Two things about Filipinos: we love basketball, and there’s a whole lot of us in Toronto.
So, when Houston Rockets rookie Jalen Green—the highest-drafted Asian American in the NBA, and the third Filipino player to ever make it to the league—came to town to face the Raptors earlier this month, adidas Canada knew they had to do something special. To welcome Green to the 6ix, the Three Stripes held a Filipino Night Market at Harriet’s rooftop lounge, featuring activations from a wealth of Filipino-Canadian businesses, including Ruru Baked, Auntie’s Supply, and Paraluman Flora.
Among the evening’s highlights—which included plenty of succulent lechon and a fleeting appearance by James Harden—was a special pair of Crazy BYWs that adidas gifted to Green, customized by Canadian sneaker alchemist Jack The Ripper. The kicks pay homage to Green’s Pinoy heritage, with the colours of the Filipino flag incorporated throughout. Additionally, they feature a JG logo, the number 4 (Jalen’s new number for next season), and the 559 area code for Fresno, California, where the rookie spent the majority of his childhood.
“After hearing about the idea of creating a shoe that celebrates Jalen’s Filipino heritage, I immediately began collecting as much information I could on the people and culture,” Jack The Ripper tells Complex Canada about creating the sneaker. “While I learned a lot, what I struggled with was not knowing the parts of his heritage that Jalen connected with specifically. This problem actually ended up being the solution. I decided that the idea should be very simplistic, and that Jalen could find his own meaning in the design. The flag of the Philippines became that icon.”
The sneaker boasts a mostly white upper, matching its Boost heel, while the blue, red, and yellow portions act as canvases for Jalen’s personal touches. The Filipino flag’s iconic sun and stars also make an appearance on the lower lace stay.
Of course, Jack did make sure to imbue a little bit of himself into the shoe as well. “With the donor soles having black on them, a color not on the Filipino flag, I took this opportunity to incorporate an inspiration of mine, Piet Mondrian.” he says. “With his use of the same primary colours found on the flag, I took his design language to sort of wrap all the colored panels in a black outline. This helped tie in the black on the midsole and gave the shoe a playful and exciting look, things I related to Jalen’s play style.”
Jack says he made sure the shoe included all the same features as the original Crazy BYW—including the reinforced lockdown, heel and medial padding, and open vamp window for breathability—to help ensure Green stays a bucket on the court.
Green seemed to like the shoes. Or at least we can infer this much based on his generous mood that evening. After being briefly interviewed in front of the crowd by Makeway co-founder Abby Albino (one major takeaway: his favourite Filipino dish is chicken adobo), he announced that he and adidas were donating $10,000 to the Rise Tribe, a Toronto-based non-profit dedicated to celebrating and empowering the next generation of Filipino-Canadian youth. A class act, this kid. Masai, take note.