For the Houston Rocket, stats—and ultra-hyped sneaks—don’t lie.
Houston Rockets veteran PJ Tucker is averaging just 6.3 points a game this season—enough to make him a solid contributor to a Rockets squad currently leading the Western Conference. But Tucker’s sneaker game? There, he’s playing at an All-Star level. That’s because, where most players keep their on- and off-court kicks separate, Tucker has been blurring the line between the two all season long—by rocking street-ready styles in actual games. More than that, really: Tucker is sprinting, sweating, and jumping in some of the most hyped-up sneakers on the planet.
On November 22, Tucker rocked a pair of Nike x Off-White Hyperdunks, a style built for basketball but broken down, reconstructed, and crowned with Virgil Abloh’s “Foam” print. For comparison’s sake, Draymond Green also wore the Off-White Hyperdunks, but switched out of the kicks at halftime—and also removed the zip-ties before stepping on the court. Tucker, by contrast, kept his red zip-ties on during an actual NBA game. Last night, he did the same. Only this time, he was wearing the even less court-ready Off-White Jordan 1s.
Can we stop here for a minute and note that this is a wild decision? Air Jordans were awesome shoes in their day—but their day was 1985. Basketball shoes have made seismic technological advances since then—in ankle support, in cushioning, in that general feeling that these are the kicks that will help you jump out of the gym. Why is Tucker, a 32-year-old vet who presumably would benefit from high-tech sneaks, so devoted to making a statement? The answer might just be that he loves sneakers—but something else is at play, too, at least as far as his new Off-White habit is concerned.
Because Tucker’s penchant for on-court sneaker swerves isn’t exactly new. Back in 2015, as a member of the Phoenix Suns, he sported a pair of Nike Air Yeezy 2 “Red Octobers,” which he later auctioned off for charity. (The all-red kicks actually looked pretty rad with the Suns’ orange uniforms.) But something seems to have changed this time around. Things get particularly interesting when you look at Tucker’s stats when wearing Off-White Nike sneakers: in the two games he’s worn kicks from the collection this year, he’s averaging 7.5 points per game (1.2 higher than his season average) and 9 rebounds (3 higher than his season average of 6). To quote old-head Jordan endorser Mars Blackmon: It’s gotta be the shoes! During a season where LeBron James has been rocking exclusive pairs of his new Nikes, and other players have also stepped out in various Off-Whites, no one seems more dedicated to hypebeast-bait kicks than PJ Tucker. And as long as he continues to play better than average in Off-White Nikes, we don’t see any reason for coach Mike D’Antoni to tell him to stop.
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