Halona Christopher remembers being shocked to see one of her sons in a pair of Air Jordans. She vividly recalls trying to get Josh, her youngest of four children, into a pair of Js during his childhood. No matter the model, they were considered “old man shoes” to her boy. A few years later, Josh gravitated toward a popular pair of Jordans on its third retro release, which he considers his introduction to sneakers.
“My ‘Bred’ IVs were the shoes that started it all for me,” Josh says, looking back seven years. “I had Jordans before that, but I got lucky when I was in Las Vegas on a raffle. All of my homies that were in school—we were all into Jordans—and then I had to catch up. That was like my starting point to kicks.”
Now, at 17, Josh’s sneaker rotation includes far more than just Jordans. Inside his room are a plethora of boxes stacked from floor to ceiling and numerous pairs alongside the bed—from just about every latest Nike Basketball sneaker in various colorways to designer sneakers to sought after player exclusives. Keeping count isn’t easy.
“How many pairs of shoes have I ran through is the question,” he says. “With my foot growing and stuff, it’s somewhere in the hundreds—maybe in the 200s.”
Josh’s older brother, Patrick, has had a major influence on his passion for kicks. An avid sneakerhead himself, Patrick starred at Cal from 2006-10 when the Golden Bears were a Jordan Brand-sponsored school. Despite the 14-year age difference, Patrick remembers passing down heat to his little brother and making sure he was always laced up.
“My brother is a shoe head, too, so he gives me a lot of my stuff,” Josh says. “Most of the stuff tops what I have and I think that his love for shoes just helped me.”
Routine trips to Patrick’s shoe room at his house left Josh mesmerized. He would try on the many sneakers, even if they were far too big, like he did with the “All-Star” LeBron 4s—which he took, despite them being twice his size.
“That still happens now,” Patrick says, with a laugh. “We go through days where we stop by and clean the crib out…and I come in and find him going through all these different boxes and trying to take stuff.”
At 6-5, Josh continues to grow by the day. An incoming senior at Mayfair (CA), he’s one of the most well-known high school hoopers in the nation. Plus, it’s easy to pinpoint him on the court—the rolled-up shorts, the eccentric aura he carries, his score-first mentality and footwear set him apart.
“Josh is always different,” Halona says. “He’s never wanted to be like anyone else or do what anyone was doing. If you’re doing it, he’s not going to.”
This past season, the five-star shooting guard averaged 25.9 ppg while shooting close to 50 percent from the field. He led Mayfair to a CIF-SS Division 2AA title, their first since 2012, and was given the Wooden Award and named Long Beach Press-Telegram Dream Team POTY. And if there was an award for the best shoes in interscholastic sports, there’s no doubt he’d get it.
“It seems very reminiscent,” says Patrick, who received notoriety from sneaker blogs at Cal. “It’s a new generation…and the power of social media is more global and blows up quick.”
Since the moment this past season began, Josh’s rotation was deep. Some games he’d be seen in popular collabs, like the orange and green pairs of the Nike x UNDFTD Kobe 1 Protros or the “PlayStation” PG2s. And in others, he’d bring out older basketball silhouettes: “Cutting Jade” LeBron 10s or black-and-red KD3s. He even brought out the “Oregon State” AJIX PEs during his sophomore year.
“Coming from a lineage and the flash and persona he brings to the basketball floor, I would say is right in line with him and his personality,” Patrick says.
During a tournament in Las Vegas last season, Josh wore the Air Fear of God 1s, the popular brainchild from Nike and designer Jerry Lorenzo that resells for over $700 on the secondary market.
“I saw ‘Air’ on it and said I was going to hoop in it even if it wasn’t for basketball,” Josh says. “I just hooped in it and posted it. I knew it would make noise, and I like to showcase my shoes to everybody. [Jerry] ended up seeing it and he liked that I was hooping in it. I think I gave it buzz in the basketball world. We talked about the shoes and I ended up getting more.”
Josh is a big fan of customs, too. He connected with Sierato, one of the biggest customizers in the game, to cook up a Stranger Things-themed sneaker. Josh sent a pair of Kyrie 5s, informing Sierato exactly what he wanted—a red-and-blue theme, the “Friends Don’t Lie” mantra and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown’s character) along the sides—and debuted them earlier this summer.
“I gave him the vision and he cooked it up,” Josh says. “He put Hopper on there and the waffles. I didn’t know he was going to do that. He just killed everything else.”
“These have a special place in my heart,” he continues, looking down at the Kyrie 5s. “I love this shoe so much, and all the games that I played in at Peach Jam, I’ve had a good game.”
So how does Josh Christopher decide which sneakers he’s going to wear on-court?
“I take a look at what I haven’t worn yet and which model was uncomfortable,” he says. “For a long time, I wouldn’t wear hightop shoes because I felt I couldn’t jump high. You wouldn’t see me put this LeBron 10 shoe on right here. I wore a pair of LeBron 14s and I got hung three times, so I vowed to never wear hightop shoes again.”
Josh knows he has to get rid of the superstitions. He admits to allowing himself to believe that a bad game was a result of bad sneakers.
“Yeah, I gotta get out of that habit,” he says. “A lot of my shoes—if I play bad, I’ll blame the shoe, which is a cool getaway route for me.”
Although he shook his no hightop rule, Josh still has go-to pairs that have never failed him—”Drew League” Hyperdunks and “Oregon” 5s that his good friend Bol Bol gifted him.
On a late afternoon in July, Josh is prepping for his first-ever KICKS photo shoot at his home in Carson, CA. He begins by gathering an array of outfits—a white VLONE tee, two pairs of Palm Angels pants, Don C x Mitchell & Ness Orlando Magic shorts along with purple Not Of This Earth shorts and a burnt orange Most Hated hoodie. Next are his sneakers to rock: “Seoul” Air Max 97s, “Sean Wotherspoon” Air Max 97/1s, “UNC” Off-White Jordan Is and “All Hallows’ Eve” Off-White Blazers.
“Nobody has SLAM photo shoots like I do,” he says, while standing on the roof of his home.
Josh begins posing throughout the backyard. As the sun sets, he gets ready for one last spot on the top of his house while there’s still good lighting. He goes through a whole wardrobe change as he moves to his living room. We hand him flash cards to test his knowledge on some iconic basketball kicks over the last three decades while he’s surrounded by some of his favorite sneakers from his own collection.
Halona, who’s watching from the couch, didn’t understand her son’s sneaker obsession at first.
“I’m used to it now, but my question is always the same—another pair?” she says. “You only have two feet. I’m always concerned with him picking them up and getting them out of my way so I’m not tripping over his 14s. It’s what he likes.”
And she’s opinionated when it comes to the Balenciaga Triple S, a bulky-looking sneaker that released in 2017 that she deems “very outrageous.” But she is a fan of two specific pairs in Josh’s rotation.
“I really enjoy the Fear of Gods,” she says. “I love how they look on his feet and the new Stranger Things [Kyries] are really cool.”
When it comes to kicks-on-court competition, there are a select few Josh considers as potential runners-up. He throws Caleb Love, Shaqir O’Neal, Jalen Green and Scottie Barnes in the conversation, but acknowledges that he’s in a league of his own.
“It’s a tough competition with me,” he says with a smile. “It’s a couple guys that do their thing.”
As the soon-to-be senior prepares for his final year of high school, he’ll continue to set the bar when it comes to hardwood heat, and hopefully acquire a pair he’s been trying to track down for some time now.
“I want some “Aunt Pearl” KD4s—the all-pink ones,” he says. “I think I can get those.”
Drew Ruiz is an Associate Editor for SLAM. Follow him on Twitter at @DrewRuiz90.
Portraits by Gizelle Hernandez.