In the middle of Terminal 23 during the EA Sports NBA Live 16 Preview Party are two pairs of custom Air Jordans. The Jordan Westbrook 0 and the Air Jordan XX9 each rest on their own podium—the only part of Terminal 23 not moving in a whirlwind night that included appearances from Russell Westbrook and Jadakiss.
The Js were hand-painted by custom sneaker designer to the stars, Mache. The NBA Live 16 logo sits proudly on the side of the right-foot 0, while the side of the left-foot 0 shows a smaller EA logo. The sneaker is accented with a hardwood graphic that circles the entire sneaker, eventually leading to the toebox. The right-foot of the XX9 features the coverboy’s signature scream-pose. A huge EA Sports logo covers the left-foot upper.
“I just dove in,” Mache says. “There wasn’t any sketch, there was no prelim, no approval thing. It was just like, ‘Do you.’ And that’s always fun. You never know what’s gonna happen.”
Mache has been customizing kicks for over a decade. He’s worked with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and baseball and football players. He’s been an artist his whole life, learning from his grandmother, who worked as an art teacher. His fine art background comes in handy when he has to navigate the different surfaces of each sneaker he works on.
“I did the Iron Man LeBron Xs that he wore during the Finals,” Mache says. “That was me. I flew down, I think it was to Houston, to give them to him back then. Dove in, Iron Man in my head. No sketch, no rhyme, no reason. That’s always how it goes. Because that’s more organic.”
He’s come a long, long way from the early days of custom sneakers. “When I first started customizing Jordans, it was, like, sacrilegious. You did not touch Jordans. Everyone was scared of being confused for having bootlegs. And as the culture grew, customs became more of an accepted thing. Now you look, I got a half a million followers. It’s crazy. Kids in Iowa know who the hell I am.”
It’s more than kids in Iowa that know who he is. Mache excitedly pulls out his phone to show pictures of the Buzz Lightyear Nike Air Mags and a pair of Woody adidas Yeezys he worked on for a private client. He talks about his recent conversations with Anthony Davis with a big smile on his face (AD also wants a pair of Air Mags), his work with the University of Nebraska football team. And he mentions his on-going discussions with adidas about doing a collab for his own signature pair.
“Don’t know if it’s gonna happen,” he says. “We’re talking.”
The sneakers in the middle of the court are a huge hit. A different person comes up to take a picture every minute. Mache is extremely personable, chopping it up with everyone that comes his way.
“It’s been a blessing,” he says. “I can’t believe it’s my life sometimes.”
Image courtesy of EpicTrailers