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December 2016

For Curry, KD and the Warriors, it must be the shoes

By Shoes sports

When Warriors goalie Klay Thompson entered the Staples Center locker room for a shootout last Wednesday, he found on the shelf above his locker a pair of size 15 AntaKT2Whitehawks, white with a blue heel. royal and yellow accents. Eric Housen, who takes care of the team’s equipment, made sure to pack these shoes for the trip to Los Angeles because Thompson wore them while scoring 60 points in the three-quarter against the Pacers two nights before. . Thompson isn’t superstitious about his kicks, but he clearly felt comfortable with the Whitehawks. “They should be on the ice,” Thompson joked, if not behind glass. Sniper Dubs had previously turned his attention to another colourway of his signature shoe, the KT2 Make It Rain, with a blue gradient, flash graphic and a splash pattern on the sole that evokes precipitation. Anta, the Chinese sportswear company that sponsors Thompson, released the design in part to commemorate his uprising against Indiana. After a brief search for the Make It Rains in the Staples shootout, Thompson retrieved them from his home in Los Angeles and laced them up in time for a nationally televised showdown with the Clippers.

“It has to be the shoes,” Mars Blackmon told Michael Jordan, a line that rings true 27 years later. There are a myriad of ways to measure the power of the stars of the Warriors – stats and salaries, ratings and jersey sales – but it’s instructive to start with their feet, and more specifically, the trunks at their feet. A typical NBA player, on a typical five-game road trip, will pack three or four pairs of shoes. Housen packs an entire chest for guard Steph Curry, with 16 pairs of Under Armor Curry 3 in his size 12.5, and another chest for forward Kevin Durant, with 16 pairs of Nike KD9 in his size 18. The players Regulars don’t have signature shoes, let alone shoe calendars, but Curry and Durant do. Ahead of this season, Nike representatives provided the Warriors with a list of all the styles and colorways they plan to wear by Durant to every game this season. On December 20 against Utah, for example, he should be in white 9 with a blue swoosh, and December 22 against Brooklyn, in gold with a blue swoosh. Under Armor does the same for Curry, updating two months at a time. Housen consults the list before placing the appropriate kicks in the designated lockers, making sure to change Durant’s orthotics.

“If Nike comes up with something new, when the shoe comes out I always try to wear it,” Durant said. Last week, for example, as Thompson hooked 60 in his Whitehawks, Durant showed off an elegant burgundy color of the KD9s called The Sauce. “But I need my shoes to be broken first or I’ll go back to something I had before.” Durant used to deviate from the script based on his performance in a given pair and his team’s victory. It still deviates from time to time, based on comfort more than on the result. Durant should train with shoes before playing with them. Curry is the opposite. He actually warms up in a bottom before moving on to his more familiar mid, often wearing them right out of the box. Neither Durant nor Curry actually needed 16 pairs of shoes for a five-game trip, and they would never ask their equipment manager to carry a separate chest just for them. But Housen is careful. He knows that when a Hollywood director sitting next to the Staples field asks for a souvenir, both players will reflexively run to the locker room and grab a few pearls from the black vinyl trunk.

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Housen started working for the Warriors in 1986, at the age of 12, winning a raffle with a friend to become a bullet collector. At 25 he was the equipment manager and for three years he lived in the team’s training center. Former owner Chris Cohan once slept in Housen’s bunk bed while his kids had a slumber party at the training ground. Forward Adam Keefe took a nap there after his wife gave birth to a baby who kept crying. General manager Garry St. Jean moved in on the bargaining deadline day as he tried to get rid of half the list. At first, Housen could fit all the sneakers into a Gatorade duffel bag, including Chris Mullin’s Nike Air Flight 87s with custom leather. When the shoe industry exploded and gamers became tall billboards, Housen didn’t really feel the reverberations because the Warriors lacked headliners. Now they have four, and it’s news when forward Draymond Green gets the words “Sideline Racism” on his size 15 Nike Zoom Clear Outs, like he did against the Pacers and Clippers. Nike has a representative from the Warriors and a representative from Durant. Under Armor has two Curry representatives. Anta has four or five officials checking on Thompson. Housen’s inbox is blocked, but he’s not complaining. “These are good problems,” he said. AndrisBiedrins, after all, could have rocked the penny loafers at launch and no one would have cared.

A few of his peers can relate. The Cavaliers ‘Mark Cashman also follows a Nike shoe schedule, for LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, and the Clippers’ Pete Serrano juggles a variety of brands. Serrano works with Jamal Crawford, who could wear five pairs of shoes all season, and Chris Paul, who wears a new one almost every game. “Chris sometimes drops off 30 pairs at our training facility and tells everyone in the facility, ‘Whoever wants them,’” Serrano said. “They’re gone in five minutes. Serrano and Housen didn’t become sneakerheads by choice. It’s part of the concert. As Housen examines the Warriors’ locker room and the shoes in the stalls, assistant coach Ron Adams tries to decipher the language he uses. Housen explains that Andre Iguodala is stuck between two Kobes right now and is heading for a Flyknit. James Michael McAdoo oscillates between a Hyperdunk top and a Hyperdunk bottom. Shaun Livingston went through all of last season with six Hyperdunks and wears a new model that Nike sent him this summer. “It would take a month to figure that out,” Adams said, rushing to court.

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Housen swears he doesn’t give much thought to his own gear – an old black long-sleeved Warriors t-shirt, sweatpants and a gray knit beanie – but his feet happen to be covered in royal blue Under Armor. “I love Steph,” he said, understandably after eight years together. When Golden State recruited Durant, Curry told him their corporate affiliations made no difference and success would benefit all parties. But a few Warriors staff with no sponsorship deal admit they struggle with their individual shoe choice. They want to support Durant and Curry without alienating themselves either. “Are you going to Nike,” one asks, “or Under Armor? “

Easy. Anta.

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