Today in Cleveland, Paul George will debut his second signature shoe, the PG2. Fittingly, he’ll do it during a contest that will test the eight-year pro’s status as one of the league’s best two-way players and on a court surrounded by other athletes who share the distinction of owning a signature shoe of their own.
“Think about the heritage of Nike Basketball in general and all the signature athletes we've had along the way and how exciting a lot of those products have been and how they're so culturally relevant,” says Tony Hardman, designer of both the PG1 and PG2. “To be a part of that legacy is heavy; you just try to put your stamp on it along the way.”
Here are five rules George and Hardman stick to so they can continue to impress their take on signature culture.
Take it beyond basketball
It’s no secret that George loves gaming (he favors PlayStation consoles). In fact, he says he considers himself one of the biggest gamers in the NBA. With the launch colorway of the PG2, a collaboration highlighting George’s passion and the PS4, he’s able to connect these two worlds.
“I just had a knack for video games,” says George of the origin of his passion. “As soon as I discovered PlayStation, I was throwing hints here and there to my dad — cutting out the clipping of a video game, cutting out the clippings of the PlayStation, leaving it on his dresser. I remember on Christmas morning, I unwrapped my gift and sure enough, it was the PS2. I've been a PlayStation guy ever since.”
The shoe features a host of PlayStation-specific nods, including a light-up tongue and more. “We worked directly with the PlayStation team on every aspect of this shoe. One thing that they provided, which was really cool, was the starry graphic from the dynamic theme that will be available for your PlayStation 4 with a code from the shoe. It's a beautiful graphic, so we made it the sock liner,” notes Hardman.
Give it an edge
While the PG1 featured bootie construction and a prominent forefoot strap, the design of the PG2 favors a more traditional tongue construction. However, George still wanted a tight lockdown to be a hallmark of his line, so to solve for the switch, Hardman developed what he calls “dynamic wings” at the forefoot. While this offers the same level of lockdown as the prior system, the new aesthetic improves the overall fit. “It also eliminates some of the issues we had where the strap might be too long for narrow feet,” Hardman explains.
Fine tune, then fine tune again
One of George’s favorite quotes is, "Don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon." It not only reflects his path from small-town Palmdale, California, to the NBA but also reminds that a first step is critical to his success on both sides of the ball.
“My love of basketball clicked early. I was crazy about the game. I would wake up early to dribble, playing outside barefoot and running up and down my street in hundred-degree weather with a backpack full of rocks trying to learn how to get more bounce,” remembers George. “I used to do those crazy things because my ambition was not just to play in the park or in the streets; I wanted to play at the highest level.”
Now in his eighth year in the NBA, George’s early work has paid off. However, there remains room for improvement, and that manifests in the PG2 via a new underfoot experience that’s predicated on responsiveness and feedback.
“We increased the size of the forefoot Zoom Air unit to 10 millimeters. And, he’s standing right on top of it now, whereas in the PG1 there was a little bit of foam between the unit and the foot. So all the way to the ground he's got that full Zoom Bag and that really gives him propulsion in the forefoot,” explains Hardman.
Design for the next generation
Ultimately, the PG line isn’t just for George. With Hardman, PG works to find solutions for him and also for “the up-and-coming guys.” Given the number of other pros that embraced the PG1, the duo seems to understand the intangibles of a good on-court sneaker.
“I’m really excited, more so again for the performance that it's going to give guys that follow me and are trying to get to the NBA, I'm most excited for those guys to get a chance to wear them and be in them and help them with their careers. At the end of the day, that's what I want,” says George.
Aside from lockdown and responsiveness, enhancements for the PG2 also include improvements to overall traction. “Players are going to get everything that they loved in the PG1 plus a lot more,” George says.
Let performance do the talking
Both George and Hardman know that design is only one part of the equation in signature shoes — George’s performance matters. The namesake athlete shoulders a responsibility to prove he deserves a signature shoe, and that his ideas about what makes a sneaker work in the toughest conditions of his sport stand strong.
“The thing I can do is go after the best players in our league and shut them down in the shoes. That's the goal. That's going to be the best way to highlight the PG2 and show all what they can do performance-wise,” says George. “I got my hands full, but I got the right shoes for the job.”
The limited edition PG2 PlayStation colorway is available February 10.