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No endorsement deal? No problem. Spencer Dinwiddie created his own sneakers brand

Atlanta Hawks v Brooklyn Nets
Spencer Dinwiddie wears sneakers honoring former Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson during the first quarter of a game at Barclays Center in New York last month.
(Sarah Stier / Getty Images)

Spencer Dinwiddie doesn’t look like a superhero, at least not on this January morning in Houston, but he just played like one.

The night before, Dinwiddie, a long-armed, goateed 25-year-old from Woodland Hills, scored 11 points for the Brooklyn Nets in the last 90 seconds of the fourth quarter of what would be an overtime win over the Houston Rockets. He finished with 33 points, the third-highest scoring game of his pro career.

In addition to the win and the late-game heroics, he made a little NBA history too. As far as anyone knows, he became the first NBA star to score any points — nevertheless 33 of ’em — with Beyoncé’s face painted on his sneakers.

The shoes are part of an unprecedented plan for an NBA player.

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FULL COVERAGE: From Nike to Gucci, a brief history of basketball-inspired sneakers »

Dinwiddie, ignored by the big sneaker companies early in his pro career, launched a self-endorsed brand, K8iros (pronounced “Kyros”) and debuted his footwear this season. And each time he plays this season, he’ll be wearing a one-of-a-kind custom shoe designed by Los Angeles artist Troy “Kickasso” Cole.

Brooklyn Nets Media Day
Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets.
(Mike Stobe / Getty Images)

“Iron Man is my favorite superhero,” Dinwiddie told The Times. “For me, this was creating my Iron Man armor.”

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The plan started with the shoes. A second-round pick by Detroit, Dinwiddie struggled to find a home in the NBA as he worked his way back from a knee injury that cut short his career at the University of Colorado. (He picked Boulder over Harvard.)

The Pistons didn’t have minutes for him and traded him to Chicago for an Australian big man who never played another NBA minute. The Bulls cut Dinwiddie in training camp, pushing him into the NBA’s minor leagues before he eventually landed in Brooklyn.

There, injuries and a slow-developing rebuild opened the door for Dinwiddie to develop into a good young player. He was rewarded in December with a three-year, $34-million contract.

LOS ANGELES, CA - February 08, 2019 - Troy Cole AKA “Kickasso” posing in front of a mural by artist
Artist Troy "Kickasso" Cole in front of a mural by artist Jonathan Cirlin, a.k.a. Espy Dpt Znc, at his workshop, Kickasso Kustoms, in downtown Los Angeles.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

As he settled into a permanent role in the NBA, Dinwiddie began to play with the idea of going out on his own for a shoe deal. He had no endorsements.

“There might be some extra pairs of Kobe 13s at the gym. Those were the ones I would play in,” he said.

He partnered with investment captialist/production company Project DREAM (Disrupt Reality Every Available Moment), which bills itself as a way to “launch your own self-endorsed brand and make your vision a reality.”

As he got down the road to launching his own brand, Dinwiddie meticulously studied materials, foams and stitch patterns. He dived headfirst into the technological side of footwear and visited production factories in China.

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“I geeked out on that,” he said.

It was a bit of destiny. A lousy artist himself, Dinwiddie could sketch some of his favorite anime characters. And he could draw shoes. Growing up in Woodland Hills, that’s what he did.

Brooklyn Nets v Detroit Pistons
Spencer Dinwiddie's sneakers honor Rosa Parks during a Brooklyn Nets game against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit on Oct. 17.
(Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)
‘You just feel good when you know you’ve got something nice on, something special.’
Spencer Dinwiddie

With his vision in his hand, he got a little lucky. Right as the specifications of the shoe were ready, the NBA removed color restrictions this season on sneakers, opening the door for more creativity and the chance to make some NBA sneaker history.

Dinwiddie and his friends got in touch with Cole. They gave him a list of 100 subjects that represent Dinwiddie in some way and told him to get to work.

“‘Here’s the date. Here’s the city. Here’s the muse. Have at it,’” he told Kickasso, becoming hands-off at that point in the process.

“Even though it’s personal to me,” Dinwiddie said, “I didn’t want him to feel like he was in a cage.”

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Cole was excited to get 82 games’ worth of canvases.

“I knew he was a creative guy,” Cole said in an email. “And we would be able to bounce ideas off each other, and I was also excited about having artist freedom for an entire NBA season. I thought the list was well thought-out and planned with historical figures and fun topics. I’m always drawn to the colorful stuff, so I was excited about all the comic book characters and manga inspiration.”

Dinwiddie has worn shoes that have honored Rosa Parks, Colin Kaepernick, Stan Lee, Frederick Douglass, anime, Bruce Lee and former President Barack Obama. After each game, the game-worn shoes are available for purchase through an auction with a portion of proceeds benefiting charity.

When the Nets are on the road, Dinwiddie tries to match his shoes with the city in which he’s playing. In Minnesota, he honored Prince. In Miami, it was Dwyane Wade. In Oklahoma City, the shoes were inspired by a deadly race riot in Tulsa in 1921.

“I love and am proud of them all in different ways,” Cole said. “My personal favorite so far would be the Chucky pair (from the movie “Child’s Play”) for Halloween.”

The results have sneakerheads in the NBA talking. Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell said he’s considering pursuing his own line of shoes after seeing what Dinwiddie’s done this season.

Utah Jazz v Brooklyn Nets
Spencer Dinwiddie's sneakers pay tribute to Nelson Mandela during the Brooklyn Nets game against the Utah Jazz at the Barclays Center in New York on Nov. 28.
(Al Bello / Getty Images)

There are noncustom shoes available for sale. Dinwiddie has worn those a few times because he wants to market his brand and show off the shoes that people can buy that aren’t personalized. However, the real joy for him comes from walking onto the court in something original, looking at his peers and seeing how they react. (On the brand’s website, the shoes, which come in men’s sizes, are listed as $150 and $160.)

“When I started doing this, this became a lot more about artistic expression, the freedom of it, than anything else,” Dinwiddie said. “When you venture out on your own, you know you may make more money, you may make less money. We’re going to have to see. It’s the first time of anything like this.

“The old adage is: look good, feel good, play good,” he said. “You just feel good when you know you’ve got something nice on, something special. This year, in having my shoe, there was a different anticipation to it, looking to see how my peers would receive it. That was different. But there’s a sense of pride to it. It’s fun.”

dan.woike@latimes.com


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