How Russell Westbrook Is Helping Make Jordan Brand’s New Classics

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 18: Russell Westbrook #0 of Team LeBron looks on during the game against Team Stephen during the NBA All-Star Game as a part of 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend at STAPLES Center on February 18, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
 Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

There’s no one playing basketball right now who can carry on the legacy of Michael Jordan with Jordan Brand. No one, that is, with the exception Russell Westbrook if you ask Shea Serrano, best-selling author of Basketball (And Other Things). “You need someone who is going to dunk on someone and then pose for pictures over them—and then after the game post something on Instagram about it,” Serrano said of the type of player who could fill that void. “You need someone rebellious. Russell is the most rebellious player in the NBA right now.”

The comments were a part of a panel to open a recent Jordan Brand event in Los Angeles. There, they debuted an expanded women’s offering for spring, a slate of releases set to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first “Spike and Mike” commercials and upcoming collaborations with Virgil Abloh’s Off-White and Drake’s OVO. In addition, there was a section devoted to Westbrook.

“We’ve done signature shoes before with Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul, but I think we’ve taken that to another level with Russell,” said Jordan Brand president Larry Miller. And while he admitted that the retro product (the original Air Jordans we have come to know and love) are certainly what drive the business, it is the hope that Westbrook’s contributions will become the new classics.

While Westbrook’s Why Not Zer0.1 launched its first iteration earlier this year, expect at least 12 versions over the coming with a variety of releases. All will feature the same smooth vamp design, and the styles riff on not only Westbrook’s own creative inspirations but what he has in his closet, his history and how he personalized his own shoes.

One style, done in all white will come replete with two different markers. They will allow fans to customize the $125 sneakers, inspired by the fact that Westbrook myself writes on his sneakers before playing according to Darron Trobetsky, a head of footwear product at Jordan. Another style features reflective leopard print inspired by Westbrook’s connection to fashion while another boasts a map of Los Angeles.  The result is a lineup that’s bold, and sometimes brash, similar to Westbrook on and off the court as he has racked up a name for his personal style, most recently wearing a ripped sweatshirt with a bit of male underboob?

“He’s invested, “ Brian O’Connor, vice president of global Jordan Brand marketing, said, explaining how Westbrook is not only involved in most aspects of design, but also of marketing and making sure the shoes are accessible. “He’s really invested in every aspect.”

Maybe invested enough to help the company bag its next billion dollars.