PJ Tucker is giving back in the only way he knows how — shoes. Boardroom chops it up with the Philly forward to get the story behind why he chose the ones he did.
With as many sneakers as PJ Tucker famously owns, it’s no surprise that he’s also often put them toward a good cause in recent years after they’ve hit the hardwood.
Whether it was donating pairs during the pandemic or partnering with eBay to help raise funds for the Soles 4 Souls organization, Tucker is no stranger to finding creative ways in which his lifelong passion for shoes can benefit others.
This week, he’s teaming up with his team’s non-profit, the Sixers Youth Foundation, to raise money for a series of events, basketball camps, and workshops that the franchise will hold for kids throughout the Philadelphia community.
Boardroom caught up with PJ Tucker to hear all about how he selected each pair included in the auction, what sneakers he’s still on the hunt for, and his thoughts on the newest Nike signature athlete’s first shoe, Sabrina Ionescu’s upcoming Sabrina 1.
You can bid on each of PJ Tucker’s seven sneakers at the Sixers Youth Foundation website. The auction will run this week and closes on Thursday, April 6.
NICK DePAULA: What was the starting point of this idea?
PJ TUCKER: Our president [Daryl Morey] had the idea. We did something similar in Houston, and I just wanted to pick out stuff from my collection that I could donate for the team’s kids’ charity. When we came up with it and I knew that we’d be giving back to kids, that’s what I’m all about. We know how big sneaker culture is and there’s so many kids that are into it. It’s always a cool storyline when you can do things to actually give back, that you’re actually interested in. It makes a difference. Rather than just coming up with anything. It’s better if it can be things that actually matter to you, that you put thought into and that you care about. I put thought into the shoes that I’m giving away.
NDP: How’d you pick out each shoe that’s included?
PJ: Since it’s a Sixer thing, I wanted to include some game-worn pairs that I wore playing here. Also, ones that are special to me. The meaning behind it was a little different for all of them. I wanted to mix it up, and have some of my GT Cut and Kobe PEs, and also some special pairs and some of my favorite shoes ever, too.
NDP: Let’s start with the LeBron 7 Kentucky PE. What’s the importance of that shoe for you?
PJ: I wore that one on our second media day, and the Kentucky colors are close to the Sixer colors. Those look so good, and I remember first getting those. I bought a collection of LeBron 7s, and that was the main one that I wanted. Those and the Deion Sanders PE. It was a shoe that I didn’t necessarily want to give up at first. [laughs] But I wanted to be able to give something special.
NDP: That was one of the first things I thought of – what was a shoe you were considering adding in, that you had to hold back?
PJ: The Kentucky 7 is the one out of all of ‘em, where I was like, ‘Ahhhhhh.’ [laughs] It was between that and the Nelly CB 94s.
NDP: You’ve also got the Kobe 6 PEs in here, in the Prada shirt-inspired theme.
PJ: That was probably one of my favorites from my Kobe 6 PE collection. Now, it’s super hard to get a Kobe, so to give away any Kobe is kind of crazy. That one is special. Being able to put that print on a shoe, you remember, me talking about those when I was making them. That one is special to me and takes me back to being in Italy.
NDP: What’s up with the GT Run? That’s kind of a funky colorway.
PJ: So that GT Run is a colorway that I came up with, that is kind of inspired by Salehe [Bembury]. He had done a collab and I kind of got the colorway from him. Me and him are tight, and when I was making my PEs that year, I got inspiration from him for most of the GT Runs that I did. I went crazy on those, and with those, you can do a lot. I did three or four Salehe-inspired pairs.
NDP: What about the two GT Cut 2 PEs?
PJ: So that’s the Grinch one, and you’re one person that’ll understand the other. You know what that is, right?
NDP: Of course, inspired by the elusive Livestrong Kobe 4.
PJ: Exactly! For my whole collection of GT Cut 2 PEs, I did all Kobe inspirations. There’s Livestrongs, Grinches, and four others. The Grinch one was easy, but I don’t think a lot of people know about the Livestrong 4s, for real.
NDP: You’ve also got the Jordan 3s in here – the 2013 pair with the Nike Air on the heel.
PJ: Yup! That’s a pair that was my favorite for a long time. [The] ’88 3s are probably top three to me. That’s one of those pairs that I love and cherish. That was a pair that I hooped in early in the season, and I just love that shoe. It’s so classic, and it’s one of those shoes that you never get tired of.
NDP: The last one here, is the “Philly Cat” Cuttino Mobley Hyperdunk PE.
PJ: He was my guy and a big inspiration when I was younger in my career. He was really a mentor type and Cuttino has always been a really good guy. With him being from the city, and having that “Philly Cat” nickname, I would always try and get his PEs. He had some of the best ones.
NDP: Switching gears, I know with you, the hunt never ends. What is on your list right now still?
PJ: All old stuff! It’s all about old stuff. I’m trying to get the LWP Lows, the Lambaste.
NDP: Good luck with that. [laughs]
PJ: I know, I know. [laughs] I actually found a collector that had a pair, but it was a small size. When I saw it, my heart just melted.
NDP: Penny wore those at the Phoenix All-Star Game in ’95.
PJ: Right! That shoe, for me, is crazy. And then, you know how Yoon from Ambush did the Adjust Force. I found some Alonzo Mourning Adjust Forces, with the stitched-in No. 33 on the strap.
NDP: If ever there was a shoe that would immediately explode on you, it’s probably those.
PJ: Oh my god – right away too! [laughs] That’s one of those shoes where I wouldn’t even care.
Another one is the Penny Jordan 9 PE. That’s one that I really, really want. And then, the Craig Sager Jordan 1s. I gotta get those.
NDP: I didn’t realize how much those were going for. That’s a hard one too, ‘cause the people that got them, really care about him.
PJ: Exactly. Either you’re going to have to offer them something crazy, or you’re just not going to get them.
NDP: I know Reggie Miller wears his pair and the Sager Forces all the time.
PJ: That’s actually how I originally seen ‘em! I didn’t even know about them, and I saw Reggie and said, ‘Yo! What is that!’ Those are nuts.
Another pair that I did get that we’ve talked about is the Macklemore Jordan 6s. I got the red ones, and I got the green ones on the way. That one is crazy. I had called him once, and he said, ‘Bro, I got you, but I don’t have anything over an 11. None of my boys wear over that size.’ I ended up trading for them, and I traded some pairs from my Kobe Yeezy pack.
NDP: On another note, what’d you think of the Sabrina shoe getting unveiled?
PJ: I think it’s dope! You know, we grew up with Sheryl Swoopes, and I’m glad they’re bringing that energy back for the women. That is huge, and I think there should be even more women with their own line. To bring that energy back from the 90s, that vibe was different. I remember always wanting to get a pair of Swoopes, but back then, they didn’t make them in big sizes. Hopefully, they bring back the big sizes now. I think it’s super cool that the top women in the game can get their own line.
NDP: It was funny when you mentioned the Lambaste, ’cause it reminded me of the shoe that I’ve been looking for since like 1999. I’ve been trying to find the Zoom S5, which was Dawn Staley’s shoe, and it’s just been impossible.
PJ: Yes! I remember those. That shoe was dope too.
NDP: When you look across the league this season, out of the 22 signature shoes out there, who do you think has the best current sig?
PJ: It’s hard to go against the LeBron 20. I like those a lot. I haven’t tried Sabrina’s shoe yet, so I want to try those before I give my answer. Those look like they’re going to be really good. Just off the first glance, I was like, ‘Oh yeah!’ It looks like an even more comfortable Kobe 5, just off the looks of it. I’m excited to see it, and I heard they’re going to make big sizes up to a women’s 16.5. That shoe looks like it’s going to make some noise, for real.
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