For CJ McCollum, having his own shoe was part of the dream of being in the NBA.
"Hitting big shots, being able to hear your name called by David Stern, all that stuff is part of your childhood," the sixth-year Blazers guard says. "But being able to be a brand ambassador, and have a partnership with a shoe brand, has been an amazing opportunity for me. I'm eternally grateful to have my own logo on a shoe."
Two years ago, McCollum signed a deal with Chinese brand Li-Ning—home to Dwayne Wade and McCollum's teammate, Evan Turner, among other players. Earlier this season, the company unveiled McCollum's signature sneaker, the YuShuai 12. With its intricate rose-gold floral design, the Rose City edition looks more like something you'd expect to see displayed behind glass rather than on the hardwood.
McCollum unveiled the shoe in Portland for the first time at a Li-Ning pop-up this past weekend at Index PDX. WW spoke to him about the stigma of signing with an overseas shoe company, his involvement in the design and whether we'll ever get the colorway we all really want.
WW: What convinced you to sign with Li-Ning?
CJ McCollum: Just the opportunities. For one, they were extremely excited to have me. They gave me an opportunity to put input into the brand and control the things I wanted to control, from a production and performance standpoint. And being able to be exposed to a new market in Asia, it's a unique opportunity to grow and learn with the brand and be one of a few as opposed to one of many.
Was there any apprehension about signing with an overseas brand?
I was just curious about some of the things that go into it. I asked questions, talked to the right people. I've been to China, been to Europe. My brother plays in China, so I was familiar with a few of the brands. It was just more about gaining an understanding of what the process would be like for me.
How involved were you in the design of the YuShuai 12?
I was able to be pretty hands-on—choosing colorways, choosing the location of certain things. Obviously, the Rose City Edition is dedicated to the city of Portland. Using the red rose and the green stem gave it that pop with the rose gold we have on it. But I was very involved in the process, choosing the location of the logo, the number on the back, what would go on the shoe—I was giving feedback to the entire process.
Did you know what you didn't want to do?
I think you like what you like. Everyone has their own cup of tea. Seeing some of the mockups and templates early on, I was excited about it.
Damian Lillard has made a point of making his shoes available at a more affordable price. Is that something you're aiming for?
We're definitely looking forward to doing that at some point in the future. Right now, we're doing little pop-ups where it's a limited amount of shoes being sold, so it's harder to control the price point, because it's not going to a Finish Line or Foot Locker or another big store. It's only 100, 200 pairs being released at a time, so it's hard to control the price when there's not a lot of shoes being made.
Can you tell me about the other colorways you have planned for the shoe?
We've done a few different shoes to this point. We had the Ace of Spades shoe, because blackjack is one of my favorite pastimes. We also did a shoe dedicated to a specific city in China, in Lanzhou. I'm a big movie guy, so we did a Dark Knight-themed shoe, specifically tailored toward the Joker. I'm a big wine guy, so I've got a wine-themed shoe we're planning.
Will we ever see an I'm Trying Jennifer colorway?
[laughs] That'd be tough to do, but I think we can work on something.
BUY IT: The Rose City YuShuai 12 is currently sold out, but the original YuShuai 12 is available for order at en.lining.com.