The sneakers P.J. Tucker will continue to search for in the NBA bubble


During a typical regular season, P.J. Tucker spends his off days checking out sneaker shops, no matter what city he is in. When the NBA season was put on hold, Tucker's off-day shopping trips came to a halt.

But that didn't stop his shopping sprees.

"I've bought more shoes during the coronavirus than I ever have," Tucker said with a laugh. "Probably in my entire life."

Tucker, known around the NBA as the league's most prolific sneakerhead, spent countless hours during the time when team facilities were shut down checking eBay to add to his collection.

Last month, Tucker actually flipped the script. Instead of buying shoes at auction, he sold them, auctioning off past game-worn playoff sneakers on the Houston Rockets' mobile app, as part of the team's efforts to provide relief to local Houston organizations impacted by the coronavirus.

In early April, he also launched an apparel capsule collection with The Better Generation, an upcoming Houston boutique, to raise money for the local Houston Food Bank and benefit community members in need.

Still, it's shopping that has been filling most of Tucker's time over the past four months.

"I've been bored," he said. "I've just been talking to people online [tracking down shoes], and it's been crazy. It's all I've been doing."

Tucker plays in size 14 pairs, but he wears both size 13 and 14 casually. The larger sizes make for a lengthy search when it comes to finding most limited-edition models.

"I don't know anybody that buys more shoes on eBay than me," he joked. "I like eBay because I can always find rare gems in my size. I always have upwards of 40 sneakers in my cart at any given time."

As he was packing for the NBA's restart in Orlando, Tucker was uncertain if he'd be able to receive packages while in the bubble, so he went "all-in," just in case, bringing more than 80 pairs with him for what could end up being a three-month stay should the Rockets reach the NBA Finals.

"I'm bringing the big boy out for Orlando, I'm not gonna lie," he said as he was packing, with a laugh. "The big 24 [pair] case joint. I'm bringing that. I got to! Everything needs to come Day One."

Once settled in Orlando, players realized there was indeed a protocol in place to receive packages. Surprisingly, Tucker's first delivery was not more sneakers, but an 85-inch TV for his room at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort.

Now that the league's reigning footwear champ won't be facing a monthslong hiatus from sneaker shopping, he is back to hawking eBay listings, sharing this handful of elusive models with ESPN that he just can't seem to track down in his years of collecting.

Nike Air Total Foamposite Max - White / Black

Though the then-San Antonio Spurs rookie only wore them for the first two rounds of the 1998 playoffs, the Total Foamposite Max has since become known as "The Tim Duncans."

"That shoe is iconic where I'm from," Tucker said. "That's an East Coast [staple]. We used to wear the Foamposites and Nike Boots. Foams, that's what we wore. It's essential winter wear."

With an indestructible Foamposite material upper, the shoe is most known for its molded metallic silver colorway. Tucker had been trying to find the white-and-black edition, though, which is closer to the pair that Duncan actually played in and was last rereleased in 2004.

"It's the essential hoop shoe that you can kill it off court and kill it on court," he said. "That shoe is one of the cleanest, dopest shoes ever made, easily."

After a hunt lasting years, as luck would have it, Tucker stumbled on to a pair just days after speaking to ESPN by phone. It ended up being the first shoe he wore in Orlando, arriving to the bubble in style.

Nike Air Max CW - Black / White / Red

Another one of Tucker's long-lost favorites is the lone signature model of Chris Webber's short-lived time with the Swoosh.

"That whole era of Chris Webber with Nike was, to me, the golden era," Tucker said. "Everybody was getting their own signature shoe. Chris Webber, Penny [Hardaway] and [Charles] Barkley, that was the greatest and my favorite time for Nike Basketball. Everything was so innovative, and nobody's shoe looked the same."

Though he has been able to find several colorways of the re-badged "Air Max Sensation" from each of the times Nike has rereleased them over the years, Tucker is still trying to get his hands on the Washington Bullets colorway from 1995, with Webber's equally short-lived #2 featured along the heel tab. The heel on only the original three colorways also includes Webber's signature "CW" basketball hoop logo.

Nike Vis Zoom Uptempo - Black / White / Royal

While the signature models of the 1990s era might have been made for the NBA hardwood, the team shoes worn by the NCAA's powerhouse programs often are more remembered by school than by player.

"The Duke joints!" Tucker blurts out when naming the third pair on his must-have list.

Even though Sean Elliott tiptoed the San Antonio sidelines in the Vis Zoom Uptempo for his "Memorial Day Miracle" go-ahead shot, and Tim Duncan also wore them in white and black during the Spurs' 1999 championship run, it was the black-and-royal Blue Devils colorway that Tucker remembers most from his time growing up in Raleigh, North Carolina.

"I had a pair in high school and trashed those," he laughed. "I hooped in those so much."

Nike Zoom Flightposite 1 TB - Black / White / Red

Tucker's nostalgia for his favorite college teams at the turn of the century also has led him down a never-ending quest to find the zip-shrouded Flightposite, another Nike Basketball classic, in rare colorways.

"When Maryland had them!" he said. "A dude that went to my high school, Chris Wilcox, played at Maryland. The guards, Juan Dixon and Drew Nicholas, and [forward] Terence Morris all had them. That was a classic time."

The shoe was most known for its iridescent green and metallic purple colorways, with colleges wearing simplified black-and-white pairs with color accents along the bottom.

"That was my sophomore-year shoe in high school, and our colors were green and gold, so we had the military green Flightposites," Tucker said. "They were so sick with that uniform."

Nike Air Max 1 'Parra' Amsterdam F&F

Not everything on Tucker's list is a basketball sneaker.

In nearly every interview he has done over the past several years, Tucker has specifically mentioned an off-court shoe from 2005 that he desires.

"My No. 1 is the 'Parra' Netherlands friends and family Air Max 1," he said. "That's my No. 1 shoe. I still can't find it, haven't found it, and I still want it."

Released 15 years ago as a collaboration between Nike and Dutch artist Parra, the retro running shoe features hues of burgundy, pink and turquoise, colors seen in Parra's beloved character and font-driven artwork.

Only around 200 pairs were originally released -- in Paris, Berlin, London and Amsterdam -- and they were fetching as much as $5,000 per pair more than a decade later. It's been said that 11.5 was the biggest size made, leading Tucker to look for the even more rare "Friends & Family" edition, a special batch of just 24 pairs featuring Parra's script signature along the toe. That version can run for nearly twice as much on the resale market. The rumor is that two pairs were made in larger sizes, though Tucker has yet to find one.

"I've never seen a 13 in those," he sighed. "I've never even heard someone say they had them and sold them or anything. I've never heard of them in my size. Even the top guys I know, nobody has 'em. Guys that are 13 collectors -- nobody has 'em. I gotta get those."