PJ Tucker Talks His Ultra-Rare Sneakers, Miami Heat Title Chances, Latest Partnership & More
The past year has been a whirlwind for PJ Tucker. It was early last March when he was traded from the Houston Rockets, a team that was chasing a high draft pick instead of a playoff berth, to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks, as we all remember, won the 2021 NBA title, and Tucker was a key contributor in their run to the playoffs.
Fresh off a championship, Tucker entered free agency as a coveted veteran and ended up signing a 2-year, $14 million deal with another Eastern Conference title contender: the Miami Heat. Tucker went from a team that was rebuilding, to winning a championship, to competing for another title – all in a short time.
Tucker is also making waves after striking a deal with Lids to become the face of the company “They gave us a game” campaign, which focuses on Lids’ partnership with the Negro Leagues Museum, Black Fives and the Harlem Globetrotters. The campaign honors the three historic black institutions with products that pay tribute to the players who built them and paved the way for today’s athletes.
In an exclusive interview with CBS Sports, Tucker explains what it’s like to lead the ‘They Gave Us Game’ campaign, and shares untold stories about rare sneakers and breaking the Heat’s ceiling this season.
CBS Sports: What is it about the “They Gave Us Game” initiative that touched you and made you want to be part of it?
PJ Tucker: I think any athlete of color when you really look at him is one of the coolest things you’ll ever hear. You hear stories about the times and what the guys went through, it just makes you appreciate everything we have today and everything they did to pave the way. For me, I think it’s part of our history and it’s something everyone should know.
SCS: You’re known in the NBA for your style and sneaker prowess – how excited are you about some of these products and what will you be able to show off?
Tucker: When you can get a dope to tell a story as amazing as this, it’s like the perfect combination. Lots of different colors. Lots of everyday things. When I first got this stuff, I couldn’t believe how cool it was, so it’s very cool to be able to do this.
SCS: Lids is sort of synonymous with headwear, what drives you to associate yourself with a brand like that?
Tucker: Childhood, my brother. It goes back a long way. If you had $25.99, you could get a new haircut for school! I’ve been going to Lids my whole life, so having the chance to team up with them and do something dope like this sort of thing has come full circle.
SCS: You’re in Miami now, you’re also one of the biggest sneaker fans in the league – how’s the sneaker scene in Miami and how is it different from Houston/Milwaukee?
Tucker: I like it. It’s different here. The vibe is a bit different but it seems like everywhere in the world there are sneakerheads. Seeing people on the street, at games, whenever there’s going to be a big outing. There’s always a lot of hype, it’s pretty dope.
SCS: You told me a few years ago that you had interns working for you looking for sneakers all day – do you still have interns finding you rare sneakers on a daily basis or did the interns get their diploma ?
Tucker: Nah, nah – I got the connections now so I don’t have to sit there and act like I don’t me try to get the shoe. I know most guys who get the real crazy rare stuff and if I don’t know the person, they or they know the person. So it’s a lot easier for me now, back then people were raising the prices on everything so I had to get people who seemed a little less pretentious to do the work for me, but those are always my guys for Of course.
SCS: What is the story behind these Carmelo Anthony PE 4’s you posted and he responded on social media?
Tucker: I had been looking for them for a minute. I’ve known Melo since high school, he’s my boyfriend. So when he came to the Rockets, I was like, ‘Melo, I need them 4s.’ These were the London Olympic 4s and they came as a set. He was like ‘I only have one set.’ I’m like ‘here we go!’ I told him I would find them and let him know as soon as I found them. So he don’t even know I got the full together I only showed one pair but got the full set. It literally took me 10 years to find these shoes, but I finally found them.
SCS: So wait, when you say one set there are more and they are all Jordan 4s?
Tucker: Good, they came in a pack. It is a pack of three pairs. There is one all red, these are the ones I already wore in a match. There’s a white and red pair that I just took on our trip to New York but didn’t wear in the game that day. Then there’s a white/red/navy, kind of a Team USA colorway. But all three are the pack Jordan Brand made for Melo for the Olympics.
SCS: I saw the lockers at the Heat arena, tons of room for sneakers, how many pairs do you think you have in there at any one time?
Tucker: I do not know! We just did a reorganization. Our equipment manager had to change some things just because we had so many pairs in there. jimmy [Butler] had a bunch of pairs, we have a bunch of guys who have a bunch of shoes so they did a reorganization. So I don’t know how many we have, I can’t even lie. I can’t even give an estimate, it’s just a parcel shoes.
SCS: There are a lot of sneakerheads in this Heat locker room – who are the guys you bond with the most on the team’s shoes?
Tucker: Probably Jimmy [Butler]. Me and Jimmy talk about shoes all the time, he’s got one parcel shoes, man. He’s been doing it for a long time. He’s with Li Ning now, so you don’t see as much of his warmth, but he has a ton of shoes and he knows a lot about different pairs.
SCS: With the long-standing deal between Nike and Kobe Bryant coming to an end, there’s going to be an eventual demise for Kobe sneakers in the NBA and you’re already seeing some guys struggling to get pairs. Will you ever miss Kobe?
Tucker: [laughter] It’s impossible! There’s no way. It’s literally impossible for me to miss Kobe.
SCS: Who are the other guys in the league who don’t have to worry about running out of Kobe sneakers?
Tucker: DeMar DeRozan, he wears a different pair of Kobe every game. Devin Booker, Isaiah Thomas of course. Tobias Harris is up there.
SCS: You played with this guy last year, so you have an idea – and Khris Middleton, is he still missing?
Tucker: Khris is going to run out! Of course, Khris is hoarding extra pairs right now, he’s trying to save some for sure. He has some, but I don’t know how many he has. The ones he has and his EPs are fire, though.
SCS: You feel like a prototypical Miami Heat player. How did you fit into the team and how do you like it?
Tucker: Everyone has been saying that about me for a long time and they said it when I arrived that they wanted me here for a while. It was really good. We had a lot of guys in and out of the lineup, so it’s crazy that we were still able to win and maintain the status quo with everyone on our roster. It’s pretty amazing to be on a team and feel like you’re going to win every night you go there.
SCS: You have been part of many contenders, you have been part of a champion team. Do you look at this Heat team and see a championship caliber team?
Tucker: Without a doubt. I’ve been around championship contending teams and a championship team – that team is right there, man. It’s amazing how we find different ways to win every night. Some nights we don’t shoot well, so we take back our defense. Some nights we turn well, so everything is fine and we ride. We have games where we have four or five guys scoring in double figures, almost a different top scorer every night. The way we move the ball and the continuity of our team is crazy. The objective is to win a championship, I think anything less is a lost season for us. We have to earn it.