When talking sneakers with Chris Paul, it's easy to see why he's considered one of the best pitchmen in the game. Along with having a remarkable personal collection, Paul has mastered the art of sneaker storytelling and speaks with expert detail when discussing the design and technology that goes into creating a sneaker.
Since linking up with the Jordan Brand in 2006, CP3 has released 10 models of his signature shoe; a number that only Carmelo Anthony has reached with the brand. What separates Paul’s line from others is the unique symbolism included in each sneaker. It wouldn't be a CP3 shoe without a few hidden symbols that pay homage to something close to the Clippers star.
Just in time for the Crossover launch, we chatted with CP3 about his latest collaboration with Jordan, the CP3.X, his sneaker obsession, and Kobe Bryant’s final gift to him.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Jarrel Harris: As one of the biggest sneakerheads in the NBA, how would you describe your sneaker closet? Do you think you have an obsession?
CP: I don’t know actually. We just moved and we added on to the house but my shoe closet is there. For me, because I am part of the design process with my shoe and I’ve had the opportunity to go and see one of my shoes be made from scratch, just the entire process of it is pretty special to me. I remember my very first shoe and even before that when I was at Nike, I just loved the Air Force Ones, I loved everything that went into them. So when I had the opportunity to design my own shoe I got the chance to put my personal inspiration and different touches—such as putting the name of my college coach who passed away in my shoes. Just those subliminal designs for consumers. It will look like a design for them but for me there is little mementos there that pay homage to my family.
JH: You just released your 10th signature sneaker with the Jordan Brand. Can you go into the design inspiration and some of the tech in the shoe?
CP: I remember my 3s and 4s when we first introduced podulon. My original designer, Jason Mayden, we used to meet and talk about the shoes so often, all day everyday and one of the biggest things in the shoes is, which I learned from MJ and I started doing it—MJ said he never wore a pair of shoes twice in a game. So for me as a kid, I always hear people say “I gotta break these in, I gotta break these in.” So what we tried to do in designing my shoe is that we wanted to make them so you can wear them fresh out the box. We wanted that comfortability fresh out the box because every game I wear new pair of shoes.
JH: Since you wear a new pair of game, how would rate your Nike I.D. skills?
CP: Oh, nobody better. No one better than Nike I.D. than I am because not only is my shoe on there but I am a consumer so I know what it is like to go on Nike I.D. And when we are designing my shoe one of the first things I am asking is okay when we add this piece to the shoe what can we do on Nike I.D with it. So I literally sit on Nike I.D. all day everyday just trying to come up with new designs. Everybody that works for me as a far as my chef, my assistant, my parents, I let everyone design their own shoe on Nike I.D.
JH: Is sneaker designing something you can see yourself doing after your playing days are over? I am pretty sure you can get one of these guys at Nike to set you up with a gig.
CP: Man, we will see if they are hiring when I get done but it is a lot of fun for me. I never get used to seeing kids with my shoe on. As a parent, I know when a parent goes to a mall and they are with their kids and they are looking at different shoes and even the price point. I think about that entire process so when I do see a kid with my shoe on or something like that I still get excited just like it was my first shoe.
JH: I saw a quote where you mentioned that your first signature sneakers were some bricks. So I wanted to ask you to walk me through your signature sneaker journey and celebrate on how much it has grown since then?
CP: It is unbelievable, my ones—I was actually looking at them in the closet yesterday because this is the tenth for me. When they first came out you couldn't tell me they were not the best shoe ever. I had a chevron logo on the back, my grandfather’s name was engraved in the back on this plastic thing that read Papa Chili, and I had this symbol on this side of the shoe that sort of pays homage to bowling because I love to bowl. It is funny because I wore those in the playoffs and I kept slipping. A lot of people don’t remember but I kept slipping and it was because of the little plastic thing that was at the bottom of the shoe.
JH: What sneaker started it all for you?
CP: The whole Jordan phenomenon. I remember being that kid that couldn’t get Jordans because I couldn’t afford them. I remember my brother had a job, I want to say it was the (Jordan) 16s or the 17s that came in a case and I remember my brother got them because he had a job and I couldn't get them. I remember even the 13s, I wore them to school and I remember after school someone stole them out of my locker and my parents wouldn't get me another pair. Then playing AAU I used to have the Barkleys and then we had the Vince Carter “Boings” and other stuff. I've just always been into shoes.
JH: When you played Kobe for one final time, he signed a pair of Air Jordan III Kobe PE’s. What are you going to miss the most about playing against him and what did you do with those sneakers?
CP: The thing I am going to miss the most about playing against Kobe is just the competitiveness and the respect. Me and Kobe used to get into it a lot when we played against each other just because we are both so competitive. We used to talk about how as long as we are on the same team during the All-Star Game we are not going to lose. We just wanted to win that bad. The 3s? I got them in my office.
JH: You wore a pair of exclusive Air Jordan XI’s the other night against the Jazz—are we going to see more surprises this season?
JH: What are your thoughts on today's sneaker culture?
CP: It’s crazy. You know people like certain things whether it be shoes or it be cars or clothes or what not. It is one of those things that some people are going to like and some people aren’t but there is something for everybody.