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Q&A with Lakers guard Nick Young: 'I influence the youth, man'

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LOS ANGELES -- On Dec. 12, 2015, Los Angeles Lakers wing Nick Young created a stir on social media when he famously wore Adidas Yeezy Boost 750s -- non-basketball shoes and arguably the most exclusive sneaker on the market at the time -- to celebrate his endorsement deal with the three stripes.

"I just wanted to do something different," Young told ESPN. "At the time, Adidas didn't really have too many on-the-court shoes. I thought I'd be the first to do something. I just signed, and I wanted to let everyone know I was with Adidas now. I thought it'd be dope."

Young, one of the league's most prominent sneakerheads, has long preferred flash over practicality when it comes to his footwear, dating back to when he was an 8-year-old and would wear fake Jordans from Payless, the discount shoe store, to impress his friends.

To help kick off ESPN's #NBArank All-Time Kicks, ESPN.com sat down with Young to discuss all things sneakers.

Below is an exclusive Q&A with Young about his sneaker collection, the most important aspect of a shoe, Kanye West, the greatest sneaker of all time and much more.

Describe your relationship with sneakers.

Nick Young: Aw man, growing up I just loved sneakers. In my neighborhood, having the freshest shoes was always a key. A major key. My mom used to get mad at me because sometimes she would give me a pair of Jordans and I'd go play on the playground with them and two days later they'd be messed up. But I always have to keep a fresh pair.

What was your favorite sneaker memory growing up?

Young: Oh man, I had some fake Jordans. The 93s [Air Jordan VIII], I think. The bottom came off of them when I was playing and [my friends] were like, "Boy those look like boxing shoes. Where you get those from? Payless?" And I was like, "Yeah." I had some Payless [shoes]. That was a cold memory in front of some girls. I was a little embarrassed.

What is the most important feature of a shoe for you? The design? The colorway? Comfort?

Young: For me, on the court, probably just the colorway. The color has a lot to do with the whole shoe. If the color is dope, then the shoe is just automatically going to be cool. Pretty much just the style. If you can wear it off the court, it's a lot better. It looks a lot better. That's why I think Jordan stood out back in the day.

How many pairs of sneakers do you own?

Young: Three or four hundred.

If you could only keep three pairs from your collection, which three would you pick?

Young: You have to have the Yeezys. They're pretty dope. I'm going to be biased, but I have to go with the BAPE NMDs. NMDs are so comfortable. I'm not going to say a Nike brand right now because they didn't help me out. I'll say some Stan Smiths.

I've heard you were turning your side house into a shoe house. Is that true?

Young: Yeah, I was.

Did you finish it?

Young: Not yet. I'm still working on it. It's a lot. There's a lot of stuff to work on. I want mirrors and graffiti and all that. It takes time. Once that gets done, I'll be happy to put all my shoes in there. Right now they're just in every closet.

And you still have a shoekeeper?

Young: Yeah, he's still there. Big Meat. He's still there. It's still his job. He checks them every day. Makes sure they're all right.

Do you have a "grail" sneaker that you want for your collection but haven't been able to cop yet?

Young: Probably the Eminem IVs. I can't get those.

Aren't those worth around $10,000?

Young: Yeah. [Laughs] Yeah.

Is there a competition among NBA players to cop exclusive models and colorways, and show them off to each other?

Young: For sure. Once people started getting noticed for the shoes they wore on the court, and when Nice Kicks started picking a Kicks on the Court champion, it really became a competition.

Who's the biggest sneakerhead in the NBA besides yourself? Whose sneaker game do you track or respect from afar?

Young: I like P.J. Tucker's [collection]. He always comes with something. And DeMar DeRozan. One time we were trying to see who could wear the best Kobes.

Who won?

Young: I'll let him have it. I'll let him have it.

Excluding Michael Jordan, who do you think has been the most influential figure on sneaker culture?

Young: Back in the day, I think it was always Jordan and Penny Hardaway. But now, I think Kanye [West] has it. No matter what he does, there are lines out the door for him.

Speaking of Kanye, who was more influential in convincing you to sign with Adidas: [friend and former Wizards teammate] Gilbert Arenas or Kanye West?

Young: Basketball-wise, I'd say Gilbert. Off the court, I'd say Kanye. Gil still has all of the [Gil Zeros] locked up in the top of his closet. He's always reminding me I'm trying to be like him. I wear No. 0. Now I'm with Adidas. So when I go to his house, I raid all the old stuff he had.

What's it like having your own player-edition shoe, the Adidas Crazy Explosive, in stores?

Young: That was big. That was dope. The fact that it was selling, that felt good, positive. As a kid, you always wanted your own shoe. To see it happen, it's like a dream come true. I did the launch, I saw my name and face on the billboards and all that. It's pretty dope. It felt good.

How did you decide on the white-and-gray colorway?

Young: I just thought I'd start it off with all white. I don't want to go too crazy. The second one might kill 'em. I'll kill 'em with the second one. This is a little teaser to see what would happen.

When can we expect that?

Young: Hopefully by the All-Star break.

If you had a signature line and could design your own shoe, what features would a "Swaggy Boost" have? What would it look like?

Young: That's what I'm trying to work on. I need some Swaggy NMDs. I don't know. I would have to work on it. It would have to be something crazy. It has to.

You famously wore Yeezy Boost 750s during a game. What compelled you to do that?

Young: I just wanted to do something different. At the time, Adidas didn't really have too many on-the-court shoes. I thought I'd be the first to do something. I just signed, and I wanted to let everyone know I was with Adidas now. I thought it'd be dope.

Would you ever wear a non-basketball shoe in a game again? The Yeezy Boost 350s? Vans?

Young: I have to test them out first. The low-tops, they move around too much.

What's the greatest sneaker of all time?

Young: [Nike] Air Max 95s.

Which colorway?

Young: Red and black. No, the original. Black and white.

How do you think you've influenced the sneaker game?

Young: Not to be hyping myself, but I think I made this happen. I started this kicks-on-the-court stuff. I'm just glad people notice it. I influenced the youth, man. I influenced the NBA a little bit. Swaggy P.