Russell Westbrook’s New Jordan Sneaker Is Exactly What He Wants

We interviewed Russell Westbrook and Jordan Brand's design director about giving Westbrook a signature sneaker that's not for basketball.

All photos by Andy Hur/Complex

Russell Westbrook is not a fan of limits. This is not something he says as much as it is something he lives—from the sleeveless shirts and bandanas he wears to games to the rampant basketball chaos he creates in them. He is a disrupter in every sense, a rogue cell within an otherwise orderly construct. Tell him he can’t do something, and that’s likely the very thing he’ll do next.

Signature basketball sneakers have reached the point where they are now more science than art. Sneaker companies develop technologies, and it’s up to designers—and athletes—to promote them. There is a lot of freedom when it comes to design, but there is also a lot of restriction. Modern basketball sneakers need to be very light, very supportive, and ready to go out of the box, and they generally need to fall into a fairly narrow predetermined price range. There are limits. Lots of them, imposed from both within and without.

Basically, a signature on-court shoe goes against most of what Westbrook stands for. Which is why, when it came time for Jordan Brand to offer him a signature model, he chose an off-court one instead, where most restrictions are gone. “I think off the court and a style shoe is something I can take control over,” Westbrook says, “and that’s what I’ve been trying to do.” His approach to his off-court gear is as serious as his game. “For Russ, this shoe is his game shoe,” says Jordan Brand Design Director Ron Wright. "This shoe is very important to him from a style standpoint."

The Westbrook 0, a vulcanized midtop loosely based off of the Air Jordan XI, launched last summer, a low-cut version just arrived on the market a month or so ago. Like the mids, the lows launched in muted, monochrome colors. This is by design. “I think with all the crazy stuff that goes on with the jeans and the shirts,” Westbrook says, “when you get to the shoes, keep it simple to complete your outfit.”

“I think everyone kind of automatically wants to relate Russ to loud and eclectic colors,” Wright says, “and really he’s more about statement.”

“[With] the lowtops, the natural thing was to start with solid colors,” Westbrook says, “then move on to other materials and different fabrics as well.”

Westbrook unsurprisingly brings a holistic, whole-outfit look to the table during the design process, says Wright. “He’s really into the materials, he wants to see the breadth of materials and really lay it out so he can visualize how this comes to life, color, how does that work with these materials, even down to the details,” Wright says. “Craft and construction, all that is very important to him. So he visualizes the whole outfit, right down to the details.

“It’s less about him bringing in a product but more him bringing in inspiration, inspirational images, silhouettes, shapes, it’s really a good conversation. I know a lot of athletes will bring in, ‘Oh, I like this Chuck, I need a Chuck with my logo on it,’ that’s not Russ at all.”

“I can’t sketch, but I do know exactly how I want it to look, most of the important features,” Westbrook says. “The brand has great people to work with to put that vision into place.”


The lowtop is a continuation of the mid, something that was in the works all along. “When I made the decision to go with a lifestyle shoe I wanted to be able to have both,” Westbrook says, “because certain people like to wear lowtops, some people like to wear hightops, so i figured it’s important that you give a variety of different looks to the consumer.”

As far as Air Jordan lows, Westbrook was a fan of the patent XI, as well as the latest run of 1s. “The OG 1s, like the really low ones, almost like skateboard shoe-type low,” he says. “They’re my favorite.”

The Westbrook 0 Low hasn’t made that sort of impact quite yet—no basketball signature lifestyle shoe really has—but if Westbrook has his way, it will. Either this one or the 0.2, which is already in the works. “We feel like we’re over the initial hump of the creative direction and looking at options to achieve that direction,” Wright says, without revealing much. “I think we’ve narrowed it down, got some stuff he’s nodding his head to.”

Asked whether he’d like to one day have an on-court signature shoe, Westbrook is noncommittal. “I’m not sure, I’m not sure. But I think off the court is my niche and it’s something that I want to take control over,” he says again. He already has.