BALTIMORE — Joel Embiid left adidas to join Under Armour as a sneaker free agent prior to the 2018-19 season. On Tuesday in Baltimore at Under Armour’s headquarters, Embiid and designer Reggie Wilson announced he will join Stephen Curry as the only two NBA players that have a signature sneaker, the Under Armour Embiid 1, with the brand.
Embiid will be the only center in the NBA with a signature sneaker as he efforts to crack the code of creating a signature that is both functional enough for a 7’0, 250 pound center and stylish enough that the public will want to wear it on and off the floor. It’s long been the difficulty facing big men in the sneaker game, and not limited to centers. Even LeBron James’ signature line has had its troubles making a sneaker functional for his explosiveness and size that isn’t too heavy or bulky for the average player.
The idea, however, was to scrap the idea of trying to make a big man shoe from the beginning, as Embiid has had similar complaints about shoes engineered for bigs, and instead wanted to create a positionless sneaker that would be more functional for all the things he does in his game that goes well beyond banging down on the block.
“I needed a shoe that made me feel comfortable,” Embiid said. “Its not a big man shoe, it’s just a shoe for a basketball player. … In the past, shoes I’ve had have been too heavy or too big. This idea was making it as light as possible it all comes back to being able to do everything on the basketball court.”
Along with lightening the shoe, Embiid wanted a sneaker that breathed better, noting that his feet regularly get too hot. The result is a midtop with a breathable upper and a Micro G midsole. Wilson not only visited with Embiid to get ideas on how to tailor the shoe to his needs, but also met with the Sixers training and coaching staff to see what will work best for his play type and body.
As for the design, there is a stability piece on the outside of the midfoot that, on the initial Origin colorway, is yellow and red. There’s a green tab on the back of the shoe, with those three colors representing is Cameroonian heritage. Embiid also wanted to honor his brother, Arthur, who died in 2014, and his name is inscribed inside the shoe. On the bottom of the sneaker, the outsole features a design in the shape of the continent of Africa, another nod to his heritage and who he wants to represent.
“There are not a lot of us [from Africa in the NBA],” Embiid said. “I wanted to use the platform to tell the story of what it’s like to come from another country. … I want kids from Africa to look at my story and say, ‘If Joel did it, I can do it.'”
The Embiid 1 will have a Fall 2020 release, and Embiid is not sure as of now when he will debut it on the court. Embiid and Wilson both noted that the colorways that will follow will include some very bright colors — “I like flashy,” as Embiid noted — and will tell the story of his journey from the Origin colorway that’s black with red, yellow, and green accents to one for his time at Kansas to the draft to now with the Sixers.
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