Sole Provider Turns Ten Years Old

It’s hard to believe but it’s been over 10 years since Nike released Sole Provider: Thirty years of Nike Basketball. (Coincidentally, it was released the same year and same month as the first issue of Sneaker Freaker magazine, but that’s a whole other story!) For anyone who hasn’t seen this glorious book, Nike’s transcendent history in basketball is told through powerful images and street-smart words by award-winning ESPN columnist Scoop Jackson. From the elaborate marketing schemes to the player’s feet the shoes graced and the subculture that surrounded the whole deal, Sole Provider helped legitimise the claim that Nikes were more than ‘just a pair of shoes’. Recently I had the chance to sit down with Scoop and discuss how the book came together. Jackson was quick in deflecting praise, crediting Ray Butts (Nike’s then Global Brand Design Creative Director for Basketball), as the genius behind Sole Provider.

How did you become the author of the book?
It was Ray Butts from Nike who called me and said ‘We’re thinking about doing this book, the 30 year history of Nike Basketball’. I was like ‘That’s dope!’ and I just ran with all this shit that I thought they needed to do in the book. People always call me for ideas, consulting and all that stuff, and it’s funny because Ray just remained silent while I talked. After I got through rambling, Ray was like ‘I was calling to see if you would be interested in writing the book’.
At the time, I was an adidas guy. I had never really fucked with Nike like that. That’s why it really caught me by surprise. It was just like ‘We want you to do it’. Later Ray was like ‘Remember the first time I called you and you started running off all these ideas? You were the right muthafucker to do it’.

Being an adidas guy, was it a challenge writing a book on Nike’s history?
It wasn’t a challenge because I was the only person that wasn’t a Nike guy. I was an adidas dude but I lived Nike’s whole story through all my boys. I watched my step-brother Mike blowout the first Blazers that were glued. He was like ‘I ain’t fucking with Nike no more!’. I was wearing adidas Superstars and they were stitched. When it came time to tell the Blazer story, that’s the first story because I watched it happen. When I talked to someone in design from Nike headquarters, they said blowouts were an issue.
It wasn’t an isolated incident. When they came out with the Ndestrukts and the Legends, my boy Kevin was like ‘These are the best playground shoes ever!’ and he was a Nike guy, so I had to listen to that. When it came time to tell the Legend story, I remembered that. Even though I wasn’t a Nike guy, the people around me were true to Nike, so I had stories already in my head because I had lived them through someone else.

Read the whole interview by Christopher Cason on SneakerFreaker.