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The Ja 1 is Nike Basketball’s Best Debut In Nearly a Decade

Devin Robertson

“It’s the Ja 1’s. It’s the shoes.” 

Ja Morant tweeted on January 14 after throwing down one of the most vicious dunks in his young career at the expense of Indiana Pacers Center Jalen Smith. While the 23-year-old has a graveyard filled with those who would dare contest him at the rim, this dunk was different. This time he was rocking his debut signature shoe.

On Christmas Day 2022, Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant debuted his Nike Ja 1 in a purple colorway inspired by a now-viral quote he made last season “we climb up the chimney, we ain’t duckin’ no smoke.” The heel counter featured brick graphics emblematic of the quote and also served as a nod to the jolly man in red himself. It had long been rumored that the electric All-Star from Dalzell, South Carolina, would be next in line for a signature sneaker, especially with rumors that several key Nike basketball signatures could be coming to an end. 

Creator: Justin Ford Credit: Getty Images

It’s easy to see why 12ski would be one of the top candidates to lead Nike Basketball into the future. He has a dynamic play style that is as cerebral as it is exciting; he’s the head of the snake for one of the best teams in the league and one of the most popular faces on the court.

Ja Morant quickly made himself one of the headliners for Nike Basketball, particularly after Jayson Tatum switched to Jordan Brand in 2019. Morant, alongside Las Vegas Aces Center and 2x MVP A’Ja Wilson, led the charge for the Nike Adapt BB series before he swapped to an array of Nike Basketball silhouettes, including PGs, Giannis, Kyries and a lot of Kobes for the 2020-2021,, and 2021-2022 seasons.

Morant became a permanent resident on sneaker blogs for his collection of rare Kobes and Kyries on the court. Coupled with his regularity on sports shows for his highlight plays, Ja Morant whipped up the perfect storm for a signature shoe. A lot of elements will come into play for the success of Ja’s signature shoe, chief among them being its value pricing. With Memphis having one of the highest poverty rates for a metropolitan area, at $110, the Ja 1’s won’t break the pockets of families in the area during these tough economic times.  

Combine that affordable pricing with Ja’s electric style of play, and you have a hit on your hands. Ja’s profile has been rising since his rookie year due to his confidence, boisterous quotes, uncanny passing ability, and, most importantly, his highlight-reel bucket-getting. Ja Morant is one of the rising stars of the league, being one of the top vote-getters in All-Star votes and having the NBA’s most viewed social clip of all time with his buzzer-beater off the full-court assist from Steven Adams. 

Those views translate into sales as well, with Morant ranking in the top ten for jersey sales last year. That metric could be one of the most crucial factors in the success of the Ja 1, as many jerseys exceed $110, especially in adult sizes. Nike Basketball has a wealth of incredible players on its roster, but outside of LeBron and Giannis, none of its players have the combination of athleticism and charisma of Morant. And neither of those two former MVPs are in their early 20s.

The Nike Ja 1 is a love letter to Ja with an array of personal details embedded in the DNA of the sneaker even before the added storytelling of any colorways. All of the handwritten details are indeed written by Ja, including the repeated “12 AM” on the “Day One” colorways, the writing on the insoles, his daughter’s name on the midsole, and of course, his name on the heels. The curve on the lateral outrigger forms a “J,” and the enlarged perforations on the medial side shape the #12. 

The Nike Ja 1 is already leaning into his alluring persona and viral statements with the lineup colorways he’s revealed recently. The “Day One” colorway was introduced in a Christmas morning Instagram post and features a Beale Street Blue base with pink and blue accents on the gradient Swoosh and outsole, while the heel counter features an alarm clock graphic with 12 AM printed all over as a nod to Morant’s motto of “working in the dark” and improving when no one is watching.

The second colorway revealed was a purple “Chimney” pair that debuted on Christmas night against the Warriors, which includes his “climb up the chimney” quote on the heel counter while a brick design on the pull tab right above the wrap-around Swoosh and the extra smoke gradient takes the design over the top.


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His current favorites in the Ja 1 rotation are exclusive to 12 and include the “Day One Alternate” PE, which is an inverted version of the first colorway revealed with a pink base and blue and yellow accents, and the recently revealed “Trivia PE” colorway that pays homage to one of Ja’s favorite childhood pastimes of playing trivia and board games with an array of personal questions about Ja printed across its upper. 

One of the most eye-catching colorways 12 has yet to don is the newly revealed “Scratch” colorway that interpolates the classic Vancouver Grizzlies colorway onto the silhouette with the iconic teal shade of teal making up the base with red accenting the sockliner.

The Ja 1 “Scratch” goes wild with brown on the tongue to represent the retro Grizzlies logo and claw marks throughout the sneaker to give it a vicious appearance. The colorway harkens back to the earliest days of the franchise while adding a modern twist ensuring this colorway will be a hit for Grizzlies fans new and old. 

Ja Morant is a highlight factory and leads one of the best teams in the NBA, so it makes sense for Nike to select Ja to lead Nike Basketball into the future. Ja’s explosive play, skyrocketing popularity, wealth of colorways, and the affordable pricing of the sneaker could result in one of the biggest Nike basketball sneaker debuts of all time. 


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