Jerry Wu lives and breathes basketball. The hardwood has been a haven for him since he was young — he often watched NBA games and was an avid recreational player — but beyond that, it’s also been an avenue to forge a career path in the footwear industry. Wu has evolved from being a sneaker reseller into the head of Sneaker Con China, where he works to curate unique experiences for sneaker enthusiasts while fostering a community that celebrates the cultures of basketball and sneaker collecting.
Wu is also a loyal LeBron James fan. His personal collection is an indication of this, as he’s amassed an array of coveted gems from hot ticket colorways to rare Nike player exclusives. So when we tapped Wu to participate in our Sole Mates series, he wanted to highlight the Nike LeBron 10 “Elite” colorway.
In the conversation below, Wu discusses how he developed a love for sneakers, what his favorite Nike LeBron pairs are and the differences he notices between sneaker culture in China and abroad.
How did you get into sneakers?
Basketball. I grew up an avid player and always found myself watching NBA games. I remember poring over SLAM magazines and bonding with friends over our favorite players. By nature, we started to develop an interest in what sneakers they were rocking and how they affected culture.
Do you remember what the first pair of sneakers you bought were?
When I was first starting to get into basketball, I remember being a huge fan of watching the Houston Rockets because they had outstanding players like Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. It made me want to buy T-MAC’s signature adidas sneakers, but I remember going into the adidas store and seeing that they were all out of T-MACs, Gilbert Arenas’ shoes and Kevin Garnett’s kicks, so I ended up settling for the adidas Crazy 8 in the black and white colorway.
Can you recall any other early pairs that you added to your collection?
I’d say Yao Ming’s Nike Shox Supremacy PE from the ‘03 NBA All-Star Game and the Air Jordan 4 “Fear”. The former marked the first time that a Chinese basketball player played in an All-Star Game, which was also Michael Jordan’s last All-Star Game before he retired. They were styled in a UNC-inspired palette to honor Jordan’s alma mater.
The latter will always be memorable for me because I remember camping overnight at a Villa store in Detroit, Michigan to get them. I recall a tussle breaking out because people got rowdy once the mall doors opened and security had to pepper spray people to get them to calm down. It was probably one of the scariest moments of my life, but I was thankful to have walked out with a pair.
You’ve expressed an immense amount of love for LeBron James. When did this fandom start for you?
I fell in love with LeBron after watching More than A Game right after the Miami Heat beat the San Antonio Spurs in the 2013 NBA Finals. I was inspired by the fact that he was a small-town kid who made it to the league and has been able to sustain such a successful career to this day. It inspired me to put my own city on my shoulders, strive to do my best and influence more people.
“The LeBron 10 will always be my favorite. It just had the best stability, comfort and aesthetic out of any of his other models.”
What are some of your favorite pairs of LeBrons in your collection?
I’ve collected a ton of Nike LeBron colorways thus far including GRs, high heat releases and more, but the LeBron 10 Elite will always be my favorite. It just had the best stability, comfort and aesthetic out of any of his other models. I own an autographed sample pair of the Nike LeBron 10 “Elite” colorway which will always be important to me because it took me six years to track down.
Another pair that I hold close to my heart is one of Kyrie Irving’s Nike LeBron 8 Low PEs. Nike only made six pairs of these, some of which he only gave to his closest friends. These remind me of the days that I was going to school in Detroit, and how I drove out to Cleveland from time to time to catch a couple of games, one of which was the ring ceremony after the Cavs beat the Golden State Warriors and came back from being down 3-1. It was a special time.
After experiencing Sneaker Con in different cities, what are the main differences in sneaker culture that you’ve noticed between home and abroad?
Demand for sneakers, whether it be the biggest collaborations, PEs or inline styles, is on the same level both at home and abroad. The biggest difference that I’ve noticed between exhibitions is that we tend to put slightly more effort into giving consumers a more immersive experience in China. We work with every exhibitor, participating brand, sponsor, media outlet and artist that comes to our conventions to make sure that our consumers walk away with an unforgettable experience. That includes bringing in more rare shoes, having more exclusive drops and even engaging with consumers that stand outside the night before Sneaker Con starts to make them feel more included.
So many new independent sneaker brands and designers continue to pop up at Sneaker Con every year. What’re your thoughts on how it has contributed to the event?
I am very excited about this because it feels like the exhibition is a sneaker history book that is constantly being edited — and we are witnesses. We continue to see more independent brands sell here whether it includes shoe imprints, fashion labels of shoe care companies and I only hope to see more of that down the line.
Why are sneakers and their stories important to you?
I love sneakers because they reflect who I am, especially my deep-rooted love for basketball. They represent milestones of my life as well as those of my favorite players. Additionally, Sneakers create more opportunities for brands to share their stories, build more communities and contribute to the future of basketball culture.
This issue of Sole Mates was originally posted on HYPEBEAST CN and has been adapted accordingly.