Sole Mates: Ben Simmons and the Nike Blazer
The three-time NBA All-Star on sneaker culture in Australia, the significance of the Nike Blazer, receiving kicks from LeBron James and more.
Ben Simmons‘ confidence is at its peak right now. With the help of Doc Rivers who now runs the show in Philly, the 76ers find themselves sitting pretty as the #1 seed in the East. The three-time NBA All-Star has been putting the clamps on his opponents every night and has easily made himself a front runner to win this year’s Defensive Player of the Year, and his teammates such as potential MVP Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Seth Curry and the rest of the crew are firing on all cylinders.
In the midst of arguably his best professional season yet, Simmons took the time to sit down with HYPEBEAST to participate in our Sole Mates editorial series. From the time that he spent picking up a basketball at a young age to dominating the D1 scene at LSU to making his way into the league, sneakers have always served as mementos of his hoops-focused life. His affinity for shoes began at an early age when he was growing up in Melbourne as his older brothers who were employed by a footwear store kept him in the know of all the trending kicks. On top of that, Simmons was also influenced by the street ballers of AND1 such as The Professor and Hot Sauce and the undeniable swagger that they delivered both on and off the black top. While he grew up loving a variety of different footwear models from Dwayne Wade‘s signature Converse silhouettes to AND1‘s Tai Chi model, Simmons has developed a deeper connection to the Nike Blazer as it falls in line with his street style and penchant for sleek and timeless classics.
Just ahead of the 2020-2021 NBA playoffs, and right after his collaborative HBX launch, “The Fresh Prince” took the time to chinwag with HYPEBEAST about his relationship with the Nike Blazer, sneaker culture in Melbourne, being gifted kicks by LeBron James and more.
HYPEBEAST: Who or what got you into sneakers?
I would say my brothers really got me into the shoe game. They used to work at a shoe store in Australia called Hype DC and so they were always in the know. On top of that, we had a family friend who used to own AND1 in Australia that would keep us fitted, and I was always inspired by all those street hoopers that came into the city like Hot Sauce. I remember seeing a lot of them rock the AND1 “Tai Chi,” and that’s still one of my favorite shoes.
“Everyone was big on copping from Eastbay especially when it came to basketball shoes like the Nike Hyperdunks and D Rose’s adidas shoes. It was a big moment when Brandon Jennings’ shoes released because myself and my peers were fans of him growing up. Those Eastbay catalogs were everything.”
Can you give us some insight as to what sneaker culture was/is like in Australia?
You know it’s funny because the reason it was big in Australia we because we had Eastbay. Everyone was big on copping from Eastbay especially when it came to basketball shoes like the Nike Hyperdunks and D Rose’s adidas shoes. It was a big moment when Brandon Jennings’ shoes released because myself and my peers were fans of him growing up. Those Eastbay catalogs were everything.
Can you share any sneaker-related stories from before you came into the league whether that be a pair you scrapped really hard to get or just a special pair that you received?
So I’ve actually known LeBron [James] since I was in high school, and I forget if it was either the Nike LeBron 6s or the 7s, but he actually sent me one of his game-worn pairs. Once he found out we were the same shoe size, those were the first ones he gifted me, and he’d usually write the date and the team he played against that night on them. That specific pair was one that played in against the Orlando Magic. It was just super dope seeing someone who has been competing at that level give me that moment, especially for me being a high school kid and someone who was working towards their goals of making it to the NBA.
“I just think that [the Blazer] is definitely a classic shoe that you can rock with a lot of pieces of clothing, and I think that versatility is what really draws me to it. I just love the super simple, not too over the top looking ones. “
Switching gears here, let’s dive into your relationship with the Nike Blazer, why are you a fan of this particular silhouette?
I just think that it’s definitely a classic shoe that you can rock with a lot of pieces of clothing, and I think that versatility is what really draws me to it. I just love the super simple, not too over the top looking ones.
I know in the past you were given the opportunity to work on your own Blazers colorways with Nike. How did those projects come about?
So Nike actually came to me with the opportunity to reimagine my own lifestyle shoes and they gave me the option to either work on the Blazer or the Cortez. With me being a big fan of high-top lifestyle silhouettes such as the Air Jordan 1, I decided to go with the Blazer because it was probably the closest thing I could get to that.
Are there any other Blazers in your rotation that are special to you?
So definitely these right here — the Cactus Plant Flea Market x Nike Blazer Mid because they’re totally customized to my liking. I actually designed these at Nike headquarters about two years ago, and they basically let me freestyle all of the various colors. In addition, my jeweler also took these to another level by adding a gold link with diamond here on the bottom, and then he also added another gold toggle piece with my logo on it.
Ah, that’s dope. Was the decision to add the jewelry on your end or that was just something he was already working on?
So it was his idea originally, he was just kind of waiting on me to pick the pair of shoes for him to put them on. From there we just went with it and I thought it was pretty unique because I don’t think anybody has ever really done this.
“I just love how they all just represent different moments of your life. I can talk about the shoes I wore when I was 10 years old. I used to rock D-Wade’s Converse shoes a lot when I was like 10 years old, the same era that my dad was with Converse so sneakers definitely take me back to moments like that.”
Can we expect you and Nike to work on more footwear together down the road?
Yeah, definitely, there’s a lot of opportunities coming up so I’m looking forward to it. Every time I work with Nike it’s been cool. I’d love to work an in-game shoe next.
Why are sneakers and the stories they hold important to you?
I just love how they all just represent different moments of your life. I can talk about the shoes I wore when I was 10 years old. I used to rock D-Wade’s Converse shoes a lot when I was like 10 years old, the same era that my dad [former professional basketball player Dave Simmons] was with Converse so sneakers definitely take me back to moments like that. Every shoe has a story behind and that’s pretty cool and unique for me.