by Chris O’Leary

Lawrence Norman turned out to be a man after my basketball heart.

“This is the first time I’ve ever played fantasy basketball,” he tells me. “I had no idea what I was doing when I was going through the draft. Can you believe I was fighting for three different Raptors? Jose Calderon, I really believe in Calderon.”

Norman has been with adidas for 13 years and currently holds the title of VP of Global Basketball. Even though the Swoosh got to Calderon when he made the leap to the NBA, Norman still holds the Spaniard in high esteem.

Rock the vote!“He’s legit. I used to watch him in Spain,” he continues. “Calderon in Spain was good, very good but he’s a better NBA player.

“He just doesn’t turn the ball over. Now they’ve got the two big horses down low. Not just Bosh, but I think Jermaine O’Neal is going to be a new guy this year.”

As fun as it is to talk ball—especially to talk about the Raps—with a guy who steers a sneaker company’s ship, Norman and I talked about something more important than the start of a new NBA season on Monday. With Kevin Garnett and Tracy McGrady wearing their election-themed TS Command and Create shoes tonight in Houston, I got the chance to talk with Norman about the shoes and the other big event that’s happening today, the Presidential election (a note to all eligible American voters: make sure you hit the polls today).

SLAM: How did the election-themed sneakers come about?
Lawrence Norman: Well, first of all we’re always looking for a unique way to personalize our performance products. The Election Day shoe is just a fun way for adidas to help Kevin and Tracy bring out their personalities on the court.

SLAM: How long did it take to plan this thing out?
LN: I’d say a handful of months. First of all we had to come up with the idea to do something. We went to Kevin and Tracy and asked them for a message for their products, they gave us the message and we sent them back a CAD or a design of the shoe and got their opinion about it and they loved it. They didn’t just love the idea of encouraging people to vote; they’re speaking their mind about the election this year, they’re very enthusiastic about it and they want to do (the same) as we do. We want to encourage people to come out and vote.

SLAM: Why KG and TMac?
LN: First of all, the schedule helps. Houston’s playing Boston on national TV, which was a big catalyst for this. But also, KG and TMac are great shoe guys. These are two of the most popular athletes in the world, not just the US. So it was a pretty easy decision, I’d say.

SLAM:
What was their reaction to doing this?
LN: They loved it, they were crazy about it. The most important thing when you think about how a shoe is perceived, how an idea is perceived, it’s all about how the Rock Rock the vote!the vote!athletes perceive it. (The athletes) know what consumers want and they know what consumers like and they know what messages are going to resonate better than we do. When they like it, we like it.

SLAM:
Did you think about doing a McCain/Palin shoe for Gilbert Arenas?
LN: No. First of all, he’s not playing. Second, he’s not on TV. Third, we’re not endorsing a candidate. This is not a partisan initiative. It’s just about encouraging people to vote.

SLAM: Michael Jordan once said Republicans buy sneakers too. Were you worried about potentially burning any bridges going this route?
LN: No. This is all about encouraging people to vote. This is the most important election in my lifetime and possibly our lifetime. People just need to vote. This is the American way. It’s not just about voting for a president. We vote for our favorite all-stars. This is the American way, man

SLAM: Moving on to the election, what do you think will happen on Tuesday?
LN: I have no idea. All I can tell you about it is when I’m going through Canada or we’re at a Raptors game together, we’ll sit down and have some beers and talk about it further. I’d be happy to do that anytime. About the election, all I can tell you is that it’s the most important election of our lifetime and I think the world is watching to see how we handle the next few days.

SLAM: The world really is watching. Have you thought about the global impact of this election and what the outcome is going to say about the States to the rest of the world?
Norman: I know how important this election is, not just to the US. The whole world is watching. We just need to watch how it plays out and I think on Nov. 5 we’re going to have a much better opinion about what the world thinks about who the new president is.