by Abe Schwadron / photos courtesy of Converse

Last night, Converse hosted the official launch party for the DEFCON and Pro Leather 2K11, the latest of the company’s performance basketball shoe line, at Cedar Lake Studios in New York City. There to rep the brand were Lou Williams, Kyle Korver, Chris “Birdman” Andersen and members of the Converse design team. Host Bobbito Garcia lobbed questions at the athletes and designers before kicking off a DJ set to get the party started.

Among the notable moments from the presentation: Korver saying he loves the shoes and “hopefully I get to wear them this year,” Williams’ admission that he’ll go through 40-plus pairs of different-styled shoes per season and Birdman’s demand for $100 per media interview (“I’m not getting a paycheck right now!”). Somewhere in between the shoes and the booze, SLAM sat down with each of the players to discuss Converse, the lockout and more.

SLAM: Why did you originally choose to sign with Converse?

Lou Williams: I chose to be with Converse after my Nike deal was up. I had some opportunities to go and see what was out there for me, and I fell in love with the branding. They’re trying to re-brand themselves and I thought it fit my personality well. They do a lot of the streetball stuff and are in tune with the urban community, so I just wanted to be a part of that.

SLAM: You, Chris, Kyle all have different personalities. What brings you together?

LW: I think we all have a common bond. When you realize you’re not an NBA superstar, you can get lost in the shuffle when it comes to the shoe companies. Converse, they treat us like we’re their own stars. I think that’s the common thing. Just their attention to detail, and to customization.

SLAM: Last time we heard from you was when you dropped 50 for Team Philly to win the Battle of I-95. What did that feel like?

LW: It was dope man, we had fun. I actually put a game together that we’re going to play in Atlanta on the 19th against Team Seattle, so hopefully we have the same turnout.

SLAM: Where did the idea come from for your YouTube documentary series?

LW: My Twitter account was private for the first year I had it, because I wanted to be intimate with people. I wanted you to make the effort, if you really wanted to follow me and get to know me, you had to hit that follow button and get cleared. So now we’re just offering people an insight on how I live.

SLAM: Talk about your relationship with Meek Mill and your music career.

LW: Meek is my brother. Been my brother day one. That’s not just a music relationship, we’ve been cool for a number of years. We’re trying to work something out so we can get a deal done somewhere. So we’ll see what happens with the music. It’s something I’m doing for fun, I just want to see what I can do with it, though.

SLAM: A lot of other NBA guys have been putting out music this summer in their free time. What have you thought of it? You consider yourself the best among NBA guys?

LW: I would say so. I’ll let the music speak for itself. I try to rap like a rapper instead of rapping like a basketball player. I think that’s one of the things that really sets my music apart from other guys.

SLAM: It seems like you’ve really made Philly your home, not just living and playing there, but entrenching yourself in the culture. Why?

LW: The city is so small, so intimate, you can’t help but really be a part of the movement, a part of the culture. It’s just something I fell in love with. I’m accepted there, I’m home there, so I’m just happy.

SLAM: How did that taste of the Playoffs feel last year?

LW: Being a young team, I think it’s good for us to have that experience. To play against a powerhouse like the Miami Heat was once we played them, with that being their first year together, I think it was a great experience for us. We’re a young team, I feel like we’re on the brink of something special. We’ll have to stay tuned and see what happens.

SLAM: What are your plans these days as far as being ready for the lockout to end?

LW: I just hoop. I hoop to stay busy, so whenever it happens, it’ll be great.

***

SLAM: First off, tell us about this event and why we’re all here.

Chris Andersen: Well, we’re here tonight to reveal the Converse DEFCON and the Pro Leather 2K11. It’s a superb event, got a good turnout, good media, got good exposure for all the athletes that are wearing the Converse shoes. It’s just an opportunity to show everybody how great these shoes are, and for everybody out there in the other world, it’s a good opportunity to see exactly what we’re talking about and what we’re going through with these shoes.

SLAM: It seems like everyone on the Converse team has very different personalities. Is there something that brings you all together?

CA: I was sitting next to a couple of shooters. I’m the rebounder. So basically, if they miss, they know I’m gonna get it back out to them (Laughs). It’s mainly just a big family. Converse has done a really good job of putting good guys together. Kyle and Lou are great guys. They’re personalities are down to earth, and just really easy going. Like I said, Converse is a really humble company that provides us players with a great shoe.

SLAM: Let’s talk Nuggets. A bunch of your teammates are over playing in China. You played in China, right?

CA: Yeah, I started my pro career over there.

SLAM: Why haven’t you joined those guys over there?

CA: I have a contract. A lot of the guys that are going over there right now are free agents, which means they don’t really have to report back over here until the lockout is resolved. So we’re basically just trying to get it resolved and those guys are really tearing it up over there, I hear.

SLAM: Have you been in contact with them?

CA: No, actually, the time difference is a big problem. When it’s nighttime here, it’s daylight over there. When it’s daylight there, don’t even really get a chance to talk to them.

SLAM: A lot of NBA guys have been playing in streetball games this summer. Not you. Why? What have you been up to instead?

CA: I’m actually from the woods down in Texas. I’ve been training and whatnot about basketball, but also I’m trying to start a hunting show right now. So I’m out in the woods with Converse.

SLAM: A hunting show?

CA: It’s gonna be called “Willie B and the Good Ole Boys.” Basically with all my friends I grew up with down in Texas, and it’s going to be celebrity rednecks that do crazy, dumb stuff…hopefully I get sponsored by Converse.

SLAM: If your Nuggets teammates don’t come back and the season starts, could you have a new role on the team?

CA: We’ll see. If that’s the case, I’m very coachable, so if I need to come into another role, there’s no fear. At the time being, though, I think we have like seven bigs right now, so what’s going on with the trade talks, what’s going on with the free agent talk, we really don’t know because of the lockout. So once the lockout’s resolved, then I’m pretty sure all that will get resolved.

SLAM: How frustrating has the lockout been?

CA: Oh, it’s definitely frustrating. Especially when you try to go out, and all people ask you about is the lockout. It is what it is. Right now the main focus is just staying in shape, staying at my weight, working out and just staying in basketball shape, really.

Hit page two for a Q+A with Kyle Korver.