Chris Paul‘s first signature sneaker with Jordan Brand was released in 2008. It put CP3 alongside Carmelo Anthony and Derek Jeter as members of the brand not named Mike to have their own signature shoe.
Back then, CP’s game was, in his words, “all about speed.” These days, Paul’s game is still quick, but he’s a savvy vet with eight straight All-Star appearances…and eight more signature sneakers. Jordan Brand officially unveiled the Jordan CP3.IX last week—the “Emerald” edition is available now, with more colorways coming on November 1.
“I’m sure you’ve done a ton of interviews with guys talking about their shoe and every guy will say that they like this shoe better than the shoe they wore last year. But for me, I definitely feel that way,” Paul says. “And it’s one of those things where these shoes were almost done a year in advance. There’s a few tweaks here and there but I’ve had an idea of what the IX was gonna be and look like ever since I was wearing the VIIIs last season. I was so excited about this shoe.”
CP3 would know, since he laces up a brand new fresh-out-the-box pair of kicks for all 82 games + playoffs every single season. Sound like another legend?
“I wear a different pair of shoes every game. Every single game. It’s something that I took away from MJ, having conversations with him years ago,” Paul says. “A lot of times when people wear shoes, they’re like, ‘Oh, I gotta break them in, I gotta break them in.’ Well I wanted to try and create a shoe that you could just wear straight outta the box.”
After we had the chance to wear-test the CP3.IX ourselves (you can see a recap of our run at Terminal 23 in New York City above), Paul joined a phone conference with a handful of sneaker outlets, including SLAM, to discuss his brand new shoe, and where it fits in his signature line. Read it below.
Q: This is your ninth signature shoe. Is it crazy to you that you’re now nine signatures deep?
Chris Paul: Yes, it’s very crazy to think that this is my ninth shoe. To love sneakers and shoes as much as I do and have since I was a kid… You dream, as a kid, you dream that one day you could possibly have your own shoe. To actually have it, that’s where the tough part comes. This is what I always tell people: Everybody has their favorite shoe. It may be your favorite Jordan or whatnot. You may say the [Jordan] XI is my favorite shoe, or the IV is my favorite shoe. But then when it’s time for you to create your own shoe, you can’t just make the XIs and say, “Hey, this is my shoe.” So the hard part comes in that aspect of it, in figuring out exactly what would you like on your shoe and the designs and the aspects. And now I think about my 1s, and I was telling someone earlier that when the CP3 1s came out, I thought it was like, God’s gift to mankind. Like, “Man, here’s the shoe. This is the best thing going” Now I look back to the 1s and I say, “Man, those were some bricks! How did I play in those? How did I function?” It’s just been an unbelievable process and I’m so grateful to see how it’s all evolved. The materials, the cushioning, to how it good it feels.
It’s something that I don’t take for granted. If I’m out on the street and I see someone with my shoes on, I may roll down the window or, it’s been times where I’ve been some places and I see someone with my shoes on and I tell them “Nice shoes.” And sometimes someone’ll take a double-take and realize it’s me. And then it’s crazy when you really start to understand consumers and some people don’t have a clue and they’ll just be like, “Man, I really liked the way it looked in the store.” And they don’t know that they’re your actual shoes, so it’s a very humbling experience.
Q: During the design process, are looking for tweaks to your most recent shoe’s design or are you looking back through your whole catalog and trying to take bits and pieces that you liked throughout your whole sneaker line?
CP: That’s exactly what I’m tryna do. I always look back at all the different shoes, and sorta take some of the things that I like. One of the things, and probably the reason why I had Podulon for so long, is that the cushioning is something that I don’t really like to play with, as far as the integrity of the shoe. Like the cushioning, that’s the comfort level of the shoe. While you may play with the design aspects and different materials here or there, one thing you want about your shoe is that you want it to be comfortable. When people go play in it, you want people to say, “Man, this shoe is comfortable to play in.” If the shoe looks great but nobody wants to wear it, then what are you doing?
The different designers that I’ve had the opportunity to work with, we have very in-depth conversations. One thing about this project, it’s not always pretty. All the different guys who helped us with the shoe—I’m always looking for feedback, always. One thing that I remember with my earlier shoes is that I may see the first run or first take of it and I’ll be scared to speak up. Sometimes you see something and you’re like, “Oh, I like that.” But you really don’t. Now I think we’re at a place where I can say, “No, I don’t like that. We should change that. We should move that. We should put this there. We should put that there.” It’s all so collaborative.
Q: Why should the everyday consumer play in the CP3.IX, versus any other basketball shoe on the market right now?
CP: Exactly, exactly. And that’s the thing, too. Like I said when you guys got on the phone, you guys hear these stories all the time. Most people have no idea about the nine-chamber zoom bag or the lightweight breathability and all that different type stuff. So for me, I would more so tell them about actually playing the game. Playing basketball. For me and my shoe, I look at all the videos and the process of making my shoe—thankfully it’s not me that wears the shoes initially when they’re wear-testing—to see how much your ankle rolls over, or how much it catches and different things like that. I look at that throughout the entire process. Just like the spot on the inside of your right toe or your left toe, you’re always feeling these little ridges on the inside of my shoes. It’s because of a favorite move that I like to do, or really for any guard who likes to stop on a dime. If you ever see a lot of times I drive right and I pull the ball between my legs. A little crossover between my legs to get off a jumpshot. And what that does on the shoe is, it helps and enables me to stop on a dime. I really believe that, and I know that when I’m driving and I stop on a dime, I know that my defender, very rarely is his shoe made for him, because there’s other guys that have signature shoes in our league, but I know that my shoe is made for me to be able to stop on a dime. I don’t have YouTube in front of me, but I could show you some clips where guys, like, keep going. I always tell my brother, “The shoes weren’t made for him.”
Q: Your signature sneakers have always been known to have secret nods to your family or hometown. What are some of those in the CP3.IX?
CP: You guys see the little wing strap in the back? I don’t know if I could tell you guys this, but I’ll tell y’all anyway. On iD, you’ll be able to put anything you want to on the inside of those. For me, I have a few things that I say all the time during the game. It’s funny—I’m always locked into the game, but any time I hit a three, I usually yell “BANG!” Me and my brother been saying that for years. “BANG!” Anytime I hit a three, I say it in the game. That’s initially what was supposed to go back there, but I don’t know. Lawyers, something like that. I don’t know. [Laughs] Something that’s over my head. A lot of times in timeouts, when we in close games and whatnot, guys on my team know that when we break the huddle, I always say “It’s winning time.” Like, we played the rest of the game, whatever happened happened, it’s winning time. So you can see that written in the back. And then every now and then, in practice or in a game, you get a guy that’s talking junk, trying to block your shot, and usually if I shoot a fadeaway or something, I’ll say “Holdat.” You can see that there in the back too.
That, along with, if you look at the inside of the heel, it almost looks like a ring, right? But then it almost looks like stadium seating and it’s supposed to be for me and my wife—when I proposed to my wife, it was at the [Lawrence Joel] Coliseum [at Wake Forest] where me and her met for the first time. And that’s where I played my college basketball at. So if you look at the shoe, it’s not just a design—there’s a story to it. And as usual, you guys might have looked on the bottom of the shoe and found it already—there’s always a Chevron logo on every shoe, starting 1 thru IX, representing my grandfather.
Q: There are only a handful of guys that have a signature. Do you guys ever talk back and forth about who has the better shoe?
CP: I don’t think it’s “My shoe’s better,” but we’ll talk about, “I seen this shoe” or “I like this colorway” or something like that. Or we’ll even snapshot a picture or something. Like, Bron, “Man, I like this colorway,” or something like that.
Abe Schwadron is an Assistant Editor at SLAM. He’s on Twitter @abe_squad.