Ektio To Target NBA Players
Founder discusses why his shoe should be used in the L.
SLAM: Are sprained ankles rehabilitated the way they should be, whether it’s in the NBA, college, high school or otherwise?
BK: I think the treatment of them is much better than when I was a kid. When I was a kid, they just put you in a cast for weeks and you rehabilitate for two weeks. Now, they do ultra-sound treatments, and they do physical therapy right off the bat. The problem is you want to prevent it from happening in the first place. I think they treat them well. But when players come back, they’re very tentative. They’re afraid to push off their ankles or jump or drive the lane. If you talk to any player who’s had an ankle injury, it takes them quite a while to come back before they start feeling comfortable to play again. They know that ankle is weak. It’s a torn ligament. If you tore a ligament in your knee, people would say it’s significant. If you tear a ligament in your ankle, it’s also very significant. It’s not a trivial injury.
SLAM: Have you found resistance in this shoe being a high-top?
BK: The only reason they went to a low-top shoe recently – the Kobe shoe – was they realized that high-tops weren’t protecting athletes. The shoe industry fed that misinformation to people – that if you wear high-tops you’re going to be more stable. That was debunked in an article written in The Wall Street Journal last year. They were saying that high-top shoes don’t work, the current shoe companies have no idea how to make ankles stable, how to make the shoes stable, how to protect against ankle injuries. They interviewed people in the shoe companies and they said ‘Fashion we know, safety and ankle protection we don’t have a clue.’ And that’s true. That’s why our product has a lot of potential in the market place. So, they’re going to low-tops because the high-tops don’t work. If the high-tops actually protected them, they’d all be wearing high-tops. The beauty of our shoe is it doesn’t inhibit mobility at all. That was shown in our studies at the Hospital for Special Surgery and at Drexel University. It’s also been brought up by players who use our shoe. They almost don’t know that the straps are there keeping them protected. It gives full range of motion, except for inversion, which is the one motion in the ankle you want to prevent. It’s there to protect you when you need it.
SLAM: Why do you want to protect against inversion?
BK: Inversion is the one motion of the ankle that causes ankle sprains. There are six motions of the ankle – five of them are good, one is bad. Inversion is what you want to prevent. Inversion is when your foot rolls under. That’s what we’ve prevented.
SLAM: Do you see that motion encouraged by other shoes on the market?
BK: Yeah, like I said, barefoot people don’t sprain their ankles. And the inversion injuries occur only in people wearing shoes. So, all shoes on the market encourage inversion if you step on an uneven surface or if you land on someone’s foot. The current shoes make the problem of ankle injuries worse. There wouldn’t be ankle injuries if people played barefoot.
SLAM: Before you came out with this shoe, were you approached by shoe companies about working as a consultant for shoe protection?
BK: No. I’m sure they had no idea I was interested in this. When I first came up with the invention and got the patent, I actually was attempting to license the product and talk to some of the big companies. But they have this not-invented-here thing. If they didn’t invent it, they’re not interested. So, I said, ‘OK, we’ll do this thing ourselves.’
SLAM: How did you get in touch with John Starks?
BK: He was somebody we felt would be a good promoter and endorser of the brand, being in New York. Our launch was going to be starting in New York. I found people who knew him. We went out to dinner one night, we told him about the product, he said he’s approached all the time with products. I put the shoe on him and as soon as I put the shoe on him, he said this thing is unbelievable. He said he wanted to help promote it. He’s been a strong proponent of it since the beginning.
SLAM: What NBA players have worn the shoe?
BK: I’ve put it on a number of NBA players. Right now, I’m currently trying to get some shoe deals for next season because they’re all under contract. But I’ve had the shoe on several ex-NBA players and several current NBA players, but I don’t want to mention names. They’re under contract and I don’t want to get them in any trouble.
SLAM: Potentially, how many NBA players would be open to wearing this shoe?
BK: We’re aiming to get about five players in the next year or two. I expect to have five by next season. That’s the number I’m shooting for. I’m getting contacted now by players and agents because most of the players are not making money with their current contracts. They get product, but they’re not making money. This shoe offers them a real advantage. It can help prolong their career, which if they want to make money in the long-term, they have to stay on the court. They’re starting to realize that.
SLAM: Some athletes are habitual about what they wear. Baseball players don’t like change. Basketball players seem a little bit more open to trying different products. What have you found with NBA players and their willingness to wear a new shoe?
BK: Part of what our company has to do…it’s a different kind of shoe from what’s been out there currently. The current shoe industry is about design and how it looks and how cool it looks. They’re basically paying a lot of money to a few high-profile players to wear their shoe. That’s their business model – throwing a lot of money at people. The players, what I’ve found they want from talking to them, is they want a shoe that looks good – you have to give them style, comfort and performance. You can’t sacrifice on any of those things. And we’re throwing safety into the mix. We have to educate people that it’s a problem, that you can prevent the problem. Once they get that, and that they can prolong their careers and stay healthy, they want to talk to us. If it’s strictly about how much money can be thrown out, that’s not going to be the person that we’re looking at. We’re looking at people who understand the value and the value to prolong their careers and keep them healthy and safe.
We’re trying to work out the best deal we can with each player, but if they understand our value they’re going to wear our shoe. If they don’t understand our value, then they should continue to wear what they’re wearing and sprain their ankles, if that’s what they want to do.
SLAM: There’s been a big push to protect kids from head and arm injuries when they’re younger, so that their bodies aren’t beat up as they grow. Do you see that holding true with ankles? If a 9-year-old sprains his ankle, will his body become screwed up as he gets older?
BK: The good thing is before the growth plates fuse in a kid, the ligaments are actually stronger than the bone. So, when a kid hurts his ankle, he’s much more likely to fracture the bone than to tear the ligament. That’s fortunate. So when they heal they’re put in a cast and their bone heals and they’re back to 100 percent. The ligament just tears the bone away. Once the ligaments fuse and kids get older and now they’re adolescent, the bone becomes stronger than the ligaments and the ligaments tear. We’re not worried as much about ligament tears because you don’t see as many ligament tears in kids who are 9, 10, 11 years old. It’s really a function of after they reach adolescence and puberty and when their growth plates start to close – girls obviously before boys.
SLAM: OK, so you’re looking at boys who have just started high school.
BK: Yeah, we’re targeting players who are minimum 13 but, say, 14 and older.
SLAM: You have a focus on getting NBA players. What kind of focus will you have on high schoolers?
BK: We’re looking to get the shoe into different high school, AAU and college programs. We’re looking at grassroots acceptance with people. Most of the time when people put on the shoe, they like it. They can’t believe what it does and how it feels and how it protects them. That’s a real ‘plus’ we have. We know once we get the shoe on them, we know they want to buy it.