Ja Morant Ignites Investment Into The Game
As the biggest champion of sport, Nike is further elevating the game with the introduction of Ja Morant’s newest signature shoe and who better suited for this role than one of the most electric and influential NBA stars in the game. It is such a monumental moment for Nike Basketball, as Ja Morant is the first Gen-Z signature athlete, representing the evolution of the game, igniting a spark around its culture and serving the future of athletes and sport. It’s quite apparent why Ja’s jersey sells out how it does, as his connection and representation within the Gen-Z community is more than evident, but he truly has a fan in so many, including us Millennials.
What makes this moment feel so special is how fun Ja makes the game, while going out there, and giving it his all. He constantly demonstrates that a competitive spirit and exuberant joy can work together harmoniously on the court to inspire the next generation of athletes and fans — to play the game and create the future of the sport on their own terms. He makes his own rules and customizes the game, his own way. This signature shoe is catered specifically to Ja, as Nike has an organic process in which by listening to the voice of the athlete, gathering insights and data straight from the source, they created innovative product solutions that help all athletes become faster, stronger and more athletic than ever. This time is no different, as Ja continues to jump out the gym! He debuted the Nike Ja 1 of the Chimney colorway on Christmas Day.
The Nike Ja 1 is built for the dynamic game of Ja Morant. It focuses on three performance areas: dynamic lockdown, responsive ride and support for landing. The midfoot lockdown system provides a secured and snug fit allowing athletes to quickly change direction while on the court. With the responsive ride, the forefoot Nike Air Zoom bag helps give a quick, explosive sensation underfoot. Support for landing is shown in the raised sidewall guardrail helps support takeoff and landing on two feet, combined with a raised cushioned foam collar and zonal cushioning for additional ankle support.
We were able to sit down on the Memphis Grizzlies basketball court and listen to the likes of Scott Munson, Global VP of Nike Men’s Basketball, Ben Nethongkome, Senior Designer of Nike Footwear Performance Basketball, and of course, the amazing Ja Morant. Ja came in hitting the griddy, as the beautiful and talented Brittney Elena welcomed him onto the court, as she hosted the discussion behind his signature shoe and the story behind how it came into existence. One of the questions she asked Ja was what his favorite feature on the shoe was. He responded, “my daughter’s name” without hesitation, as Kaari’s name is written on the shoe. “She’s my motivation and the reason I get up and do what I do, each and every day. To have her on my shoe is big time for me.”
“NIKE, Inc. is honored to partner with Ja Morant to serve the future of athletes and sport,” says Scott Munson, Nike VP, Global Men’s Basketball. “Morant, Nike Basketball’s first Gen Z signature athlete, is a revolutionary player who quickly became a global star with his unmatched athleticism and exciting style of play. His authentic personality, deep love for his community and family and joy for the game make him very special — on and off the court. We are thrilled to add Morant to our signature roster and can’t wait for everyone to learn more about his first shoe, the Nike Ja 1.”
Morant’s hands-on approach in the creative process shows up throughout several design elements on the Nike Ja 1. These details include personal handwritten notes across the colorways acknowledging his family, friends and community, who have affectionately become known as Team Morant. Nike designers also collaborated with Morant to create a signature light blue color, speaking to the blue-collar mentality that fuels him in everything he does. Having such intentional and sincere elements integrated into each colorway made it true to Ja and who he is, on and off the court.
Yet, one of our favorite parts was the breakdown of Ja Morant’s official logo debuting on the Nike Ja 1. The logo gets its vertical design inspiration from Ja’s impressive jumping abilities, with a nod to the fact that he’s consistently working to elevate his game. Morant’s signature logo is inspired by his dynamic precision and determined approach to the game. The logo features a stylized “JA” sitting above a chevron, which represents both a directional nod to the verticality, speed and sharpness of Morant’s game, and his ability to rise above all obstacles. When Morant was overlooked and under-recruited in college, his motto, “Beneath No One,” fueled the workouts that helped develop him into a player that is defining the future of basketball. Even better, at a starting price of $110, the Nike Ja 1 will be the most affordable Nike Basketball Signature footwear on the market, providing an accessible footwear option for all players and communities. We cannot wait for the Nike Ja 1 to release this spring on nike.com and at select retailers so we can cop our favorite pairs.
Ben Nethongkome then led us to the Grizzlies locker room to give us a walkthrough of the various colorways that awaited us and we had no clue the amount of heat we were walking into. Ben was the best person to explain the process, coming over from Jordan Brand and is currently working in Nike Basketball as a Senior Footwear Designer and is the lead designer on Ja Morant’s signature footwear line. Working closely with Morant over the last 18 months, the Nike Ja 1 is Ben’s latest signature shoe on-court.
As Ben showcased the upcoming colorways, each one stood apart from the other, with special stories and details behind each silhouette and design. For example, the Day One / Day One PE is inspired by Ja approaching each day like it’s day one of basketball while also celebrating those that have been there since day one. Details include a handwritten note from Ja to those that have supported him since day one. Furthermore, this colorway features Ja’s very own shade of blue. In collaboration with Ja, the designers created a signature color just for him — a light blue that speaks to the hardworking, blue-collar mentality that fuels Ja in everything he does.
The next colorway is named Chimney, that Ja unveiled on Christmas Day. Nike Ja 1 “Chimney” is inspired by Ja’s quote, “We climb up the chimney, we ain’t ducking no smoke.” On the heel, Ja’s quote appears in his handwriting above a chimney graphic. The forefoot mudguard and rand are adorned with smoke-inspired print.
The third colorway we were introduced to is the Trivia PE. The Nike Ja 1 “Trivia PE” honors a favorite Morant family pastime, game night. The design features Ja-related trivia questions, which will put his fans to the test to see how much they know about him.
Lastly, the Scratch colorway pays homage to the history of the Grizzlies. The sneaker’s turquoise base with black and red accents harken back to the team’s earliest seasons. The claw scratch graphic on the upper nods to Ja’s daily mentality of attacking every time he steps on the court and his aggressive style of play. This colorway was one of our favorites as it emulates the nostalgic energy of the Grizzlies, while still making it tailored to Ja.
Our day at the FedEx Forum didn’t end there, as we got the privilege to partake in a training workout with Team Morant, led by none other than Mo Wells, who currently the Director of Sports Performance here at The Kollective in which he and his athletes now call home. He trains some of the top athletes in the country and oversaw movement for NBA Rookie of the Year, Ja Morant. The workout was only 30 minutes long but that was intense enough to make us have a newfound appreciation for Ja’s training and work ethic, as he does this for hours on a daily, and it also gave us a run for our money, as we were reminded to stretch, keep up, and build up our endurance while we’re at it. Like I said, a different level of dedication is at work when Ja is on the court.
Nike’s belief in basketball goes beyond the court. If there’s anything that Nike’s athletes and partnerships have proven, it’s how powerful the culture of the game can be — and how sport moves people into action to create a better world. Nike’s Community Investment in Memphis is very telling of that initiative. In the last three years (since FY21), Nike has invested more than $2.5 million to support nonprofits organizations serving kids and communities in Memphis. This includes local schools, youth sport organizations, the National Civil Rights Museum and more.
Significantly, almost half of this sum reflects our NIKE, Inc. Black Community Commitment in Memphis, with 22 local organizations dedicated to economic empowerment, education innovation and social justice for the Black community in Memphis receiving funding. Nike’s 2022 grantees include the following organizations:
- Memphis Interfaith Coalition – MICAH (Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope) is a coalition of community and faith-based organizations joining together to give a more powerful voice for issues of justice in Memphis. Their current platform concentrates on three pillar issues, economic equity, education equity, and race & class equity in the justice system.
- Legacy of Legends CDC – Legacy of Legends CDC is committed to developing trauma informed and resilient communities that is focus on preventing adverse childhood experiences (ACE), and building vision based communities.
- Black Business Association of Memphis – The Black Business Association of Memphis (BBA) is missioned to improve the economic well-being of the Memphis region by developing successful entrepreneurs and Minority/Women-owned Business Enterprises through education, advocacy, and business development.
Nike will be announcing their 2023 BCC Memphis grantees next month, so be on the lookout for that as well! We were grateful enough to experience the exhilarating essence of Memphis by being able to frequent some of the city’s finest establishments, ranging from Itta Bena and Blues City Café, as we were hosted at the Peabody Hotel. Side note, make sure to check out the Duck Walk if you ever frequent the Peabody. Members of the Memphis community were warm, welcoming, and excited to have us experience such a special city. That maintained to be true as the trip remained intentional throughout.
The Nike Team additionally set aside a day for us to all go to the National Civil Rights Museum. It was a full circle moment, as MLK Day had just passed, and we were on the ground in which he took his last breath. The heaviness came over us, as we set foot towards the Lorraine Motel. Yet, the museum itself preserved such an integral chapter of history that may not be known overtly. As we navigated the museum, each room was eye opening and revealing, as many shared the sentiment that it was such a informational stop on the trip, where so many took away a lot of what it means, to be united, as one, in this climate today. Nike was also gracious enough to extend an invitation to Ja and the Memphis Grizzlies vs the Cavs to end such a memorable trip together, as Ja led the Grizzlies to a win in a close 4th Quarter.
As something that is true to who we are at MADE for the W, we are so appreciative of Nike’s constant efforts in growing the game by championing sport and Women and Girls athletes. At Nike, basketball isn’t just a game — it’s a culture. A place to build connections and community. A place to break barriers and bring people together — across communities and generations. As the world’s largest athletic brand serving women, Nike is relentless in its’ responsibility to help break down the barriers that women and girls face in sport. Nike exemplifies what it means to for sport having the power to move the world forward. Nike has seen firsthand how powerful the platform of basketball can be – through their partnership with the WNBA to grow sports participation for girls, and through initiatives such as Game Growers and PeacePlayers.
Additionally, to the already existing initiatives for young girls and women in sport, NIKE, Inc. has made an equity investment in the WNBA. Through this partnership, Nike and the WNBA will work together to grow the league by deepening WNBA storytelling, creating more visibility for WNBA athletes and bringing more girls into basketball through additional grassroots opportunities. Nike is surely redefining sport for a new generation and we’re so excited to have a front row seat to help amplify and elevate Nike’s dedication in this realm.
Memphis welcomed us with open arms, but the theme seemed to be full circle, as our experience there intertwined what it meant to be intentional and invested, from the city itself, the Nike Team who helped bring this to life, and Ja Morant himself. Ja was really stamped for me back in 2019 when he was at Murray State and they went up against my alma mater Marquette, who were fifth seeded at the time, in the first round of the West Region in the NCAA Championship. I remember two things vividly: 1) the gruesome loss we took that day, 83-64, and 2) the undeniable talent I saw on that court that day with Ja Morant leading the way with his triple-double, which was the 9th in NCAA history at that time. It’s been amazing to see that none of that grit or grin went to waste. To experience him play is to witness greatness. How lucky are we to see his elevation right before our very eyes and it’s not surprise that Nike caught on early. Together, they’re just getting started, and what an exciting journey it’s about to be!