Perhaps never in history were the worlds of fashion, music and sports more intertwined than during the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. Sneakers and NBA jerseys were larger than life in music videos, hitting the mainstream from coast to coast. And somewhere in between, out in Cheyenne, WY, a young James Johnson was soaking it all up.
“When I was growing up that was the time of when Kobe was getting hot,” says Johnson, now undeniably one of the League’s most notable sneakerheads. “So the first Kobes came out, the moonboots. We was wearing that with the whole jean outfit. The jean-on-jean was going in. Of course all the Jordans was always in. Nelly had just dropped ‘Air Force 1s,’ so those were really popular. A lot of the sneakers in Cheyenne was off the strength of just watching other NBA players, seeing what they had on, rap videos or BET.”
Like the song said, Johnson laughs about having two pairs. “I was on that Murphy Lee,” he says. “I had to get two of ‘em. I had to get two pairs of the same color. I always had ices on, man. If they got scuffed or dirty it was over for them.”
The now 30-year-old, who put up career-best averages of 12.8 points and 4.9 rebounds while lacing up eye-popping pairs every night for the Heat, says it was the “Concord” XIs that got him started.
“That’s a worldwide sneaker. I don’t care where you’re from,” he says. “If you see that sneaker and know the elegance of it, you would wanna get it, too. I’ve been playing in the XIs since high school. Played in them in college, played in them in the League. Those are my favorite-feeling sneakers out of everything I’ve ever put on.”