by Ryne Nelson

Black sweatsuit. Red, white and blue Encores. Shaped-up cut and a toothy grin.

From the moment he stepped through the 34th St. Foot Locker’s front doors, John Wall was everything we’ve come to know—charismatic, quick-talking, humble—but something new was added to the mix. Maybe it was having two healthy feet. Some extra time off, perhaps. Whatever it was, the 6-4 guard wore the look of a king in a locked-out basketball universe as he came to introduce his “Zig Encore” footwear.

The eternally relevant Funk Master Flex was on hand to introduce Wall’s new collection. Dressed in a black “JWall” tee, part of Wall’s apparel line, the hip-hop musician and radio personality pushed tempo until Wall took the mic. New York’s inner-city students clung to Wall’s southern-accented words and dougied in the Raleigh, NC native’s Encores. It was obvious that Wall’s first signature shoe would soon be trending on young feet across every borough.

“Any moment on the court can be your chance to break-out,” says Reebok’s ad campaign. Wall went from no name to instant fame at Reebok camp while in high school.

With the help of the Zig technology and a very personalized signature shoe, this new and improved version of John Wall seems primed to “break-out” during his sophomore run. His new and improved Zig sneaker will be powering his supremacy campaign.

SLAMonline caught up with the fast-spitting Wall yesterday for three minutes of conversation.

SLAM: Tell me how the new shoe feels.

John Wall: Oh, it feels amazing. Comfortable shoe. It’s light. I like it mid-cut. I like the regular body. I like the Zig technology. It really fits into the mix.

SLAM: Obviously the technology’s changed, but why do you think more people are wearing John Walls this year?

JW: Last year’s shoe was a high shoe. Not too many people wear high shoes. It was a higher shoe and how they designed it. This one is more like me putting my input into it—showing them how we wanted to make it. I think it fits. I know what kids want to wear at our age—20, 21, high school kids. I know the type of shoes they want to wear, and I think this lower shoe fits them best and is a better style than the last one.

SLAM: You’re playing a lot of basketball right now. Why?

JW: I’m young, for one. Two, I want to give back to the charity events and let those fans see us play basketball—a lot of NBA guys—because half of those [fans] will never see an NBA game in person. So for them to pay $10, $15, $25 to watch a lot of NBA guys play, that means a whole lot. Basically, this is only type of basketball they’re going to get from NBA guys with there being an NBA lockout.

SLAM: Who do you play basketball for more: yourself or fans?

JW: Well, I play basketball because I love the game. And I play it for my fans. The main thing is you got to have fans. You can be great at basketball, but you can be an arrogant person with no fans. Your shoes aren’t going to sell. Nobody’s going to like you. They’re going to talk bad about you. So you got to enjoy your fans. You got to support them.

SLAM: When you were injured last year, how did it affect you?

JW: It wasn’t good. With a sprained foot and a bone bruise, that’s no fun at all on the same foot. I was basically limping on one leg half the time.

SLAM: Was something taken out of you? Part of your personality?

JW: Yeah, it took a lot away from my game—jumping, running fast, trying to do things I wanted to. I could only do it on one side of my legs.

SLAM: I mean, it had to take a lot out of you, because basketball IS you.

JW: Oh yeah, it took a lot out of me. I was frustrated. I’m playing in the games and you’re telling yourself, I really can’t do this move. Or, I can’t be myself. So it was hurting me on the outside. A lot of times, I’d go back to the house and be thinking and watching film and looking like, This is not me at all.

SLAM: So now you got your swag back?

JW: Yeah, I got my swag back. So it’s a new me.