It's Gotta Be the Shoes

April 8, 2013
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

When the Cavaliers were taking the bus from the team hotel in Manhattan to the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, we noticed a billboard that read: “New York: Tolerant of your beliefs, judgmental of your shoes.”

Shoe style (and functionality) isn’t only important in the Big Apple. And it doesn’t apply only to businessmen and fashionistas. From Testoni wingtips to steel-toed Timberlands, the shoes you wear to work are a big part of your identity.

When it comes to NBA players, both fashion and function are critical. Their kicks can affect their health, their livelihood and possibly a lucrative endorsement deal. Plus, as Jerry Rice once said: “If you look good, you play good.”

The Cavaliers’ sneaker expert is C.J. Miles, who collects sneakers and is prone to sporting a different-looking pair for every game. sat down with the veteran swingman to talk about one of the most important accoutrements of any NBA player – his shoes …

What takes precedent: fashion or function?

C.J. Miles: A little bit of both. Sometimes, when a new shoe comes out, if it looks cool, I’ll try it. But at the end of the day, function always wins. The lighter the better I feel like.

We’re seeing more players go with low-tops, like the ones you’ve been wearing lately?

Miles: Yeah, they’re comfortable and they’re light. I feel like I move better in them. I think a lot of people talk about low-tops like: ‘You’re gonna roll your ankles.’ But I’ve seen guys roll their ankles in ankle braces and high-tops. I feel like, the stronger your ankles, the better.

Why did you (and other players) have the mindset change on low-tops?

Miles: Nobody wore them. I mean, looking at it, common sense-wise, it makes sense. But I think over time – even when you get taped – after a few minutes of playing, the sweat softens the tape and it’s loose again. Guys go through the whole summer without getting taped and don’t roll their ankles.

I feel like you can do things to strengthen (your ankles). I do a lot of stuff like that over the summer. This has been the first year that I haven’t taped. I used to; I used to tape my ankles all the time. But I haven’t taped, probably since training camp.

Sometimes, I think you get dependent on it. Instead of strengthening your ankles, you depend on the support of braces and tape and sometimes that might causes some issues. (laughs) But I’m not a trainer.

How do you get your shoes?

Miles: As far as a basketball shoe, they have a catalog that they’ll send Cobra with pictures of different shoes. And the Jordan stuff I wear, it’s just from having it over time – knowing what shoes match and which ones are about to come out what’s different. But other than that, pretty much Nike helps out with everything.

Do you play in your Jordans?

Miles: I don’t play in them as much, just because I’ve found a couple pair of Nikes that I feel really good playing in. But I still get as many Jordans as I can possibly have.

Do you have a “favorite” pair that you’ve played in over the years?

Miles: There were a couple shoes a few years ago that I was in love with that I felt were the best basketball shoes I’ve ever played in.

There were a couple (Nike) Zoom basketball shoes – and they were both high-tops, too. But it’s when Zoom was really big at the time. But they made two pairs: one for the beginning of the season and one for the second. And those were probably my favorite shoes I’ve ever played in.

The first Hyperfuse they made a couple years ago was pretty good. (I think those are the lows of what I have on right now.) Those are pretty good. But those Zoom basketball shoes were probably my favorites. And the Huarache 2k4’s are always cool – the ones with the strap across the front.

How many pairs do you have?

Miles: I really don’t know. I’m over 500.

Are sneakers a big part of your wardrobe?

Miles: I buy clothes based off my shoes. I feel like, there are so many shoes that I don’t have to worry about it anymore. Like, I know I have something to wear with everything.

Are you a shoe guy in general, or just sneaks?

Miles: Mostly, just sneaks – just Jordan, Nike, the SB – the skateboard types. I don’t dabble into the other stuff, really.

Have you always been a Nike guy?

Miles: I remember playing in Adidas in my sophomore year in high school. My school was sponsored. But after that, I’ve been straight Nike. My freshman year, we wore Converse. That was from Larry Johnson because Larry Johnson had gone to my high school and he was Converse. My junior and senior year we were Nikes. And I played on a Nike AAU team in the summers.

Which Cavaliers have good “shoe style”?

Miles: Kyrie and Dion have some pretty good shoes. Everybody else is pretty basic, as far as basketball shoes. They pretty much go with what matches and what’s comfortable. And that’s pretty much what you go for at the end of the day – how it feels. If you can get a shoe that you know feels good and you can get your own color, you win. And that’s what Kyrie and Dion were able to do.

They got shoes they like and they modified them and put the Nike I.D. on them. And I know Kyrie, he’s a big face of Nike, so he’s got his own. But everybody else, pretty much standard.

But as far as walking around, stuff they kick around in, guys have some pretty good kicks. Tristan’s got a nice array of different types of shoes – (whether there be socks or no socks). Gibb’s got everything – top to bottom. Omri’s got, not so much sneakers as Euro-style shoes; loafers and stuff. But it fits him. As far as Jordan sneakers, Kyrie’s got a good collection, too. Dion’s got a few pair of Jordans that he wears.

The connect is so easy to get them, guys end up having a good amount of shoes just because they’ll send you a couple pairs every now and then. It just depends if there’s a line you’re really into. Then you go looking for the other stuff, like the older stuff.

Is the NBA always going to be a “Pepsi-Coke” thing where two shoe brands dominate?

Miles: There was a time where And-1’s were big. And now Li-Ning is big. And then Yao got popular and it really opened up that Chinese market.

What about the retro look? Do you think Chuck Taylors will ever make a comeback?

Miles: Chucks won’t, but you see guys doing the Jordan thing now. Lots of guys are wearing the retro Jordans in a game, which is cool. I’ve done it a couple times this year. And you see guys going back further and further.

They’re making the old Pennys and the old Barkleys. Nike’s making all the older shoes. Shaq’s got his old shoes coming out. Shawn Kemp’s with Reebok. They have a lot of that stuff coming out and guys are wearing them. Gerald Green wore the Shawn Kemps last time we played Indiana. I’ve seen him wear Jordans, too.

Guys are going with more unique colors than they have in the past? What are your thoughts on that trend?

Miles: I like it. It kind of lets you know the guy’s personality a little bit – like a form of expression. And I feel like fashion is one of those outlets. Like you can look at somebody by the way they dress sometimes and get a feel of what you might think.

You look at Tristan and the way he dresses and then you talk to him for 20 minutes and you’re like: ‘Yeah, that makes sense.’

I feel like (shoes are) just another outlet for it. And I feel like being able to do that stuff on the court is cool – to be able to wear what you want (almost). I mean, in the NBA, there’s a line somewhere. But in college basketball, there’s no line.

In the NBA, it’s as long as it matches your jersey pretty much. Like it used to be you’d have to wear a majority of white at home and a majority of black on the road. Now they’ve kind of opened it up where people are able to do that.

And it’s recognition of the way the world is going, as far as the way people wear shoes. You’ll see guys coming to the gym having all red gear and wearing lime-green shoes. And nobody thinks twice about it.

There’s nothing wrong with it. If you like it, I love it.

Even the fluorescent kicks that teams like Miami were wearing in the NCAA Tournament?

Miles: I like the fluorescent kicks. They look cool.

They’re making them lighter to go with the futuristic thing that they’re doing. They’ve been able to do that and not substitute for quality. You don’t have guys blowing their shoes out or complaining about them. They’re comfortable too, so if it works, if you can get up and down the floor in them, I don’t care what color it is.