Why Joe Ingles won’t stop wearing old Kobe Bryant sneakerson August 23, 2020 at 6:16 pm

Joe Ingles is the NBA’s model of consistency.

The Utah Jazz swingman has played a league-high 379 consecutive games, and he has done so while rarely changing his shoes.

While other NBA players rip through sneakers — sometimes changing three or four times in the same game — Ingles once wore the same Size 13, yellow and white pair for six weeks, even though they had a ketchup stain on the toe from a pregame meal mishap.

“All of my teammates used to laugh at me like, ‘Why don’t you get new shoes?'” he said. “It just doesn’t bother me. The shoe’s comfy, my feet feel good. We’re trying to win a basketball game, I’m not worried. Obviously, looking back now, it’s probably a little grimy that I was doing that.”

The Nike Kobe A.D. Mid, Ingles’ shoe of choice, was originally released in August 2017. Ingles has worn it for each of his 162 games over the past two seasons, despite the fact that it hasn’t been manufactured since the 2017-18 season. Wearing a discontinued model was already a challenge, but all Kobe Bryant-related merchandise became harder to come by after the NBA legend’s death in January. Nike hasn’t released any Bryant products since, but the company will kick off a weeklong celebration of Bryant featuring new footwear and apparel starting Sunday, which would have been Bryant’s 42nd birthday.

The lack of availability of Bryant-related products has forced Ingles to resort to unusual measures to get his preferred on-court kicks, even though he’s signed to a Nike deal that provides him with apparel and sneakers.

Jazz equipment manager Adam Klauke said he gets Ingles’ shoes “wherever we can find them,” including shopping expeditions on Amazon, eBay and popular shoe resale market StockX. So far they haven’t had to pay any outlandish prices to keep Ingles satisfied, which Klauke called “lucky.” Still, purchasing shoes through public resale channels has led to some awkward moments for the Jazz forward.

“You kind of forget that your name’s on the account,” Ingles said. “I’ll order and guys will respond like, ‘Aw, is this Joe Ingles from the Jazz? I can’t believe you bought my shoes!’ I never reply, because I’m probably just too lazy to reply, but I would just do whatever to find a shoe that I liked.”

Once he does find such a pair, he’s reluctant to let it go.

“We know how he is and always the same style,” teammate Royce O’Neale said.

Teammate Donovan Mitchell has already worn 11 different colorways of his Adidas signature shoe during the NBA restart. Ingles might take two seasons to hit that number.

“Joe will probably go through five or six pairs of shoes in a season,” Klauke said. “Same model the entire season, for practice and games. He feels comfortable in those shoes and he wants those shoes, so if it’s not broken then don’t fix it.”

Klauke is holding on to six or seven new pairs — stain-free, to be clear — to help Ingles finish out this season. A few slightly used pairs are also on deck.

“If they start getting real dirty and scuffed up, that’s kind of when we start using them for practice,” Klauke said. “Joe will tell me when he is done with the shoes altogether.”

Ingles will take the court again in Sunday’s first-round playoff game against the Denver Nuggets on the first day of Nike’s “Mamba Week,” an extension of a tradition started in 2016 with “Mamba Day,” which honored Bryant’s last game — coincidentally against Ingles and the Jazz.

That day, the company gifted all of its sponsored athletes worldwide with a pair of black and gold Kobe 11s for the first “Mamba Day.” Ingles wore the customized pair in warm-ups, but by the time Bryant was finishing off his 60-point masterpiece, Ingles was back in the Kobe 10s — the model he wore for three seasons before switching to the Kobe AD, which at that point had already been discontinued. The contrast in the shoes was evident in the third quarter when Ingles was matched up on the perimeter against Bryant, who was wearing the special black and gold sneakers, as Jack Nicholson looked on from his regular courtside seat.

“Ten years ago, I never thought I was going to be playing in the NBA, let alone in [Bryant’s] last game,” Ingles said. “One of the coolest things that ever happened was playing in that game and him signing the shoes, when Nike made us all a shoe, and it had the date of the game on it and all that stitched into it.”

As his consecutive games streak grows, he plans to keep wearing sneakers from Bryant’s line. Just maybe not the latest ones.

“I’ll wear the Kobe until no one else is kind of wearing it and as everyone else moves to the next one, I’ll move to the one everyone has now,” he said.

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