PJ Tucker’s shoes, explained: Inside the rise of the NBA’s undisputed sneaker king

By | August 23, 2022

When it comes to sneakers in the NBA, there’s PJ Tucker, and then there’s everyone else.

Tucker’s reign as the NBA’s undisputed sneaker king began not long after he made his return to the NBA as a member with the Suns nearly a decade ago. 

What makes someone the “sneaker king,” anyway? For Tucker, it’s not a gimmick but an extension of who he is on and off the floor.

Over the years, this persona has taken on a life of its own as Tucker’s reputation often precedes him inside and outside of basketball circles.

Here’s how that came to be.

MORE: Which NBA players have their own signature sneaker?

Inside PJ Tucker’s rise as the NBA’s undisputed sneaker king

Regarding on-court sneaker choices, two factors often stand out the most with Tucker: rarity and aesthetic.

Tucker causes sneakerheads to wonder why he’d even think to wear certain styles in an NBA game, while his peers are often left befuddled by how he even managed to get his hands on specific pairs.

Arriving in 2015

It’s impossible to pinpoint a singular moment that signified the beginning of Tucker’s reign, but a few particular choices from the 2015-16 season stand out.

In that season, Tucker took the floor in Nike Air Yeezy (2009), Nike Air Yeezy 2 (2012) and a pair of Nike Huarache 2K4 Player Edition (PE), which, as evidenced by the name, released over a decade prior. The colorway would suggest that Tucker was the beneficiary of some digging in Phoenix’s equipment closet.


(NBAE via Getty Images)

The Houston years

After a brief stint in Toronto, Tucker joined the Rockets ahead of the 2017-18 season.

In his first season with the Rockets, Tucker brought out the “Red October” Air Yeezy 2 from 2014, an Air Jordan 2 made exclusively for Richard Hamilton during the 2008-09 season and a Nelly (yes, that Nelly) edition of Nike’s Charles Barkley silhouette that was released in 2003.

Those are just three of many choices that also included an Oregon-exclusive Air Jordan 5 created for Ducks student-athletes, the Air Jordan 7 Premio Bin23, which was limited to just over 2,000 pairs in 2010, and original LeBrons and Kobes that were at least 10 years old.

The price tag for some of these sneakers? The Oregon Jordan 5s last sold for $14,000 on StockX while the”Red Octobers” go in the $15,000-$20,000 neighborhood. Given that only 5,000 were rumored to be made, those prices make some sense.

At least one of the 5,000 were worn on an NBA floor, making it fitting that SLAM Magazine would crown Tucker king in 2018.

Rare air

Tucker’s versatility sets him apart.

It would be one thing to simply wear older shoes or have a collection of the most hyped footwear, but Tucker also wears the cult classics and other models that are more polarizing in sneaker communities simply because he wears what he likes. When the NBA loosened sneaker color restrictions ahead of the 2018-19 season, Tucker was given an even bigger runway to stand out.

Year 2 in Houston saw Tucker wear things that possibly no one else has, like the “Beast” Nike LeBron 2 (2004) that were originally believed to be a one-of-one for LeBron himself.

Guess not.

Or how about when Tucker, a Texas alum (that happens to be a native of the Tar Heel state), wore an Air Jordan 4 created exclusively for UNC student-athletes and staff when the Rockets faced the Hornets in Charlotte?

The undisputed king

Once Tucker claimed the crown, it got to a point where you began to expect the unexpected from him footwear-wise. Somehow, he still manages to surprise people.

Tucker has admitted that he’s worn “PEs from LeBron and Jordan that shocked even them,” and those two sneaker icons are two of many that he’s surprised.

On Christmas in 2019, Tucker went to work in Mark Wahlberg’s “Wahlburger” Air Jordan 4, a sneaker that is said to have 46 pairs in circulation and, at the time, went for over $15,000.

When the NBA relocated to Walt Disney World for the season restart in 2020, Tucker said that he sent 110 pairs of game sneakers to the resort, continuing to add to the figure while he was there.

As part of his endorsement deal with Nike, Tucker gets his own player exclusives, including a Kobe 5 Protro that was released to the public. It’s Kobe’s silhouette, but Tucker’s design and having a PE released via retail is a distinction saved for a select few.

Speaking of exclusive, in Milwaukee, Tucker debuted Giannis Antetokounmpo’s signature shoe before Giannis took the floor in it.

And it didn’t stop when he came to Miami, either, as Tucker came out with a Carmelo Anthony Jordan 4 PE that caused Anthony to raise his eyebrows.

With Tucker, we’ve passed the point of his sneakers raising eyebrows because of the price tag. The shoes he wears during NBA games are likely impossible to ever buy, rendering them priceless.

It began with Suns-friendly colorways of Kobes, KDs and LeBrons nearly a decade ago, and continues with others wearing Tucker’s shoe on foot.

The reign will continue in Philly.