SALT LAKE CITY — Glancing around the Utah Jazz’s practice facility, you’ll notice players rocking an assortment of different sneakers.
The Nike Air Max Audacity 2016s are All-Star center Rudy Gobert’s go-to sneaker.
Rookie Donovan Mitchell loves to ball out in his Adidas Dame 4 shoes.
Or what about Austrailian forward Joe Ingles, who is committed to the Nike Kobe 10s, while others switch it up depending on their moods.
Not Thabo Sefolosha, though. He’s consistent.
For the past couple years, the 33-year-old has exclusively balled in one shoe: The Nike Air Max 90.
Yes, one of the Swoosh’s most iconic running shoes designed by the legendary Tinker Hatfield is being used by the Jazz forward.
“People ask me all the time, ‘How do I play in them?’ I just lace them up and run,” Sefolosha explained while grinning.
The Air Max 90s have been released by Nike for nearly three decades and embedded in the fabric of popular sneaker culture. They feature lightweight comfort, but the waffle-patterned outsoles aren’t necessarily built for the hardwood.
Sefolosha insists he hasn’t run into any issues (knock on wood).
He is the only active NBA player sporting that particular model, according to NBA Shoes DB.
“I just play in what’s comfortable, to be honest,” Sefolosha said. “That was the main thing for me, just being comfortable.
“I think they have great grip for somebody like me that kind of slides a lot and needs to be quick on the court,” he added. “That was my thought process and after that I just try to put some flavor on that and add some color.”
His teammates applaud him for being loyal to the vintage mid-cut shoes, but won't be following the trend anytime soon.
“I couldn’t do it. I don’t know how he does it,” Mitchell said. “It’s definitely swaggy, though, but I don’t know if I could do it. He just said it felt comfortable one game and that’s how he got on to it.”
Ingles wouldn’t entertain slipping into a pair of those on the court.
“I’d roll my ankle walking in them,” Ingles joked. “Yeah, we’ve made fun of him a couple times, but to his credit, he’s done it for a while now and I think it obviously doesn’t affect him because he’s played at a pretty high level for a very long time.”
Gobert is a fan of the Air Maxes from a lifestyle aspect, but not for performance.
“I was surprised but I asked him and he said ‘It feels good,’” Gobert said. “I like to walk in them but I can’t play in them.”
Sefolosha exclusively transitioned to the kicks after a troublesome time in his life.
He suffered a broken fibula and ankle damage during an incident with five New York City police offers on April 8, 2015, when he was arrested outside a Manhattan nightclub during his time playing with the Atlanta Hawks.
Six months later, Sefolosha was acquitted of all charges then won a $4 million settlement this past April with the police department after he claimed false arrest, excessive force, malicious protection and false imprisonment, according to ESPN reports.
The injuries forced Sefolosha to miss the remainder of that 2014-15 regular season with the Hawks as they made a deep playoff run, before being swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
During the rehabilitation process Sefolosha discovered the Air Maxes.
He and his size 15 feet have never looked back. And the rest is history.
“I just put some insoles in there that I’ve got made to model my feet,” Sefolosha said. “That’s just something to feel a little more comfortable. Pretty much every other player plays with some insoles so that’s just a standard thing.”
Sefolosha grew up playing in whatever shoes his mom could afford. Sometimes that included Patrick Ewing’s, Reeboks or anything that didn’t completely hurt the family’s pockets. He’s also a huge fan of the Kobe Bryant-inspired Nike Air Zoom Huarache 2K4.
On July 18, Sefolosha signed a two-year, $10.5 million deal with the Jazz as a free agent after stops in Chicago, Oklahoma City and Atlanta.
Typically, on game days he decides which colors to play in depending on the jerseys.
He customizes his sneakers through NikeID. Some of his favorite Utah-themed Air Maxes are forest green with a gold swoosh and his white/navy blue ones.
At this point of his career, it’s highly unlikely that the 12-year veteran will ever switch to a different model. His on-court fashion has helped him reach a legendary status in the sneaker culture, similar to Rasheed Wallace and his high top Nike Air Force 1s.
“At this point, honestly I don’t think so. I don’t know,” Sefolosha said. “It’ll be tough to switch.”
Contrary to popular belief, that wasn’t done by design.
“I like it,” he said. “I didn’t do it for that reason, I did it for comfort and something I liked doing, but I think it’s pretty cool that people kind of picked up on it and are feeling the vibe.”