SAN FRANCISCO — Head buried in his phone, P.J. Tucker sits off to the side just before a Houston Rockets practice in San Francisco. A Valentino crossbody bag lays on the floor next to his metal folding chair, a pair of Nike Air Max 1s between his feet. Currently, the NBA’s sneaker king is rocking a pair of Nike Kobe 5 FTBs.
On the fashion runway that has become the walk from the team bus to the arena on game days, it’s not a surprise to see Tucker carrying multiple pairs of shoes to go with his high-fashion accessories. But, again, this is a practice. For Tucker, kicks aren’t about showing off for cameras. The passion is authentic and organic. Sneakers are simply a part of Tucker’s life. Where he goes, they go.
Tucker looks up from his phone and flashes a quick smile as I approach to ask him about his love of sneakers. A Rockets official approaches to make sure my line of questioning is kosher — the team is in a rush to wrap up media availability so they can start practicing for their Western Conference Finals opponents, the Golden State Warriors. Tucker waves them off.
“It’s fine, let him ask his questions,” Tucker says. Amid Houston’s series against the Warriors — in which Tucker thrived, going for 8.7 points and 9.0 rebounds in 38.9 minutes per game — the hard-nosed forward sat down with Dime to talk about his unparalleled sneaker game.
DIME: How many pairs of sneakers do you own right now?
P.J. Tucker: I have no idea. No idea. I stopped counting at 4,000. I get so many and I give away so many it’s too hard to keep up now.
Like give them away to teammates?
Nah, like kids. Kids who wear my size, AAU teams. Just different stuff.
You wear a lot of rare shoes, retro shoes on the court. Aren’t you scared to get them dirty?
They’re sneakers. That’s what they’re meant for. They’re meant to be worn, they’re meant to get dirty. That’s what you buy them for. That’s what I get them for, because I love shoes. Not to look at them but to wear them.
How many do you bring on a road trip like this?
For two games, I’ll bring four or five pairs with our equipment manager and I might bring a couple more pairs in my suitcase, just in case.
How many pairs of sneakers would you say you buy in a month, on average?
Get or buy?
Between what I buy and what I get for free, anywhere between 30 and 40 pairs of shoes a month.
That’s a lot. What would you say is the greatest sneaker ever?
My favorite shoe of all time is the Jordan 3.
I saw you wear the Oregon ones. Were those 3s or 4s?
I got both.
Where do you keep them at home? Do you have a closet?
I don’t know, anywhere. In the hallway, on the floor, anywhere. I don’t prize possession them like that. They’re just shoes, y’know? So my shoes are all over the place. It drives my wife crazy.
Does she trip over them?
Yeah. Well, she’s used to it now, but she just like whatever now.
What’s your favorite pair right now?
Right now? My Oregon 13s. I’m wearing them tomorrow.