John Starks, Rick Barry x Ektio ‘Breakaway’

by Abe Schwadron@abe_squad

Maybe you’re a hooper with serious game, but repeated ankle sprains are keeping you off the court. Maybe you’ve sprained your ankle before, and now you have braces and straps and wraps that take forever to lace up. The team behind Ektio shoes is back with its latest sneaker, the “Breakaway,” to solve your problems.

Ektio has been around since late 2010, when Dr. Barry Katz brought the clinically tested kicks to the basketball market after extensive testing to build a shoe that protects the ankle better than any other model available at retail. Ektio has testimonials from players around the country saying they would have shredded their ankles if not for the lockdown fit of the shoes.

And not only that, but the brand new Breakaway is constructed to provide a player with maximum balance and stability in the foot—a key to shooting the rock better. Crazy as it may seem, Ektio claims that a recent survey conducted by the company revealed that 42 percent of players felt that Ektio shoes improved their outside shooting efficiency compared to their prior sneakers.

At its core, though, Ektio is about protecting your precious ankles, without tape or braces in addition to your kicks.

“Ankle injuries are the number one injury in basketball and the most common orthopedic injury in the world,” says Dr. Katz.

“There are devastating consequences to athletes that experience severe ankle sprains. Players that experience one sprain increase their chances of future sprains by up to 35 percent. This new product has the chance to be a real game changer in the shoe industry, as well as the leader in providing world class ankle support.”

The technology is no joke. Need proof? A pair of ex-NBA stars have lent their names to the product. Former Knicks guard John Starks and Warriors legend Rick Barry both stand behind Ektio, having witnessed first-hand (first-foot?) what the shoes are all about. So we caught up with Starks and Barry by phone to find out what’s special about Ektio’s latest release, and why they got involved with the brand in the first place.

SLAM: How did you originally get involved with Ektio?

John Starks: Obviously, you’re always curious about something that can really help your sport. So we set up a meeting [with Barry] at a restaurant. We sat down, had dinner and he broke out the shoe. I was looking at the shoe and trying to figure out what’s the curiosity in the shoe itself. I put it on and saw exactly what he was talking about. The feel, the comfort was just incredible.

SLAM: What’s the response been like since you came on board?

JS: It’s been great. We’ve had guys talk about the comfort. Looking at the shoe, you would think it would be a shoe that would prohibit you from moving, just by the look of it. But it gives you the same range of motion that any basketball shoe gives you, but with the safety value of the shoe itself built in.

SLAM: What’s new about the Breakaway versus the previous model?

JS: The design, first and foremost—the ease of putting it on. It took you some time to put the shoe on in the beginning, but Barry went back to the drawing board and figured out a way where it’s easy to put the shoe on now. The design is totally, 100 percent better. Everybody likes the look of the design, it’s a little more sporty now.

SLAM: If this shoe existed during your career, would it have helped you?

JS: It would have helped it a great deal, because what the shoe really gives you also is balance. For me personally, being a shooter, balance is everything. This shoe gives you great balance. You hear people talking about how they shoot the ball a lot better with this shoe on, and that says a lot. I don’t think too many shoes out there can really claim that, and we have proof with percentages that guys are shooting the ball a lot better because of the balance it gives you.

SLAM: How is Ektio planning to make its way onto NBA players’ feet?

JS: We definitely want to get it on an NBA player. The plan is to get them to put the shoe on, first and foremost, and show them the benefits of wearing our shoe. That this is a shoe that will help you with safety as far as spraining ankles, and help with balance on the court. Most guys are always trying to find something new that will improve their game. And when you can provide them with something, they’re more than willing to take a stab at it, just to see if this is something that can really help with their career.

SLAM: How are you feeling about the Knicks this year?

JS: They’re definitely a real contender. They’ve proven that they can beat the upper echelon teams and they’re taking care of business with the bottom half of the teams in the league. They have a well-balanced team. They can play big or they can play small. That’s the mark of a championship-style team, that they can play either way. I couldn’t say that in the past—they could only play one way. But with the emergence of Carmelo and the way he’s playing this year, he’s on a mission. And with added pieces like Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton and JR Smith, with his resurgence and the way he’s playing. Having Amar’e back in the mix is going to help a lot. He proved that last Sunday against Atlanta.

SLAM: Melo tied your Knicks record with nine threes in that game.

JS: To be honest with you, I forgot I even made nine threes (laughs).

SLAM: Wait, you don’t remember that game?

JS: No, to be honest with you I don’t remember. I really don’t get into records, unless people bring it up. I’m glad to see that those nine threes that he made were for a win.

SLAM: You were known for trash talk back in the day. What was your take on the Melo-KG spat?

JS: You’ll get that from time to time out there on the court. Guys will say stuff to you, and normally it’s just competitive chatter, but that for some reason, became personal. Whatever was said by KG made him go off the way he did. I would have to think it was something that was said very personally, obviously. Something about his wife that they say KG said. Melo, like they said, he just wanted to have a talk with him (laughs).

SLAM: Which current NBA players do you enjoy watching the most?

JS: Obviously, I’ve got three right here, in Melo, Amar’e and JR Smith, because he reminds me of myself a lot. I love watching Kevin Durant and what he’s doing. It’s just amazing, being 6-11 and having the guard skills and to score the way he scores, and leading his team it’s just been amazing. Then I have to look down to Miami, I love watching LeBron and Wade, those two guys down there. The League is in good shape. You have good young stars and the popularity of the League is continuing to grow.

SLAM: A lot of people have been making the comparison between you and JR. What do you see in him that reminds you of yourself?

JS: His mentality. His mentality as a shooter and a scorer. He doesn’t worry about the last shot that he missed. He continues to believe in himself even when things are going bad. I tell people that’s the mentality you have to have as a shooter, as a scorer out there on the court. You can’t think about the last shot, you just have to believe that the next shot is going to fall. And it serves him well. He’s had some big games when he hasn’t been shooting the ball well but has a chance to come up with a big bucket. That’s an ability unto itself to be able to do that.

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SLAM: Why did you get involved with Ektio initially?

Rick Barry: Having suffered through a number of ankle sprains throughout my career, I said, Well, damn, if there’s a shoe out there that can minimize the chances of me getting an ankle sprain, why in the world would I not be interested in it? So I talked with Barry, got a shoe, tried it, liked it, and then got involved. Because there’s no question in my mind that it’s the most technologically sound shoe that’s out there. There’s not another shoe in the marketplace that can actually help prevent ankle sprains. If I was a player today, this is the shoe I’d be wearing. And if I was with a company—one of the big boys—and somebody brought this shoe to me and I tried it, I’d probably go back and tell them, “You need to buy this company, because I want to wear this shoe. This shoe’s better than the one you’ve got me wearing.”

SLAM: What’s the response been like?

RB: The response from people who have worn the shoe has been overwhelmingly positive. People talk about how it’s helped them prevent sprains…The problem is all these guys want to get paid to wear shoes, and the company is not in position to do that. Therefore, there’s a whole bunch of guys out there that are missing out on having a shoe that can help them prevent getting an ankle sprain. And that’s unfortunate, and very foolish on their part. The kind of money these guys make now, what difference does it make whether you’re getting equipment from a company or paying a few bucks—when you sprain your ankle or tear it up to the point of losing your career. When you get a little bit older, you get to thinking a little more intelligently about choices that you make in life. Your career is your health—you’ve gotta stay healthy. So if you can wear any piece of equipment that’s going to help you to be able to maintain your health at a higher level, why in the world would you not try to utilize that? That’s the problem we have right now. It’s not about the money, it’s about wearing a shoe that will help you prevent an injury.

SLAM: Are you amazed by the technological advances in basketball shoes since your playing days?

RB: No, it doesn’t. Because that happens in everything. Just the technology involved in basketball itself, as far as the training methods—everything is sport-specific. I’d be faster, stronger, quicker, have more endurance. We didn’t eat the right things, we didn’t do the right training. Everything evolves.

SLAM: What’s been the most intriguing story line of this NBA season for you?

RB: The Warriors, of course.

SLAM: Of course. What about Steph Curry being left off the All-Star roster?

RB: It’s a disservice, probably. It’s unfortunate. He’s played exceptionally well and had a great season. He certainly is deserving of being on there. It’s unfortunate that he didn’t make it, but the team has been an incredible success story considering the fact that one of the main elements of what they expected to have available to the team, Andrew Bogut, has not been available for them. So it’s pretty cool. I’m happy for the fans, happy for the team and the ownership. The fans, unless something crazy happens, will have an opportunity to watch a team in the Playoffs again. It’s also been incredible to watch the soap opera with the Lakers, which is just crazy.

The Ektio Breakaway is available for $129.95 via Ektio’s official website.