CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — For Houston Rockets forward P.J. Tucker, when it comes to shoes, patience is a virtue, and persistence is key. He’s the NBA’s biggest sneakerhead — and it’s not even close. His collection is in the thousands — plural — because he’s always in search of grails and gems in his size 14.
During the 2017-18 NBA season, Tucker spent $200,000 on sneakers, and wore 106 different pairs on the court in 99 games. Throughout the 2018 playoffs alone, he rotated between 22 pairs in 17 games. This season, his sneaker reign has continued in expansive fashion all the way up to the 2019 NBA All-Star break. This weekend, Tucker, along with other sneaker connoisseurs, such as international stylist Aleali May, YouTube/social media influencer Jacques Slade and customizer Kickstradomis, partnered with eBay to sell pairs of sneakers from his collection for charity. He donated a pair of exclusive “friends and family” Nike Air Fear of God 1s, a signed of his first player exclusive (PE) Nike Hyperdunk X, as well as one of his signed NBA jerseys and a basketball signed by the entire Rockets team.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the sneakers and memorabilia will benefit Project Fit, an organization that creates new opportunities for kids to be active, fit and live a healthy lifestyle. eBay also collaborated with Highsnobiety to create a pop-up sneaker gallery called “The Vault,” which featured shoes on display from a wide range of collectors. The Undefeated sat down at The Vault with Tucker, who discussed being the NBA’s “Sneaker King,” how he tracks down pairs, and that time Michael Jordan asked him, “Where’d you get those?”
How useful has eBay been on your sneaker collector journey?
I don’t know anybody that buys more shoes on eBay than me. My college teammate and one of my best friends in life, Royal Ivey, is a big shoe guy. At Texas, he used to always be on eBay. I had no idea what eBay was. He’d get packages. Shoes would just show up … I was like, ‘Oh, my God … ’ And back then, you could really find crazy gems on eBay. I actually went to the bank and got a debit card so I could get an eBay account and buy shoes. My first debit card … was because of eBay, so I could buy shoes.
What’s the best pair of shoes you’ve ever found on eBay?
Ooooohhhhh … now, that’s tough. It’d be something old. I like eBay because I can always find old gems. I spend hours and hours just scrolling on eBay. I found the original Stash Air Force 1 [released in 2003; only 1,000 pairs were made]. Deadstock, everything … with the case, all the bells and whistles. And to find a 13 in those is impossible. But I found them on eBay. That’s probably the most hype I’ve ever been about getting a shoe.
How often are you looking for shoes?
Every day … I’m looking for shoes right now. I just answered a text message from a guy that does a lot of my buying and selling … It never stops, man. It’s 24 hours a day. It’s part of my life. I just love sneakers. It’s just something that I do unconsciously every day.
Whose sneaker collection do you respect the most?
My favorite sneakerhead is DJ Clark Kent — without a doubt. Clark, his influence on sneakers, and how natural it is? From Day One, he’s been one of the avid sneaker guys. I love how he kind of does everything. He does every brand. And he knows the heat … He’s just one of those pioneers.
What’s the weirdest way you’ve ever procured a pair of sneakers?
Yooo … some of these collectors. … are superweird. I remember one guy, he didn’t want to do PayPal … He was like, ‘Only cash.’ And he didn’t want me to know who he was. He showed up with his wife and his daughter and stayed in the car. His wife and daughter got out and brought me the shoes. They made the transaction. He’s the most top-secret guy I’ve ever met in my life.
Do you go pick up shoes yourself?
Yeah … all the time. Even my eBay account is me.
Really … ?
Yeah, it’s pjtucker. People are like, ‘Is this really you, P.J.?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, it’s me, dog … I appreciate it.’
We’re in Charlotte for All-Star. It’s Michael Jordan’s city. In 2016, you shocked M.J. by breaking out a pair of super rare Shawn Marion Air Jordan 5 player exclusives.
Mannnn, it was about the timing of that … A friend of mine who had them — both of them, the black ones and the white ones — contacted me. It was right before we played the Hornets here. It was crazy. It was a no-brainer to be able to wear them then. He was like, ‘Yo, where’d you get those?’ I kind of just gave them the shrug, like, ‘I don’t know.’
So how exactly did you get them?
A friend of a friend of a friend that knew a friend who had them. I had heard that Shawn didn’t even get them. He was trying to figure out his situation with Nike. To have those, deadstock right there, was crazy. It was a fun experience.
Is there a pair you’ve always wanted but never been able to find?
Yes … The Supreme SB Blazers. I got a bunch of them in a 13 but they fit like an 11.5. But I know there are some 14s out there. I’ve been trying to find them every chance I get. I love that sneaker. I’m still searching for those. … What else? Oh … I’m bugging. The friends and family Amsterdam Parra [it’s speculated that only 200-250 pairs were made]. Those joints are No. 1 on my list. I’ve been trying to get those forever. They’re impossible to find. I found a 12 deadstock. But way too small. I need a 14 in those. Maybe 13, but 14 for sure.
What do you like most about PEs?
Bigger than anything, it’s about the individuality of them. For me having my own now, it’s about picking those colorways surrounding how I’m feeling and what I wanted at the time.
Which players are on your Mount Rushmore of PEs?
Yo, that is a great question … I’m gonna mess you up, because it ain’t gonna be who you think. No. 1 is easy: Ray Allen. No. 2, Derek Anderson. No. 3 … Chris Paul … And then Kobe. There’s nothing like Kobe PEs.
How special is collecting sneakers to you?
It’s bigger than just sneakers. As a kid, I just always worked hard to be able to make my mom happy so she would buy me shoes. It was so much more than the actual shoes. It taught me a lot, too, because I had to take care of my shoes. I wore shoes, took them off and cleaned them. So the next time when I put them on, I was already ready to go. Because I knew I wasn’t getting another pair … you know what I’m saying? Shoes taught me how to be a man, in a way. Growing up, and being an adult, you gotta take care of your stuff.
Do you like being the ‘Sneaker King’ of the NBA?
That’s not something I talk about or push … Because when you look over the years, I wore exclusive PEs when I was in Phoenix … way more than now. I was wearing crazy PEs, and nobody ever knew. Sole Collector would probably post something every once in a while, but not many people knew. It’s just something, my whole life, I’ve always done. Sneaker King? Ahhh, whatever. It’s cool. I just do me, you know?
Stay tuned for another Q&A from The Vault with international stylist Aleali May on her two Air Jordan collaborations, her relationship with Maya Moore and the importance of female sneakerheads.