A Kamikaze Attack
Shawn Kemp, Gerald Green and Isaiah Thomas talk about the return of the Reebok Kamikaze…and much more.
SLAM: What intrigued you about the opportunity to get back with Reebok?
Gerald Green: Well I’ve had a relationship with Reebok since I was in high school. So just to get this opportunity to wear this apparel, the Kamikazes, the Shawn Kemps, who I’ve had a great relationship with—he used to come to Fonde [Recreation Center] and play with us when I was a little kid—so just to know to be able to dunk in these shoes knowing what type of player he was and the Hall of Fame impact he left in the League with his high-flying ability, it’s an honor for me to wear them.
SLAM: He used to play with the local kids in Houston?
GG: Yeah, at the Fonde—it’s like a Boys and Girls Club. They call it the Fonde. It’s a Houston thing.
SLAM: And Shawn would roll through?
GG: Yeah, he used to come all the time. Moses Malone used to come, too, but he was a lot older than Shawn. But yeah Shawn used to come and play and just chill. He would come play in the open gym. I was young so I couldn’t play, but I would just watch.
SLAM: Were you a fan of his?
GG: Big fan, big fan. He was one of those players who, to me, I thought he was always misunderstood in a lot of ways. Talent-wise, he was one of the most talented players that I think this League has ever seen. I think he’s a guy who reminds me of a guy like Blake Griffin, but he was the first to really impact the League with his high-flying ability like that besides Jordan and Dominique [Wilkins] and all that. I was always a big fan of Shawn Kemp.
SLAM: And you like the Kamikazes?
GG: Man, they feel so comfortable. Yesterday [during the Dunk Contest] I felt like I could fly over the roof. They feel really good on the feet. I would say that these are the most comfortable shoes from Reebok that I’ve worn—and I’ve worn the Pumps, the Questions, [and] the S. Dots back in the day when Jay-Z had them. And I’ve always worn the Reebok Classics, those are very comfortable. But these right here for basketball apparel, they’re comfortable and they’re light.
SLAM: Did you aspire to be a big dunker when you were younger?
GG: Nah, not really. My idea was just to become a basketball player. I always just wanted to be the best basketball player I could be. Just being able to dunk was something that I’ve been blessed with. Being able to do that in front of the fans and get the fans on their feet, it’s always a good opportunity for me to showcase what I can do and entertain the crowd.
SLAM: Were you a big sneakerhead growing up?
GG: I was, I just didn’t have enough money to get all the sneakers I wanted. But I definitely was—I used to love all the sneakers. My first pair of nice sneakers were the Iversons. They came out in black and gold. I had some FILAs, Grant Hills. I could never afford the Jordans, no way.
SLAM: We’ve gotta talk a little about the Dunk Contest. Killed it with the first dunk…
GG: I did.
SLAM: …and then the second didn’t work out as well. Was a creative idea, though.
GG: Well, you know, I just wanted to go out with a bang. I could’ve changed up once I saw James [White] have a hard time completing dunks and Terrence have a hard time completing his first one—I could’ve changed up. But I’ve already won a Dunk Contest. I just wanted to go out and do something special, do something that nobody has ever seen before.
SLAM: Where’d the double-dunk idea come from?
GG: Out of a movie, The Rebound. Earl Manigault—they called him the Goat—he was a playground legend back in New York City. He was the first one to do it, the only one to ever double-dunk it twice like that. [Last Thursday] I did it one time, and it took me a long time, but I was like, you know what, I did it. I just wanted the world to see that I could do it.
SLAM: I was thinking you should’ve gone from your off-hand into your strong hand, instead of the other way around.
GG: I tried, but I felt like I could get a better angle coming off this way [leans right], then the other way. I just felt like if I came with my left hand first it would’ve been weird.
SLAM: What was your take on the other dunks of the night?
GG: It was cool, it was cool.
SLAM: Anything really impress you?
GG: There was some good dunks. I think the Jeremy Evans dunk [over the painting] was creative, and Terrence Ross just completed his dunks. I don’t really think that he did anything crazy special. It was a good Dunk Contest. I think the fans probably wanted more; I think we could’ve gave them a lot more, but it is what it is. I think it was a good night for the League. I’m glad that those guys put on a show. Eric Bledsoe did some good stuff, too. I like what he did. Getting two dunks is kind of tough—they might want to allow one more.
SLAM: So if one is a bust, you can still get through to the next round if your other two are crazy.
GG: Right, right. If you miss one, it’s over. You might miss one but you might do two nasty ones.
SLAM: I was there in Newark when you threw down the best in-game dunk I’ve ever witnessed in person. Is that the best one you’ve ever flushed during a game?
GG: For me, yeah, it was. Just because of the timing of how it happened—when I did that dunk I was in a 10-day contract. If I missed it, I could’ve gotten cut the next day [laughs].
SLAM: You were playing for your life.
GG: Yeah, I was. So it was something that I tried. I was feeling good that game, and it was the perfect pass. It was a good dunk.
SLAM: Any personal goals for the future?
GG: Honestly? Thinking about [Saturday] night, I think I might wanna compete in the Dunk Contest again. I think I might want to. I really want to entertain the crowd, because I have so much more I can do. Now I’ve seen how the Dunk Contest has changed—it’s not how it used to be. With me, growing up, the Dunk Contest went off the difficulty of the dunks. Now it’s all how it looks. If you can get the crowd hype, you win. That’s why when Vince Carter was in the game, he put his arm in the rim, and it doesn’t really look all that great, but it’s so difficult. When I took my shoes off and dunked in my socks, I didn’t really get a lot of credit for that. But people don’t know how hard that really is. And it was through my legs!
SLAM: You re-established yourself in the NBA with New Jersey last year under Avery Johnson—was his recent firing upsetting to you?
GG: It was, it was. But you gotta understand this is a business, and I definitely tip my hat to [PJ] Carlesimo. He’s done a great job of taking that team and re-shaping that team. I don’t feel like they gave Coach Avery a shot. For me, I saw it like a player winning Player of the Month and the next month getting cut.
SLAM: Well yeah, that’s basically what happened, except to a coach.
GG: Yeah, so I thought it wasn’t really fair for Avery. But it’s a business. I know for 100 percent that Avery will be back in this League, and I know he’s gonna make a big impact wherever he goes.
Hit Page 3 for our Q+A with Kings guard Isaiah Thomas.