day. I would walk up to school, and we couldn’t wear a hat inside the building, so I’d walk up to the front door and then take it off one step inside. If we were changing classes or any time we’d be outside the building, I’d put it back on. I haven’t wore a fitted in probably five years, but that was always my thing, to always stand out.

Myles’ recent rotation

NDP: You talked about a transformation of styles amongst your teammates in college over the last few years. Adidas as a brand was also undergoing a transformation during that time while you were in school. What were you noticing from afar, whether it was the Boost stuff launching, or Kanye signing with the brand and the impact he was having?

MJ: When I was in college, everyone was in Nike and Jordan at the beginning. I was a guy who just liked sneakers as a whole, whether it was Jordan, adidas, Reebok or whatever. As soon as I got Instagram, in like 9th or 10th grade, one of my first follows was Nice Kicks. If it was a hot shoe, I would have it.

When I started going through the negotiation process with different brands, I looked at adidas and went, “Wow, they’re dropping a new shoe that people on Nice Kicks or other sites that I follow are really going crazy over.” So I was always checking that out, following the NMDs and going, “Man! I see it. These are crazy.” Then, when I signed with adidas, it was actually bad for me. Cause as soon as I got my first allotment [budget] I just went crazy and spent almost all of it. [laughs]

NDP: That’s a good problem to have though. I remember interviewing some adidas Basketball guys in the late 2000s, and they couldn’t even spend through their allotments cause they just weren’t feeling the product like that. Now, you have guys constantly grabbing stuff on a weekly basis.

MJ: My reasoning sometimes, is like, “Well, I could wear these, so I’ll get it!” [laughs]

NDP: What size shoe are you?

MJ: 14. So when I go out, there aren’t many people wearing that size and I can snag stuff.

myles-6NDP: What would say are your favorites so far? I’ve seen you on the ‘Gram in UltraBoosts, Yeezys, NMDs and a bunch of stuff.

MJ: I love the UltraBoosts and NMDs. NMDs are probably my favorite, cause from a comfort standpoint, whenever I travel I just throw those right on. Whether you tie or don’t, and I’m a big no-tie guy, they slip right on and feel molded to my foot. When I run, I run in the Uncaged. I run on the treadmill in those. The Yeezys are for when I’m trying to catch some attention. Whenever I go to the mall, I throw those on with some jeans and a regular t-shirt. “Oh, nice sneakers!” And then, “Oh, nice sneakers!” That’s one of the biggest compliments you can get. And girls always look at your shoes, so that’s always a plus. [laughs]

NDP: Good side benefit for sure. [laughs] What do you think of the whole Creator mentality that the brand is pushing, and how do you think you fit into that through the Lacrosse angle?

MJ: The brand as a whole is very creative in how they try to tie different concepts that haven’t been thought about before into something that’s very popular. Without being creative, maybe the shoes would still be popular, but the cool concepts and random things like holidays and different themes that they’re doing have blown me away. What the brand is and what they stand for, that’s how I am in Lacrosse and wanting to be different. Working together and creating some things that are different from other brands are going to catch some attention in Lacrosse.

NDP: In the NFL we’re seeing guys with crazy spiked out cleats and different custom pre-game stuff. Have you considered any of that for your own cleats, and what kinds of themes would you like to come up with?

MJ: I actually did a custom pair of cleats for my senior year at Duke. It was for my first game of the season and people were taking tons of pictures. I’d like to do one cleat that’s New York-based and then maybe the other one is Baltimore or for Atlanta, where I live now. Maybe there’s a peach and then an apple on the back. I think of stuff and write it down all the time. I have a notebook full of it. Different things that I can relate to, whether that be my favorite candy being Reese’s –

NDP: Good pick, mine too!

MJ: Great pick! [laughs] Or whether I want to explore one of my favorite songs for the season and put that on a cleat in some way. I’ve always been someone who’s always been a little different and wanted to stand out, and I’d rather be loud versus being conservative and wearing a white cleat. I’ll do something neon or something cool instead. We just started that custom conversation yesterday, and we’ll continue to push the envelope on being different and separating ourselves from the general, boring population of lacrosse.

Jones’ FREAK cleats, with a written tribute to his great grandfather and grandfather.

NDP: You’ve talked a bit about the responsibility of being the only adidas athlete, but your Player’s Tribune piece really went into detail about a different responsibility of yours that’s bigger than a brand. How important is it for you to grow the game for fellow African American kids coming up that normally might not give lacrosse a chance?

MJ: That Player’s Tribune piece was kind of a culmination of how I felt and it kind of came out when we were playing Georgetown and I saw two other African American kids out there on their team. I always wonder what those kids went through, their story and how they got into lacrosse. Then, paralleling that with what I do across the board with Charm City Lacrosse, which is an organization for underprivileged kids in the Baltimore community that can help them to play Lacrosse and get them away from a high crime region for a little bit. Maybe they’ll go to private high schools or college, as we’re also trying to raise money for that. I’m also in the works of getting on the Board of Harlem Lacrosse, which is also doing the same thing in New York. I’ve given clinics for them, attended their galas and speak at all of their events.

I also donate all of the proceeds from my jersey sales. I do a lot of things in order to get kids the opportunity to play lacrosse and help them from a monetary standpoint. Technically, lacrosse is an expensive sport to play between the equipment and the travel, so I just try to provide here and there and have my hand in different events where kids can see me help them. Then they can see me play and maybe connect the dots and aspire to want to take that chance, play lacrosse and also go to college.

Myles with the next generation of Lacrosse

NDP: That’s all awesome, man. Love it. Now that you’ve had some time with the brand and have taken part in some of the bigger photoshoots, what’s it been like to interact with some of the NFL guys?

MJ: It’s cool, and I kind of got a sense of how some of these kids act when they see us and go, “Oh, you’re my favorite player!” For me, I was walking into a room full of guys that I see on TV and think are larger than life, and it was cool being able to talk to those guys. They were very human, which not everyone sees when you just think of them as being a superstar. We are still people and do the same thing that regular people do.

To see some of those guys that I grew up watching was great. It gives me an understanding of when kids come up to me and say that, although it’s on a whole different level of course. It was awesome to be a part of the same brand. I got to meet Adrian Peterson, and when I shook his hand, I was looking right into his hand and had to make the first move out or he would’ve crushed my knuckles. [laughs]

NDP: The thing is, he’s knows it’s a thing that people talk about, so he goes that much harder too. [laughs]

MJ: AP goes, “Oh, what position do you play?” I said, “Midfielder,” and he just had this crazy look like, “What the hell is that?” [laughs] Oh yeah, I don’t play football! All the guys thought I played D-end or something.

NDP: That was all during the real dramatic FREAK photoshoot, and I remember in your press release that they even had Von Miller officially welcoming you into the Freak family with the brand. What was that like, playing basketball and football growing up and now having that co-sign, even though you’re on the other side of things in a different sport?

MJ: It was awesome, and it’s just cool to see all of the athletes that adidas has and their different stories. Looking back on my own story and how I got to adidas, I caught a lot of attention and guys were texting me when they had Von welcome me on. I tried to downplay it and pretend like it wasn’t a big deal, but everyone was hitting me on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, and I caught a lot of attention. My phone was ringing every two seconds, and it was so cool to see that everyone is together within adidas and how much everyone cares about the next guy.


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