Jayson Tatum has celebrated storytelling through his sneakers since signing with Jordan Brand in 2019. Leading into this month’s debut of his first signature shoe, the Jordan Tatum 1, he’s already worn nearly a dozen different editions.
Each pair highlights chapters of his basketball journey, those closest to him, and his on-and-off-court passions during his rise to stardom.
“The coolest part is coming up with colorways and seeing it come to life,” the Boston Celtics forward said. “But just the reception that it’s gotten from everybody loving the shoe, loving the colors and going out and buying them, seeing them on people’s feet – that’s a supercool feeling.”
“I wanted it to stand out,” Tatum said of his shoe’s design. “But also, as an athlete and a basketball player, I wanted it to be comfortable. It’s essentially an extension of yourself. The shoe being stable and comfortable and able to react with your body was most important. The colorways are the icing on the cake.”
As a headliner of Jordan Brand’s annual flagship model since the Air Jordan 34, Tatum has worked with Jordan Brand senior color designer Kelsey Amy to create colorways and themes for each model. Almost all of the stories stem from his passions and upbringing.
“I can’t take all the credit for the little details in the shoe,” he said. “I help come up with the ideas for what’s important to me and the stories that I want to tell, and then Kelsey does an incredible job with switching up the fabrics and throwing the little curveballs and things in to really make the shoe pop.”
No matter what sneaker he laces up, his pregame ritual also includes grabbing a Sharpie, writing “Deuce,” the nickname of his son, Jayson Tatum Jr., and drawing a heart along the heel of each shoe.
“It’s been since he was born, honestly,” he said. “Maybe a few games after that. I’ve been writing it on the back of my shoes, ever since my first year.”
The Boston Celtics star spoke to Andscape about the inspirations, references and nuances behind each recent colorway he’s taken to the court.
‘Welcome to the Zoo’
The launch colorway of the Jordan Tatum 1 encapsulated his time with the company to date, his son Deuce and his love of storytelling, all in one silhouette.
“That was cool, because that’s the origin of me being with Jordan Brand,” he said. “The first PE [player exclusive] that I ever had come to life was the ‘Welcome to the Zoo’ Air Jordan 34. It was showing the relationship that I have with Deuce and the things that we bond over, like his love for animals and his love for going to the St. Louis Zoo.”
Each summer, the two visit the zoo in Tatum’s hometown. Their zoo trip during a vacation in Australia in 2019 is a favorite family memory.
“I had a ‘Welcome to the Zoo’ 35, 36 and all the way up to having my own shoe,” he continued. “So, it was only right that that was the first one.”
One of the simpler colorways of the Tatum 1 sneaker is a white and black version, accented by red and blue stripes along the heel tab and five gold stars.
“I think most people had seen the clip when I was mic’d up, where I was talking about how ‘I’m top five when I get a cut,’ ” said Tatum. “I’ve always been nominated on Twitter for having the best line, taper and haircut, so that was just showing love to my barber.”
When Tatum stepped onto the court for this year’s All-Star Game in Salt Lake City, the bright pink and seafoam tones that draped his launch colorway were immediately recognizable to fans who followed his footwear.
“Pink lemonade is another important thing to me,” said Tatum. “Even to this day, lemonade is something that I order to drink whenever I go out to eat.”
The colorway was back yet again and incorporated into his recent Tatum 1 commercial as an Easter egg in the scene where he rides in a private jet with Jordan collaborator rapper Travis Scott.
“We’re evolving the stories that I’ve been telling since I started with Jordan Brand,” he added. “We had Lemonade 34s, 35s, 36s and 37s. A lot of these stories were started as PEs on the game shoe, and now we’ve expanded it to the Tatum 1.”
Tatum has also celebrated his upbringing and family through his tattoos. His back piece highlights his hometown and along his left leg is a portrait of his mother Brandy and son Deuce, just below the phrase “Momma’s Boy.”
His white, black and neon Tatum 1 ties the storytelling together.
“That’s a nod to my mom,” he explained. “Besides Deuce, that’s my best friend and the person I give all the credit for raising me to be the person that I am off the court and the man I grew up to be. My mom’s favorite color is neon green, her favorite flower is a white calla lily. That was the thought process behind that and I wanted to give her some love.”
Before almost every home Celtics game, Tatum will post a photo on his Snapchat account as he rides to TD Garden. Seated in the right rear passenger seat of a Maybach, Tatum makes sure his sneakers are always in the shot, and he wears a watch from his rotation of Rolex, Richard Mille, and Audemars Piguet options.
Now, he’s got a sneaker inspired by his timepieces, with a rich crocodile skin upper drawing from a watchband.
“It’s a nod to my watch collection and my love for the hobby of buying and collecting watches,” said Tatum. “One of my favorite watches is a blue and gold AP, so that’s where that idea came from.”
Just after it was revealed that 2022 No. 1 draft pick Paolo Banchero would be signing with Jordan Brand, a Twitter user fired off a joke:
“His first shoes better be called Huevos Bancheros or everyone in marketing is getting fired.”
The tweet went relatively under the radar until the Orlando Magic’s rookie of the year front-runner took the court in late March in a sneaker resembling tortillas, eggs and avocados.
Sure enough, Banchero had his player exclusive edition of the Tatum 1 dressed in the huevos rancheros theme.
“Man, that was superdope,” said Tatum. “He’s somebody I have a really good relationship with through Duke [University]. That’s something where people are making PEs of my signature shoe.”
From the time Tatum laced up his PEs of other models to now seeing Jordan Brand’s latest star signing in his first sneaker, his ascent as a signature star has felt like a full circle moment.
“That’s something that he wanted to do,” he said. “It’s little things like that, where I was honored, that people wanted to make their own version. When I saw that he was making that, I couldn’t wait to get my pair and wear ’em on the court.”
The “Blueprint” theme stands out on this version of the Tatum 1. The royal blue upper resembles the graph paper footwear developers use to create the tech pack for production, all the way down to the coding text along the panels. “Vector-shaped” squares along the heel highlight the Jumpman and “JT” logos.
“I wish we were selling that one,” said Tatum. “ ‘The Blueprint’ is the phrase we used when we started the conversation around me having my own shoe and my business within Jordan Brand. It’s a nod to Jay-Z, my favorite rapper, and The Blueprint is my favorite album.
“But also, it’s storytelling around part of the campaign, which is that ‘I always knew.’ I always had these goals and mapped out my life’s plan: Go to high school and win every award I could. I went to college for one year, and I went to Duke. I wanted to be the No. 1 draft pick and ended up being the third.
“It’s surreal to say this, because I never take any of this for granted, but I truly did dream of it. I did speak on all of this to my mom and my grandma. ‘When I get older, I’m going to be the No. 1 draft pick, be an All-Star and have my own shoe.’ It’s a nod to that and that way of thinking as a kid.”