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Darius Garland Found Comfort in the New Balance Family

Last Updated: November 30, 2023
The company adds the Cleveland star guard to a growing roster that already includes Kawhi Leonard, Jamal Murray, Tyrese Maxey, Zach Lavine, and Dejounte Murray.

In the handful of years since first re-entering the performance basketball space in 2018, New Balance has built up an impressive athlete roster of endorsers, headlined by a selective but impactful batch of NBA champions, two-way All-Stars, and talented rising guards. 

Darius Garland New Balance
(Rocky Widner / NBAE via Getty Images)

On Wednesday, New Balance officially signed Cleveland Cavaliers star Darius Garland, adding the 23-year-old All-Star guard to the fold.

“We couldn’t be happier to have Darius on board,” said Naveen Lokesh, Head of Basketball Sports Marketing for New Balance. “Darius embodies the independent spirit of New Balance.”

The Garland signing brings the official NB basketball athlete roster to 10, now with eight NBA players in Kawhi Leonard, Jamal Murray, Tyrese Maxey, Zach LaVine, Aaron Nesmith, Darius Bazley, and Dejounte Murray, as well as newly signed NIL athletes in Stanford’s Cameron Brink and Kentucky’s Justin Edwards

Boardroom caught up with Darius Garland earlier Wednesday afternoon to gauge all the excitement surrounding his signing with New Balance, the PE-themed sneaker he’s looking to debut soon, his favorite models from the new home brand, and more.

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Nick DePaula: Going into this sneaker free agency process, what were you looking for in your next deal?

Darius Garland: Another family. New Balance is super family-oriented, and everything is small and close-knit. That’s what I was looking forward to. There’s only eight guys on the New Balance Basketball side now, and it’s a smaller group.

There’s something more powerful about that, I believe, and there’s a unity within the New Balance family. There’s not a thousand guys wearing the same shoe. I was looking for a different family and a different look. 

NDP: What was your reaction when you heard New Balance had reached out and wanted to sign you? 

DG: I was pretty excited when they reached out and said they were interested. I knew there were only seven guys with the brand at that point. I started naming all of the guys with New Balance, and I counted that on my hands. It was super cool to think about that. 

Trying to push something different than the usual was big for me. And then, the comfort standpoint of it, too. I knew that New Balance shoes are always comfortable and always fitting great. When I got the call, I was pretty excited; I’m not gonna lie. 

Darius Garland New Balance
Darius Garland in the New Balance Two Wxy V4 (David Liam Kyle / NBAE via Getty Images)

NDP: When you came into the league in 2019, New Balance was just coming back into basketball. What did you notice about the brand from afar regarding how it was re-establishing itself in hoops? 

DG: I used to see Kawhi in them a lot, when I was just getting to the league and getting drafted. Seeing him [have success with the brand] was super cool, and even though his play style is super different than mine, I could see how well the shoe was made. It looked like it was made for a guard, and a player that plays with a lot of cutting and a lot of shiftiness. That caught my eye. 

As the years passed, I saw New Balance sign some of the guys that I’m close with and talk to. New Balance started to sign more and more players, and I’ve talked to Tyrese, Dejounte, and Jamal about the brand. Jamal caught my eye — cause he had a PE that was crazy. His brown and pink [PE of the Two Wxy 3] was a fire colorway that was dope. 

I was talking to them about their experience, and it was all great feedback. The evolution from my rookie year seeing Kawhi’s first shoe to now, with all of the different colorways and PEs, it’s been super cool to see how it keeps evolving. 

NDP: Have you already thought about what kinds of themes and stories you’re looking to tell through your own PE sneakers? 

DG: Yeah! One of my favorite colorways that I have coming is inspired by a NERF court. Growing up, I used to have a NERF court downstairs that I would play on every day. That’s a childhood memory of mine, and I’ve tried to incorporate that into my shoes. That’s something that y’all will see soon.

NDP: You’re represented by Klutch, and of course, Rich Paul and Klutch have developed a connection with New Balance in the last couple years, launching Klutch Athletics together. What was his input like throughout this process for you? 

Darius Garland New Balance

DG: Rich had all high praise. Being an agent with his own shoe is crazy! It was all positivity with him. He told me that it was really family-oriented at New Balance, just like how Klutch is as an agency. Very small and close-knit, and really into the community. 

I like to get involved in the community a lot, just put smiles on people’s faces and help out as much as I can. That’s what the New Balance brand is all about. 

When he kept telling me about [the opportunity to sign with New Balance], I didn’t believe it at first. After a couple more calls, it just started coming together, and I was like, “Yeah, I think I’m going to lean towards New Balance, for sure.”

NDP: Being in Cleveland and with Rich being from the area too, have you seen Klutch Athletics and New Balance more around town now? 

DG: It’s definitely growing. The brand New Balance itself is just growing. I’m walking around at restaurants, and people are seeing my New Balances, and they’re putting their shoes up and showing off the “N” on it. It’s really starting to grow a lot more, and it’s been super cool just seeing a lot of the kids wearing New Balance too. I’m seeing a lot of grey 990s around, and a lot of 550s. It’s a casual shoe that’s definitely growing in the Cleveland area. 

NDP: Once you got into testing out and playing in the shoes, what’d you like about the Two Wxy V4 that you’ve been wearing, in particular?

DG: It’s just super comfortable; that was my first thing. And it’s made for a guard. The sole of it has a lot of grip, and there’s a lot of shiftiness and speed to it. I like that a lot. Having different colorways has been super cool. Dejounte — he’s had a few Seattle-inspired colorways. Tyrese has a lot of Philly colorways that are super dope. The shoe is just great, and I like it a lot. There’s going to be a lot more to come. 

NDP: That’s the on-court shoe for you right now, but when it comes to off-the-court, what models have you gravitated to so far? 

DG: Definitely the collabs. They have been pretty crazy this year. From the 550s to the 990s, and a couple of collabs with JoeFreshGoods, who I’m kind of cool with, since he’s from the Midwest area too. The Stone Island collab was crazy, and New Balance has had a bunch of collabs that I really liked. Everything is super comfortable, and I can wear them with anything. 

NDP: How do you have your sneaker collection set up now at your spot? 

DG: I have two closets, and all of ’em are filled with New Balance stuff. My main closet is all of the New Balance sweatsuits, all of the shorts, and I got thousands of socks. Then, I have another closet, just full of shoes. I have all of my 550s and 990s, in order, and also the 990 V4, in order. Everything is coming along really well right now — I’m getting a lot of shipments in. [laughs]

Darius Garland New Balance
Image courtesy of the Cleveland Cavaliers

NDP: How would you describe your marketing profile and what you want to build with New Balance? 

DG: I really want to tell my story, growing up and coming from Gary, Ind., and then coming to a blue-collar city in Cleveland that’s really similar. Being in the Midwest and the storytelling from Cleveland through the rest of my career — it’s going to be pretty cool. We have a New Balance billboard now downtown that I’m about to go see, and I’m just really excited about the partnership. I’m really at a loss of words because it’s just officially happening [on Wednesday], and I just can’t wait to move forward with the brand and see what we can do. 

NDP: Now that the deal is official, what kind of feedback have you gotten from the other current New Balance players?

DG: When I was telling my New Balance brothers, they didn’t believe me at first. [laughs] I kept just trying to put it in their ear that, “Hey, I might be coming over to the brand.” They were saying, “Nah, you’re a Nike kid,” and all of that kind of stuff. It finally happening, and now coming out today, has been great. 

We actually played Dejounte yesterday, and I told him [the news] might be coming out soon. He was like, ‘Oh, for real?’ He was telling me congratulations, and then, I just talked to him again today. Everybody has been excited for me, and I’m just excited to join the brand and partner with some great guys.

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About The Author
Nick DePaula
Nick DePaula
Nick DePaula covers the footwear industry and endorsement deals surrounding the sporting landscape, with an emphasis on athlete and executive interviews. The Sacramento, California, native has been based in Portland, Oregon, for the last decade, a main hub of sneaker company headquarters. He’ll often argue that How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days is actually an underrated movie, largely because it’s the only time his Sacramento Kings have made the NBA Finals.