This article by Nikko Ramos appears in KICKS 2016
Everybody loves Rain or Shine and Gilas forward Gabe Norwood. He’s a team player, a family man, an outstanding ambassador of the game. All this is true. Except when Nikko Ramos stepped into his shoe closet, we realized what most movie good guys eventually reveal about 40 minutes into any good film: This right here? This here’s a bad, bad, man.
Whether on the court, at the mall, making his way to and from arenas, or on his now-infamous paint commercial, Gabe Norwood stands out. That happens when you’re 6’5”. That happens when you’re constantly undecided about whether or not you wanna grow your high top this year (it’s been a career-long back-and-forth). It also happens when you’re one of the most beloved, most admired basketball players in a country batshit-crazy about hoops.
When you’ve also put together an impressive resume of on-court heat, you get your due. And this, without question, is Gabe Norwood’s due. Much like his on-court performance, his shoe game is often underrated, flies under the radar, and gives credit to other, flashier, less consistent opponents.
All that of course until he chooses to lock the game down and say “Enough is enough. Let me go get this win real quick.”
I remember Gabe walking out during a Finals game in what was then, the brand-new Nike KD5 DMV’s. It wasn’t a Jordan retro that rookie sneakerheads could easily spot and salivate over. It wasn’t a custom out of some garage colored by (ironically) house paint. It wasn’t even a stay-up-all-night-to-line-up release.
It was, however, clean, fresh, performance-grade, and most importantly of all, a pair Gabe liked.
Gabe Norwood isn’t your Instagram-every-pair collector. He’s not your get-these-cos-they’re-rare hypebeast. He is the personification of sneakerhead class: prioritizing taste over hype, looking at both fashion and function over fire and festivity.
If the brand-happy, trend-riding sneakerhead is the worst representation of our generation’s fascination with shoes, Gabe Norwood is its older, more successful brother.
Think Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Now think Will Smith in Bad Boys. One of them, is us: bright colored everything, snapback with matching G-Shock and tracksuit. One of them, Mike Lowrey, is cool but calm. Never trying too hard. Hell, never trying at all. That’s Gabe. Mike Lowrey.
And everybody, everybody, wants to be Like Mike.
SLAM PH sat down with Mr. Norwood to talk Kicks:
SLAM: Right off the bat, your top 5, all-time?
1—Steel Jordan 10s
2–Concord Jordan 11s
3–Nike Air Force Max (Fab 5)
4–Penny V Memphis
5–Flint Jordan 13s
SLAM: Best on-court performance shoe?
GN: Nike Air Zoom BB (Mids)
SLAM: Most you’ve paid for one sneaker?
GN: I’ll leave it at, “too much” haha.
SLAM: Grail shoe you already have? One you don’t have yet?
GN: Just Don Beach 2s are on the roster, but one pair I’m still on the hunt for are the Air Yeezy 2 Red October
SLAM: Look good, play good, right? Ever played with a shoe that wasn’t comfortable but you still went with it on court cos it looked good?
GN: Absolutely, had a pair of KDs (don’t remember which ones) but there was only one pair left in a half size smaller than I usually wear. Tried to push through and wear them during a game and had to switch at halftime, think my feet were angry with me.
SLAM: Shoe maintenance. What’s your routine?
GN: Beaters, I rock and let them build some blemishes and character. Prize possessions get an automatic Crep Protect treatment and from there some cleaning touch-ups as it goes.
SLAM: Do you have a pair you’d never use?
GN: On the court, yeah there are a lot I can’t hoop in. Got a variety of Jordan 1s that won’t see the court and the Just Dons too. Shout out to Rey Hugnatan for pulling off the Just Dons fresh out the box.
SLAM: You have young boys whose feet grow a size every few months. What’s your philosophy, as a father, on getting toddlers sneakers?
GN: I always get a half size or more up for the boys. Got to max out the lifespan of the shoe. It’s also nice that Orion can get Cash’s hand me downs, barring any rainy day catastrophes.
SLAM: Apart from you, who’s got the best shoe game in the league? On-court or off-court.
GN: Hugnatan and Chris Ross have easily been the most consistent. Marcio [Lassiter] has also been kinda sneaky on putting heat on the court.
SLAM: Your Rain or Shine jerseys have 34 different colors on them, 32 of them are unnecessary. Is being able to rock any colorway sneaker the only advantage to that?
GN: Yeah I can basically pull out a pair of kicks in the dark and walk out on the floor. Sometimes the toughest choice is picking the right socks.
SLAM: It all starts with one pair, for everyone. Me, it’s the Uptempos. Everyone had ‘em. I didn’t. What did it for you?
GN: If you can’t tell, my favorite shoe ever is the Jordan 10. Steel 10s was the first pair I remember getting as a kid, right before a big basketball tournament.
Even in the end, or in the beginning, it’s never about flair or flash. Like a layup when you need a sure thing, as opposed to trying some crazy shit that might cost you two points and the game, or a series.
Don’t get it twisted however, and you can ask Luis Scola this. If ever you start forgetting, if ever your memory starts to fail you and mistake his calm for complacency, Gabe will dunk on your ass. And so will the shoe game. Don’t forget all those pairs he’s got on ice just waiting for you to step to him.
Remember this, you’re not dealing with Martin Lawrence and this ain’t Big Momma’s House. This is the other Bad Boy. And in the immortal words of Detective Lowrey himself, “Don’t hate the playa. Hate the game.”