Canadian guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has taken the league by storm in his second season, averaging 19.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists for an Oklahoma City Thunder team that stands to make some noise during the NBA's restart later this month.
In addition to being the new face of the Thunder franchise, the 21-year-old is now one of the faces of the rebooted Converse Basketball line, joining Draymond Green, Kelly Oubre Jr. and WNBA champion Natasha Cloud, the brand announced Wednesday.
"You can't spell swag without S-G-A."- Converse (@Converse) July 8, 2020
Welcome to the family @shaiglalex. pic.twitter.com/xkFpkXkP05
In his first Converse ad, the Hamilton, ON native credited his roots for his ascension into becoming one of the league's brightest young stars: "Canadian basketball has been a little bit overlooked but I kinda liked that growing up, it gave me a little edge. I like to be the underdog and prove people wrong."
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Gilgeous-Alexander told ESPN's Nick DePaula that "the exclusiveness of the brand, not having so many guys, and the ability to express myself on and off the court in so many different ways appeals to me so much."
Per DePaula, the rising star, who popularized the #wholelottakobes hashtag on Instagram thanks to his penchant for wearing sneakers from Kobe Bryant's signature line with Nike, will be wearing a Converse model designed by Eric Avar, a longtime designer from the Kobe line. Those similarities, according to Gilgeous-Alexander, also drove him to the brand.
"It felt a lot like the Kobes that I was wearing during the season, so that was another plus for me. It wouldn't be too much of an adjustment. The shoe is super comfortable."
Converse, which like Jordan Brand is a subsidiary of Nike, returned to the performance side of basketball just last year. Ron Johnson, general manager of Converse Basketball, told DePaula that what separates this subsidiary is that "Converse celebrates the individuality and progress of the athlete."
This past season, Gilgeous-Alexander's individuality has shone on and off the court, with his smooth play being mirrored by a unique style that makes his pregame tunnel walk a can't-miss attraction on Instagram's League Fits account. SGA, who was named League Fits People's Choice MVP, stated that "I think my style of play translates off the court in my personality, how I dress, and really my way of life."
From Julius Erving in the 1970s to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in the 1980s and Dwyane Wade during his historic title run in 2006, Converse has been worn by some of the most influential names in the history of the game. Now, Gilgeous-Alexander looks to carry the torch as the next great to represent the iconic brand, and he's doing it with an inspirational approach.
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"I show the kids that no matter where you come from anything is possible. Just follow who you are and don't try to be nobody else."
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.