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Domantas Sabonis joins elite company with Nike giving him player exclusive Kobe shoes
"It’s an honor to be wearing his shoe."
Pacers All-Star center Domantas Sabonis has been wearing Kobe shoes since he entered the NBA in 2016. Less than five years later, he now has a say in the design of what he wears.
It’s been months in the making.
Late in the summer, Nike Europe reached out to Sabonis about working on a player exclusive shoe. That’s a high honor, second only to a signature shoe — which only a dozen or so players have.
NBA players are able to wear whatever footwear they want in whatever colors they want. Getting a player exclusive — or PE for short — means the player gets to work with the company on custom designs. Many designs, in fact.
Sabonis, 24, broke out his first pair of Kobe 6 PEs Wednesday night in Milwaukee for the Pacers’ first appearance on national TV this season.
“Very excited, very honored,” he said after a blowout loss to the Bucks. Without even playing in the fourth quarter, he finished with a career-high 33 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
“I’ve been wearing Kobes my whole career in the NBA and as a kid, too. Nike Europe came to me and they told me and I was super excited. It’s an honor to be wearing his shoe. Not many players get it (a player exclusive).
“It’s my favorite shoe and one of my favorite players.”
Sneakers are a big part of NBA culture and has become a beat in itself, which Nick DePaula covers very well for ESPN. I reached out to him to learn more about what this means for Sabonis.
“A lot of players have a trigger in their contract that provides them with PEs if they make the All-Star game,” DePaula told Fieldhouse Files. “Domas is now in that group where he is involved in the design of his pairs and helps pick out the colors.
“Only around a dozen players had Kobe 5 PEs last season in the bubble.”
Nike keeps the group with Kobe player exclusives to around a dozen. Other players previously part of that group include Devin Booker, DeMar DeRozan, Anthony Davis, Buddy Hield, P.J. Tucker, Tobias Harris, Khris Middleton and Paul Millsap.
PE shoes are exclusive to the player, meaning they are not for sale. (They should consider selling this pair. A lot of Pacers fans would buy them.)
This is special treatment and another opportunity that comes with Sabonis becoming one of the league’s best and most consistent NBA centers. He's averaging 21.6 points, 12.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game — and has recorded two triple-doubles in his first 16 games.
Paul George launched his first signature shoe (PG1) while in Indy and Victor Oladipo, a two-time All-Star with the Pacers, had many Jordan Brand PE.
Here’s one version from training camp in Sept. 2018.