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Designing The Nike PG 2 For The NBA’s Video Game Obsessed Superstar

By John Kim
Paul George is much more relatable than you think. He hails from an ordinary town north of Los Angeles, ensconced between two noise-cancelling giant national forests that preserve the homely atmosphere. Growing up in Palmdale, a town that “literally has nothing” according to his shoe designer Tony Hardman, Paul spent a lot of time fishing with his family and playing video games at home; both became vital forms of therapy during his rehab process after he broke his leg, and they’re still his go-to hobbies when he’s not on the court. It’s that small-town upbringing that made him such a great fit in the community during his time in Indiana and now in Oklahoma City.

Nike officially announced Paul George as its newest signature athlete last year, introducing the PG 1 sneaker with an attractive colorway inspired by his character-defining hobbies. After a successful first chapter, the PG 2 is ready to hit the market with yet another dazzling iteration in collaboration with Sony Playstation; this ongoing partnership between these two major brands comes to life again with some epic details specific to the gaming console franchise, with an added bonus of an unlockable theme by way of a secret code on the shoes. Paul’s been a Playstation loyalist ever since his father surprised him with a PS2 for Christmas ages ago, and he considers himself one of the most obsessed gamers in the NBA.

The Nike PG 2

  Fishing, gaming, and family fun

What’s new with Paul George’s next signature shoe is both obvious and hidden. For one, the shoe doesn’t feature a strap anymore, and the interior bootie has been replaced for a classic tongue construction. The outsole traction has been spaced out for better grip, and the Zoom bag is 2 millimeters thicker and sits directly under the foot. All of these substantial changes deliver exactly what Paul wants and needs in his shoe. There are several discoverable elements that pay tribute to his close-knit family, who is regularly present during Paul’s design brainstorms with Tony. Furthermore, the right heel of the shoes references the tragic injury Paul faced in 2014, a story that will continue on with the PG signature line as a reminder of his epic comeback.
  • Nike PG 2, Playstation

  • Nike PG 2, Playstation

  • Nike PG 2, Playstation

  • Nike PG 2, Playstation

  • Nike PG 2, Playstation

  • Nike PG 2, Playstation

Launching on February 10th is an otherworldly colorway inspired by Paul’s favorite gaming console legacy, the Sony Playstation. The black and blue upper seems to reference the colors of the Playstation 2, which Paul received as a Christmas gift from his father ages ago, while four key colors found on the signature shapes on the controller buttons decorate the rest of the shoe with speckled midsoles, lace eyelets, and custom insoles. You’ll see Sony’s logo on the left tongue, while “PG13” is written in one of their typefaces.

Tony Hardman

  Nike Basketball Footwear Designer

Prior to taking the helm of the Paul George signature line, footwear designer Tony Hardman was delivering some stylish low-cut performance basketball footwear like the Run The One, Zoom Crusader, and Hyperchase – three shoes that were wildly popular among NBA players roughly 2-3 years ago. He learned some of the signature shoe process while working on LeBron James’ Ambassador line.

He knows me a little better, I know him a little better, and that’ll continue to develop as it goes.

  Tony Hardman on his relationship with Paul George

Sneaker News: Let’s start with the obvious. Why is there no strap?

Tony Hardman: He just wanted to change things up. It wasn’t a functional thing where he didn’t like the strap. Just visually, he wanted to go in a different direction and switch it up a bit.

SN: You mentioned in our last interview regarding the first shoe that Paul wasn’t too familiar with Nike cushioning, that he wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between Zoom and Lunar. With one full process under his belt, has he matured as a co-designer?

TH: He definitely learned from the process with the PG1 and even with the 2. He’s more in tune with what’s going on with his shoe. Before he wasn’t really able to articulate about it, but now he’ll be able to tell you what’s exactly going on in the shoe. Honestly, he’s still learning about the design process, but he has a better grasp on technology and those types of things.

  • Design sketches, Tony Hardman

  • Design sketches, Tony Hardman

  • Design sketches, Tony Hardman

SN: The designer-athlete relationship has been especially key for Nike. How has your relationship with Paul changed with two shoes completed and a third in the works?

TH: Paul has always been super-welcoming and very easy to get along with. There was never any awkwardness or anything. He’s just super chill – he comes from a small town called Palmdale and he’s used to growing up laid back, and that’s just the kind of guy he is. We’re closer, and I know more about what he’s thinking now, which is good. From that standpoint, he knows me a little better, I know him a little better, and that’ll continue to develop as it goes.

We always talk about “evolution vs. revolution”, kinda like what you see with the Kobe line and Eric Avar.

  Tony Hardman on improving upon the PG 1

SN: Because he’s so laid back, has there been any obstacles with communication?

TH: He’s not super vocal. If he’s not saying anything, he probably likes it. Actually, one of the obstacles we had with the PG 1 was just getting him to say when he didn’t like something. He’s kinda like the guy who doesn’t want to hurt your feelings, but we encourage him to tell us how he really feels. That was something we had to break through, for him to be comfortable enough to say what he wanted to say to us, and we’ve that for a while now.

SN: What basketball fans and sneaker enthusiasts really loved about the PG 1 was the leathers and suedes – the “90s” style of materials. Will we see more of that in the PG 2?

TH: Yes, definitely more of that coming. We’ve got some areas on the shoe we’ve focused. Overall, we’re looking to refresh the shoe and give consumers a reason to come back to it, but you’ll definitely something different and special with every colorway.

  • Paul George, Nike PG 2

  • Paul George, Nike PG 2

  • Paul George, Nike PG 2

  • Paul George, Nike PG 2

SN: Can you speak more on the functional changes of the PG 2?

TH: We just want to make sure that we really deliver a multi-directional shoe. In terms of traction, we want to make sure that it’s tuned perfectly so that any direction Paul or any player wants to go, it’s there for him. We just make sure he’s locked in, and all players need to be locked in. When he’s coming down the court and popping those threes or coming around those screens really hard, he really likes that snug fit on the heel

Let their personality come out, and that can be what separates the shoe from the rest.

  Tony Hardman on the saturated signature shoe market

so he’s not slipping inside the shoe. His needs didn’t change from the PG1, but we always talk about “evolution vs. revolution”, kinda like what you see with the Kobe line where Eric Avar will tweak the shoe a little bit to make it a little better each time out. We try to do that, and it’s definitely more challenging at the $110 price-point than it is at the Kobe price-point, but I think we’ve been able to improve every part of the shoe.

SN: With so many signature shoes out on the market, how do you, as a designer, ensure your work stands out?

TH: It’s a very saturated market for signature shoes right now, but it’s also interesting and fun. I think the main thing you have to do is be in tune with your athlete and let their personality come out, and that can be what separates the shoe from the rest. As long as you’re really bringing their personality out and what’s unique to them, the people that want to connect with it will. That’s what we try to do – keep it really authentic to him. He’s really relatable to kids because he’s a super humble guy, but also this superstar. As long as we can keep along that path and continue to innovate and make his shoe great for him, then we’ll hit that mark.

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