Paul George was in the process of developing his fourth Nike sneaker, the PG3, when he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the summer of 2017. The blockbuster change would alter George's career and have ripple effects on his successful signature shoe.
When Nike Basketball footwear designer Tony Hardman, who has overseen the PG line, and George brainstormed what to incorporate into the third signature model, George requested the shoe tie back to his Southern California hometown. Once the trade happened, George added that he wanted to make the shoe lighter to keep up with new teammate Russell Westbrook.
The end result is a sneaker George believes will transcend the court.
"I thought we killed it," George said. "These 3s are up there as one of my favorites. I don't think we went away from a basketball shoe too much, but I do think we highlighted a bunch of areas where you can say that's a sneaker and not a basketball shoe."
The PG3 is nearly an ounce lighter than the PG 2.5, a hybrid of the PG1 and PG2 that George has hooped in this season. Hardman said they were able to reduce the shoe's weight by removing excess materials, utilizing a softer foam in the midsole and incorporating mesh on the shoe's upper.
While it's been trendy to incorporate space themes into shoes over the last year, George's NASA-inspired colorway isn't for clout but rather to pay tribute to his childhood growing up in Palmdale, California, located an hour north of Los Angeles. The city is home to an aircraft manufacturing plant that has built every NASA space shuttle and NASA's Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center.
The vibrant hues of orange, blue and yellow are inspired by the center and conveniently blend well with his Thunder uniform.
"I love bright, vibrant, energy colors," George said. "When they brought the orange, I was all for it. The orange with the metallic gives it a nice pop. Then you've got five or six hidden colors that go along with it as well. It's a colorful shoe, but I don't think it's a shoe that's out there. It's a shoe that's perfectly color-coordinated. It goes great with the jersey."
George also has his hometown zip code, 93552, on the midsole. On the shoe's heel is one of his favorite quotes, which also serves as his Twitter bio: Don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon. Fittingly, the PG3 uses circular traction resembling moon craters.
"It doesn't make sense that the sky is the limit when there's footprints on the moon," George said. "That's how I look at things. I always wanted more. I always saw myself at the highest level, whatever it is."
B/R Kicks spoke to George about his latest sneaker, how Kobe Bryant has influenced his signature line and how it feels to see an opponent wearing his shoes:
B/R Kicks: What do you like about the PG3?
Paul George: I wanted to tie it back to the sneaker days. Air Jordan 1s. Air Jordan 2s. Air Jordan 3s. They were shoes that fared well not only on the court but off the court. Like a collector's shoe that kids wanted to rock to school and dudes want to step out for on a night, and it could still perform like the PG1s and the PG2s. When I worked with Tony on the 3s, that's where our heads were. We wanted to get back to a traditional sneaker.
B/R: How significant is it for you to reach the third installment in your signature shoe line?
PG: I relate it to someone I looked up to in Kobe. People liked the Kobes because of how light they were, how great of a shoe they were from a performance standpoint and how low to the ground they felt. I feel I have that same level of followers that Kobe had when his line was at its height of his sneaker career. Guys relate to my shoes being comfortable, good grip and just a really good shoe on the court. I think there's an expectation I have with consumers about my shoes.
B/R: There are plenty of NBA players who wear your shoes. What do you hear from them?
PG: It's always been positive. The most feedback I get is comfort. "Your shoe is the only one I can play in." That's what we wanted to highlight and capture. I think the idea of having pillows on your feet is really behind the comfort level. It's dope in that aspect that people enjoy most out of the shoe.
B/R: How do you feel when an opponent wears your shoe?
PG: It's dope. I don't have that feeling [that] dudes can't wear my sneakers while I play them, or dudes can't wear my sneakers at all. I want to make a basketball shoe that people are going to feel good in, that people are going to play at a high level in. There's guys that probably respect me but if we were in the same room would not say 'What's up?' that wear my shoes. It's no love lost. It's cool that they like to wear my shoe.
B/R: Do you feel it gives you a mental advantage when an opponent wears your shoe?
PG: Sometimes my opponent will bring it up to me. I'm not thinking about the shoes, but if they're thinking about the shoes, I'm obviously in their head about it. So sometimes there's a mental note that he's aware that he's in my shoes. So there's no way I'm gonna let him get the mental edge.
If it's on their minds, that means going into the game, they're thinking about what shoe they're going to wear. They pick my shoes. Going into tipoff, they're thinking about how they can have this conversation with me or what could they say to me. So, I know from a competitive stance that I got 'em.
B/R: What kind of sneaker legacy do you hope to leave?
PG: I hope it's just an area of two-way players, lengthy wingmen that just kind of do it all in the game. That's what I hope with guys being in my shoe. They have some type of style that I affected in their games. If I can help them in any way—if that's the way I play or if it's something in my shoes that they gain some type of advantage with—that's ultimately what I'm looking for.