Though he's known for debuting impossibly rare and player-exclusive pairs, P.J. Tucker raised the bar this week by introducing the newest signature shoe of his Milwaukee Bucks teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Nike officially unveiled the third signature shoe of Milwaukee's franchise player in a news release earlier Tuesday, ahead of the Bucks and Hawks facing off in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals. Dubbed the Zoom Freak 3, the shoe is set to release globally beginning July 1, in a black and purple "Project 34" colorway and the more vibrant, all-orange "Freak" edition worn by Tucker.
Antetokounmpo, known to be a creature of habit during playoff runs, chose to continue wearing his prior Zoom Freak 2 model for Game 4. Tucker, who rotates his sneakers sometimes by the quarter, was given the go-ahead to make the debut, a rarity when it comes to namesake debuts.
After an awkward landing during the third quarter, Antetokounmpo suffered a left knee injury and did not return, though no structural damage was found in subsequent medical examinations.
Since signing a long-term extension with Nike in the fall of 2017, the Antetokounmpo has become Nike Basketball's first European player to receive his own signature shoe. Now on his third model, his multipositional style of play, unique elongated strides and versatile game have helped to inspire the shoe's design and technology.
"One of the hallmarks of his athleticism is transferring energy quickly from leg to leg to maneuver his body through gaps," said Ross Klein, Sr. Creative Director for Men's Performance Footwear at Nike. "[Giannis] works all different angles of his foot as he's driving to the basket, so we wanted to contour the design to fit the way he transitions from step to step."
Featuring a curving and flowing upper, the shoe also incorporates a midfoot strap for the first time in the Freak series for added support. A dual-unit Air Zoom cushioning setup is utilized in the forefoot, with Antetokounmpo often playing on his toes and in transition.
"His personality is fun and lighthearted and his style of play is dominant and energetic," Klein said. "We used that philosophy to elevate finishes, material choices and color methodology to bring forth the attitude and expression of 'the Freak.'"
While the performance tech tells one layer of Antetokounmpo's story, early on in the signature shoe process, he also established an approach to design that he has carried into each model.
"I wanted my shoe to basically introduce me and my family to the world," he told The Undefeated's Aaron Dodson during the launch of the Freak 1.
With some logos drafting off of the bars of the Greek flag and apparel featuring local typography, Antetokounmpo has also included each of his family members into the design of all three of his sneakers to date.
On the Freak 3, his brothers Francis, Thanasis, Kostas and Alex are each highlighted under the right shoe's strap, while the phrase "I am my father's legacy" can be found underneath the strap on the left shoe. During the fall of 2017, Charles Antetokounmpo died of a heart attack at age 54.
"I wanted my dad to be remembered. I wanted people to know that he left a legacy behind," Antetokounmpo said at the time. "The only thing he cared about was his kids. ... We take pride in that. ... Every shoe I make, that phrase is always gonna be there."