Today, the Minnesota Timberwolves will pay tribute to their longtime head coach and general manager, Flip Saunders, live from the Target Center—Saunders passed away in 2015 after a battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Part of the festivities during Flip Saunders Night is a special footwear dedication, where the entire Timberwolves roster will wear custom sneakers. The man tapped with providing this one-of-a-kind tribute is renowned artist Sal Amezcua. Or, as he’s known to the world, Kickstradomis.
His friendship with Karl-Anthony Towns—whom he has created customs for in the past—opened the door to what he described as the “biggest project of my career.”
"Honoring Flip Saunders, I thought it would be a great thing if we could all have shoes that represent how we felt about Flip and different moments we've had with Flip." - KAT Get an inside look at the making of @kickstradomis' kicks for Flip Saunders Night. #ForFlip https://t.co/JZOWG6MIg2
“Me and KAT are really close friends. When it comes to something like this, he’s the one who usually puts me on,” Amezcua told Bleacher Report.
For Amezcua, honoring Saunders serves as a reminder that art can transcend sports. And thanks to Timberwolves equipment manager, Clayton Wilson, he was able to contribute a series of kicks to the entire team.
“Clayton is the one who approached me about doing it for the whole team. He got all me all the shoes,” Amezcua mentioned.
The guys appear excited to rock these one-of-a-kind customs. “I know Wiggins was really hyped about it, Jamal Crawford as well,” Amezcua said. And why wouldn't they be? Amezcua's art leaps off the canvas. Airbrushed images of Saunders, bright, can't-miss colorways and inspirational messages are all front and center. It's an on-foot billboard. A walking Museum of Modern Art.
As one would imagine, designing 17 pairs of sneakers can be grueling, but Amezcua hasn’t slowed down since being assigned to the project. “It’s one of the more challenging programs I’ve done in recent time, especially with (NBA) All-Star Weekend around the corner,” he added.
Challenges like this are nothing new to Kickstradomis. The artist is colorblind and often requires the help of his girlfriend to determine where to place some colors on a sneaker. “I see colors, but when certain colors are next to each other I have trouble,” Amezcua explained. Hues like brown, yellow and green can give him issues.
Thankfully, the condition hasn’t affected the quality of his work. The man known as Kickstradomis has created specialized pieces of footwear for Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, Donovan Mitchell and Hassan Whiteside among countless others. He’s become part of the NBA’s social fabric, breaking down barriers through custom sneakers.
Amezcua’s long-term aspiration is to continue tackling big projects like Flip Saunders night and to work with the team he grew up rooting for, the Los Angeles Lakers. “That would be a dream come true,” he mentioned.
When we asked if he understands the magnitude of this moment—creating 17 pairs of kicks to honor Flip Saunders on a nationally-televised game—Amezcua didn’t hesitate to respond. “This is what we do it for.”
All of the hard work, the hours logged, the tireless campaigning and networking has come to life. His vision takes centerstage tonight, February 15, on TNT. For one night, an entire NBA roster will be wearing Kickstradomis’ branded sneakers. And for an artist who loves the game of basketball, it doesn’t get much better than that.
All quotes obtained firsthand, unless noted otherwise.