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How Jayson Tatum’s Air Jordan PEs Set The Stage for His First Signature Sneaker

Marco Negrete

In the summer of 2019, a then-21-year-old Jayson Tatum stood quietly inside a massive estate in Paris, France, awaiting to be formally introduced as the newest member of the Jordan Brand family. It was the ‘House of Jumpman’ during Paris Fashion Week and felt like a Jordan Brand family reunion. In the courtyard was a mix of international media and Jumpman royalty like Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Maya Moore, Aleali May, and even the GOAT himself. Tatum was one of three young players being announced that day, alongside Zion Williamson and Rui Hachimura, but his path to the Jumpman was different than the two rookies. 

Tatum, who wore Nike at Duke, signed with the Swoosh upon entering the league in 2017 and quickly became one of its brightest young stars. Tatum was chosen with the likes of Luka Dončić to debut the Nike Adapt BB just months before switching to the Jumpman, a Nike, Inc. internal swap that Dončić would follow a year later.

At Jordan Brand, the kid from St. Louis picked up where he left off at Nike, quickly becoming one of the faces of the flagship Air Jordan performance model. His signing with the brand couldn’t have come at a better time, with the Air Jordan 34 being the first pair he officially laced up after starring in the flagship sneaker’s launch campaign. The AJ34 is considered by many to be the model that kicked off Jordan Brand’s latest streak of great performance sneakers. Aside from its positive on-court reviews, it coincided with the peak of PE (Player Edition) sneaker hype. And for a player who was known for being soft-spoken and brief with his words, Air Jordan PEs were the perfect canvases for telling his story to the world.

In Tatum’s first season wearing the Jumpman, the brand launched an editorial series called ‘PE WATCH,’ giving fans a closer look at their favorite player’s PEs and the stories that inspire them. Historically, this kind of marketing treatment was reserved for signature athletes but under new leadership, Jordan Brand was going young. Out were players like Blake Griffen, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony as marquee faces of the brand, and in was the brand’s youngest roster in years, with stars like Zion Williamson, Luka Dončić, and of course, Jayson Tatum. His AJ34 PEs went viral often, thanks to their bright colors and playful themes. As he became an All-Star and an All-NBA selection for the first time, the world was getting to know him through his sneakers. Amongst the most popular were the “Welcome to the Zoo” colorway inspired by his son Duece and the “Taco Jay” edition, a tribute to his mother’s cooking. Tatum’s Air Jordan 35, 36, and 37 PEs would remain some of the most talked about during the next couple of seasons, leaving his mark on what’s been a return to on-court glory era for the most important signature sneaker line of all time.

It was speculated when Tatum signed with Jordan Brand that he was expecting a signature sneaker. But with the Zion 1 on the way, Russell Westbrook’s signature line only two editions in, and years of declining sales on signature and performance sneakers, Tatum getting his own seemed like a longshot. Being a star or even a superstar doesn’t guarantee you a signature sneaker in the NBA. While Tatum’s stats proved he had the game to sell shoes, his viral PE colorways proved he had the personality and stories, too. And Tatum kept getting better, establishing himself as one of the NBA’s fiercest competitors and bonafide MVP candidate. All while his personal brand grew, thanks in large part to his fashion sense and fun PEs, many of which were released and sold out. To make the timing of the Tatum 1 even better, the signature sneaker market is as popular as it’s been in a decade, clearing the way for Tatum to get the sneaker he dreamed of when he signed in 2019. In the 3.5 years since he stood quietly next to the Jumpman who’s who in Paris, he’s not so quietly become Boston’s undisputed #1 option, a top 5 MVP favorite, and the Jordan Brand’s 7th signature athlete ever.

The Tatum 1 features a design that intentionally stayed away from referencing any past models, something rare and hard to do with such a rich catalog to sample from. Instead, Tatum wanted a shoe designed for the next generation of hoopers, including a special build for kid’s sizing that makes putting them on easier. The result is not just a shoe for him, but also “from him” to the youth who idolize his game. From a technical standpoint, this is the lightest shoe in the Jordan Brand performance lineup and its hero feature is a TPU frame that wraps around its entirety, creating a look not comparable to any other sneaker in the Jumpman’s current lineup. The TPU frame is wrapped by a ground contact foam, allowing the traction to be built directly on.

Other design highlights include a plate technology in the outsole for quick transitions, a lightweight mesh knit upper, padded collar is padded for ankle support, and a large volume, uncaged Zoom Air bag is featured in the forefoot. Many of the colorways made popular on his Air Jordan PEs will get the Tatum 1 treatment including Zoo, Pink Lemonade, and St. Louis editions. Aside from the stories brought to life through colorways, special messages are designed into the sneaker as well. From his son’s Duece’s name inside the tongue, to “Living Proof” on the outer rubber, an ode to his close friend and fellow Jordan Brand family member Bradley Beal, the Tatum 1 picks up where his PEs left off, sharing who he is and what’s important to him, one sneaker at a time.

The official retail launch is scheduled for Friday, April 7, 2023, with availability in the “Zoo” colorway in full family sizing. Beginning April 5, Concepts’ Boston store will have early availability on a first come, first serve basis.  



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