Yes Morant was like a kid who gets a new pair of shoes before the first day of school. When the Memphis Grizzlies all-star point guard went to a Nike basketball meet about his future signature sneaker, he was given an all-black sample shoe to wear just to wear.
The meeting lasted about six hours, but Morant wore the shoes the whole time while sitting on the couch.
Over a period of 18 months, Nike and Morant went through a detailed process to make him the first Gen Z Nike basketball player. It all culminated with the unveiling of Morant’s first signature shoe on Christmas Day. The Ja 1 sneaker will be available in April at select retail locations and on Nike.com, priced at $110.
Morant joins Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Paul George and Kevin Durant as active players currently on Nike Basketball’s signature roster. But the details of Morant’s shoe are specifically tied to his preferences. The three areas in detail are: dynamic locking, responsive driving and assisted landing.
The dynamic lockdown focuses on allowing athletes to make quick changes of direction, the responsive ride hammers in explosions and the landing support is reminiscent of the raised sidewall guard rail on the shoe that helps support ankles, take off and land on two feet .
“His style of play is the holy grail of jumping higher,” said Scott Munson, Nike’s global vice president of men’s basketball. “Kids and gamers around the world want to emulate that and be able to offer a powerful solution to that that’s really accessible… we’re fortunate to be able to work with him on that.”
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Explain how the Ja 1 came about
Joining Nike was a dream for Morant. He signed with the global brand in May 2019 before being drafted No. 2 overall in the NBA draft.
“The offers came through, but I told my family and my agency that Nike was always my choice, so no other brand really interested me,” Morant said.
That showed in Morant’s approach to the development of this shoe. He was involved every step of the way. This includes branding, messaging, material, marketing, concepts and colouring.
Nike’s lead footwear designer, Ben Nethongkome, first wanted to get a feel for what Morant wanted in his personal sneaker. Nethongkome started by asking questions about favorite sneaker stories and shoes to play with.
This eventually grew into analyzing Morant’s basketball film and observing how he cuts and rises off the ground. The team then put together a design mood board.
“They just brought my shoe to life with what we discussed, what we agreed on and the message we wanted to send,” Morant said.
An underestimated aspect of designing a signature shoe is that in order to maximize potential, it must be suitable for all ages. That’s why Nike tested the shoe on basketball players of all skill levels to ensure it was accessible and relevant for all ages.
“It’s not easy to launch a brand new signature shoe and a brand new signature athlete, but Ja has been super helpful,” said Nethongkome. “He came to the table with concepts. We came to the table with ideas.”
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The details behind the logo, shoe
Six days before Morant announced he would have a signature shoe on Christmas Day, a picture of him in Nike sweatshirts and a hoodie with an unknown logo made waves on social media. Rumors that it was Morant’s new Nike logo were confirmed on Christmas Day.
As with Morant’s shoes, his logo has a deeper meaning that relates directly to his story.
“We wanted to stylize his name ‘Ja’ in the chevron shape in the logo,” said Nethongkome. “It kind of speaks to his verticality and also how sharp and quick he is on the court and how he overcomes obstacles.”
The logo also appears on the tongue of Morant’s shoes and the shoebox. It will be part of his future Nike merchandise, including t-shirts, sweatpants and hoodies.
“I hope everyone likes it because I love it,” Morant said of the logo.
Morant has already presented four pairs of his sneakers, but there are still more to come. He showed off the “Day One” sneakers in his launch video, then wore the Ja 1 “Chimney” to the Golden State Christmas game. Morant recently introduced the Ja 1 “Trivia” in a game against the Phoenix Suns. He also wore a PE (Player Exclusive) version of the Day Ones.
One pair Morant has yet to wear is the Ja 1 “Scratch”. This colourway pays homage to the Grizzlies with its red and black accented colors reminiscent of the early Grizzlies days.
Each pair has a special meaning and tells a personal story of Morant. The Day One’s have a handwritten note from people Morant believes have supported him throughout his journey. The Trivia’s will test how much you know about Morant with questions about his personal life and basketball career. The Chimney pays homage to one of Morant’s most famous quotes, when he said last season “We climb the chimney, we don’t duck the smoke”.
All of these details are thoughtful and special, but what stands out for Morant more than the rest is his daughter Kaari’s name on the shoe. Morant said his father, Tee and Kaari were the first to get a pair of Ja 1s.
“She’s my motivation,” Morant said. “The reason I get up and do what I do every day. Having them on my shoe is a big time for me.”