Deebo Samuel Says He Has the Best Cleats in the NFL

In an exclusive interview with Complex, Samuel talks what it means to represent Jordan Brand, having the best cleats on the field, and more.

Image via Complex

The Jumpman means something.

Sure, at its core, it is just a logo, but for athletes under the Jordan Brand umbrella, it is a badge of honor. Representing Jordan in the NFL is not something that San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel takes lightly.

“Rocking Jordan Brand on the field is different, so it’s really dope and a privilege to be in my position,” Samuel says. “I don’t take it for granted.”

Samuel, like many other athletes around the NFL this season, really upped his cleat rotation, wearing remixed iterations of beloved Jumpman silhouettes. In September 2022, Jordan announced the signing of the Pro Bowl receiver, and in his very next game, he laced up a pair of Dior-inspired Air Jordan 1 Low cleats. During the 2023–24 season, Samuel wore a number of different Jordan 1 Low iterations, Air Jordan 11 Lows, a custom golden Nike Kobe 6 cleat, and many more.

“Legacy” is a major point of emphasis for the Jordan Brand, carrying the torch of one of, if not the most legendary athletes in history, and back when Samuel first signed, it was equally important for him.

“As a kid, all I wanted were Js,” Samuel said. “Being a part of the Jordan Brand is something I’ve always wanted, and for it to be a reality is special to me. It’s a dream come true to be a Jordan Brand athlete and help carry this legacy forward to the next generation, on and off the field.”

Now Samuel and the rest of the 49ers turn their attention to the Kansas City Chiefs in a rematch of 2020’s Super Bowl. Before the big game, check out an exclusive interview with Samuel where he talks about what it means to represent Jordan Brand on the gridiron.

Why do you think football players have begun placing such an emphasis on cleats?
It’s a way to showcase your sense of fashion and personality, while also a way to tell great stories or illustrate things that are important to you. I also think it’s become competitive—like players are always wanting to outshine the other. At the end of the day, though, if you have Jordan cleats on, you know you’re built different. Jordans are tough.

Why haven't other brands been able to do what Jordan has done with cleats?
You can’t name another brand that has a basketball included in the logo yet shows up anywhere it wants. Jordan Brand has the ability to enter unexpected places unlike any other brand because of its connection to the culture and to the people. This logo is bigger than basketball, and it all comes down to authenticity. We’ve seen MJ and basketball culture infiltrate other sports, and the Jumpman spirit makes sense in any sport.

What does it mean to be able to represent the Jordan Brand on the field?
It means everything to me. Like I said, rocking Jordan Brand on the field is different, so it’s really dope and a privilege to be in my position. I don’t take it for granted. I just try to go out on the field and represent the brand in the best way possible.

Is there any sense of brotherhood between yourself and other Jordan Brand football athletes? The Jordan Brand has crossed over into so many other sports besides basketball. What makes it so transcendent? 
There is definitely a brotherhood amongst Jordan Brand athletes on the field. We call ourselves family. Nowadays there’s so many guys wearing Jordan cleats that aren’t even signed to the brand, so I think that goes to show you how much people want to be in them. It’s very similar to you seeing someone else wearing Jordan on the streets; it automatically feels like community. What makes Jordan Brand so transcendent is exactly what the logo represents. It represents a certain hope that can inspire people to believe no goal is out of reach.

What other guys in the league do you think are on your level when it comes to cleats on the field? Do you think football will ever reach the level that basketball is at with footwear? 
I personally believe I have the best cleats out there, but there are few guys, probably only the Jordan guys, that can touch my level. I think basketball culture has made a huge impact on football, and vice versa. For everyday people, you don’t really see cleats like you see basketball shoes, but I think what you’re seeing in football right now is drawing a lot of eyes for fans to tune in and see what’s on our feet.

What do you think it takes to be a Jordan Brand athlete? Both on and off the field.
It takes a certain swagger, style, and attitude. It takes containing that spirit of greatness and self-confidence that MJ had. More than anything though, I think it takes shared values of community, inspiring people, and giving back. I just did a community event in San Francisco with the Jordan Brand, and that’s really what we’re all about: community.