A chorus of applause came from the crowd at Quai 54 in Paris. These passionate people call France home and Slovenia home and America their country and other countries unknown home. They’re loud, animated and powerful enough to make the temporary court that Jordan Brand built under the Eiffel Tower shake a little. A common love resonates high above the red and blue of 94×50, beyond the Wall and to the rest of the world, with eager eyes waiting for updates via the Internet. A chorus of applause and cheers for the arrival of Luka Doncic.
Doncic entered the arena, wearing his first signature sneaker, the Jordan Luka 1, on his feet. He’s wearing the “Quai 54” colorway, with a village of people following him to center court. A tower is framed in the background and has a nice, big smile. Then he pops a pair of shades, cops a seat and prepares to watch a team from his native Slovenia play a 20-minute exhibition against a local French team.
Midday Sun desperately needs attention by trying to move Doncic. Without cloud cover and a dry wind, it is a kind of constant burning. The only silver lining in the weather is the cerulean coating which is amazingly beautiful. The architecture of Paris was built with an amazing purpose. Very few structures hide the grandeur of the sky.
The sun of July does not delay the people who love it. Some learned about Doncic from watching the Dallas Mavericks. Others learned about him by watching Real Madrid. A lucky few knew about him by seeing him on the streets and in the courts of Ljubljana, Slovenia. We have all been expecting him to carry no weight with him. He lives in an unexpected situation. His two-second reaction to the ball is starting to last longer than two seconds. Packs of Luca fans in Paris and around the world cling to those fleeting moments when the magic begins to materialize. Whether the audience is French, Slovenian, American or elsewhere, the many perceived differences in their lives are simplified by the connection they share in a language they can all see – the brilliance on the basketball court, translated for all planets by Luka Doncic.
KICKS 25 featuring Luca Donchi is out now.
All roads lead to Lucca these days. Many of his peers say how unstoppable he is. His fan base continues to expand geographically and age-wise. Opposing coaches are losing sleep over him. The NBA’s education program has similarly drawn attention to its EuroLeague successes from a sea of murky to a sea of brilliance. A particularly important set of eyes began to look at him at some point on the road. Michael Jordan has noticed the player of the world. He and Jordan Brand picked Luke up and set him on the path to becoming a signature athlete.
But this tale does not begin in Paris.
Ljubljana, Slovenia, Lukas The hometown and capital of Slovenia is the city of dragons. According to old stories, the great Greek hero Jason killed a dragon that lived in the waters of the Ljubljana River before the city was founded. Time and oral traditions changed the role of the dragon from monster to Slovenian legend. The mythical beast was part of Doncic’s upbringing. Ljubljana now holds a dragon carnival every winter, with a dragon on the city’s coat of arms, as well as its flag, river wall, well cover, and even the logo of NK Olimpija Ljubljana, the local football team. Home to four copper dragon statues, the city’s Dragon Bridge has become famous around the world.
“Very good,” Doncic says of Dragon Bridge. “And you have restaurants in the river.”
The bridge was built in The city’s ancient palace, which hosted the exhibition “Dragon of All Dragons” in 2018, is located at the foot of the great hill where it was built long ago. Wings and threads are everywhere in the capital.
The fire that Doncic plays is boiling in his veins, transferred from the fire of the dragons that appear over the city. But not all was consumed by the flames. He can distinguish the beauty.
“It’s so good,” he says, when asked what the biggest surprise is for a tourist visiting Ljubljana. “Almost everything is green. I think you guys will be amazed at how nice it is. You have mountains, you can go to the sea, you can do anything, and it’s still all green. It’s great.”
One of the 1 launch colorways, “Nature’s Habitat”, is dedicated to Ljubljana.
“This color represents the colors of my home country of Slovenia,” he says. “It means a lot to me because it’s my hometown. This is a special shoe. Green with the logo. The insole is green. It represents all things green in Slovenia.
But this tale does not end in Ljubljana.
Doncic says the biggest moment that got him to where he is now — making the Western Conference Finals, wearing this cover in his signature sneakers, and all the other success he’s enjoyed — was the decision he made when he was there. Just 13 years old.
“I think the time when I moved from Slovenia to Madrid was very difficult,” he said. “I left all my friends, family and school there. I think that moment prepared me for who I am now.
“Now” is the version of Luka, an experienced world traveler who can speak four languages (Slovenian, Spanish, English and Serbian). It was managed in an environment that grown men could not handle. He played in dozens of championship-level matches. He had to learn how to care for himself without a family. Then there’s the game. The list he collected between 2015-18 is ridiculous:
Euroleague Champion in 2018; EuroLeague MVP in 2018; Euroleague Final Four MVP in 2018; Liga ACB MVP in 2018; 3x Liga ACB Champion; EuroLeague 2010-20 All-Decade Team.
Before celebrating his 20th birthday, he completely dominated Europe’s top competition.
“I think Luca is an amazing basketball player — one of the best basketball players in the world — and probably one of the happiest people in the world,” Craig Williams, president of Jordan Brand, told KICKS. “He’s a humble, nice guy. And it’s good to see both combinations intact. It’s nice to be able to know that you’re fearless on the basketball court, while also being a wonderful person, friend, you know, partner to us. He’s just… it’s great to see both sides of him at the same time all the time.
Williams brings the excitement that Doncic shows after taking a big swing in the pick and roll. Double between legs, back to left, cash out. Then a big smile as he returned the court. It happens at least once per game. But as confirmed by verse 77, there is no secret for him.
“I enjoy the game,” Doncic says.
The game is fun when he has to win as much as he has. He played with famous people in Madrid, such as Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Rodriguez, Andres Nocioni, Felipe Reyes and one of his all-time favourites, Sergio Lulu. They are all battle-tested vets with the secrets of the game in mind. Together, all that knowledge and experience equaled the overall win.
“In Europe, there were different rules, their court is a little smaller, and there is no defensive three-second rule,” says Doncic. “So I think it all comes from my reading of the game, my passing ability. It’s a tough league to play in. The EuroLeague is very difficult to play.”
It was tough, but he navigated the middle and high of learning a whole new language and culture between teaching the world who he was and hinting at who he would become. His basketball journey spanned 2,065.0 kilometers (1,283.1 miles) and he debuted with the seniors as a teenager.
But this tale does not end in Madrid.
Luca has been a sneaker head for a long time. In the year Scroll back through his Instagram page to take a trip down memory lane from early 2010s Swoosh and Jumpman releases. He was a NikeD fanatic. His older shots at Getty Images show him in Jordan XIs, Kobes and KDs. Shoes have been known to be a big part of hoops since forever. And even though Lull, Vassilis Spanoulis, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant hold a place in his heart, MJ is MJ. Doncic knows all too well the weight that comes with being an athlete in Jordan Brand’s signature sneakers.
“I’m not talking about my whole life, but everyone in my country was. MJ! MJ! “The first time I met him, it was unbelievable, and I was so scared,” Doncic recalled. “I didn’t know what to say. His legacy since I was 1 year old is incredible.”
Doncic finally met the GOAT in his second trip to All-Star Weekend. His response to Mike during this year’s ASW is heartening.
“It was amazing,” he said. “I was asking people to give me credit for posting this video. If MJ knows you, like, that’s incredible.”
The table is perfectly set for the first sneaker. He was curious and knew history. The Jordan Brand has long been the product of designers, engineers and artists. Just for him, IsoPlate and Formula 23, have created two new technologies.
Chad Troyer, senior product line manager at Jordan Brand, said the new technology “works as a team” to help Luka move and play better.
“If you think about the way Luca plays on the court, he’s focused on creating separation and creating space,” Troyer tells KICKS. “He’s hunting space. He is trying to create separation for himself in tight spots. Obviously, we all know that the rear back jump is where he went to move. When planting and entering a step-back jump, the foot may slip off the footbed. So we started there, for example, OK, so how can we help him create a split on a pedestrian back jumper? How can we keep him at a low level? So that brings us to Formula 23, which is really exciting technology for Jordan Brand. It is a very soft responsive foam. Think Nike React for Jordan, basically. It is a little soft. It is also slightly more durable. So we’re pushing hard to make Lucan’s product as sustainable as possible, and that’s a big focus for us. So basically what Formula 23 does is make it ride really smooth, even. It keeps you balanced, cushioned and feels the ground.
The soft and smooth full-length ride from Formula 23 leads to the IsoPlate on the side forefoot.
“So the isopleth, the way the front leg is shaped and built, protects him on the side.” Troy continues. “So when he goes back, it helps him stay on the bed. But as he engages his front foot, it also helps propel him forward. It’s a little bit of a Luka-only type of system that’s like an extra tool under his feet as a way to play. Isoplate and Formula 23 is a small underfoot system that helps players make those moves better.
Doncic spends more time on the front foot. Just mess up any of the jump shots for a minute and that’s a pretty obvious starting point. Troyer said he and his team planted No. 77 and noticed that the way he pushed off his front foot was a way to find balance even when the defense looked sealed. (But he’s never packed, right?)
The upper part of 1 is another separate part of the project. There are braided flywheel cables on the side of the top.
“It’s strategic, it’s light weight, but it’s very strong to help him especially when he plants it for the back step,” Troyer said of the top. But that lacing system works with the Isoplate to help keep the shoe in place. Secondly, that works for us, and is also very sustainable. It’s a very complex science project to create shoes with sustainable results.
Overseeing the “science project” was Jordan Brand Vice President and Chief Design Officer Martin Lotti. Lotti worked at both Nike and Jordan for a combined 25 years. He refers to himself and his team members as a sponge, appointed to extract as much information as possible and find a single drop that can be absorbed into something meaningful for their work. You find it in Luke 1.
“Maybe because we’re in Paris, I think it’s a fitting example,” Lottie said from a meeting room near Nike’s Champs-Élysées. “If you look at the Mona Lisa… you can see her from a distance. But then you get close and there’s a background, and then you get close and there’s so much dimension in this one picture. It’s the same approach we have with good shoes. If we can marry not only the visual but also the actual function, the main icon is especially related to innovation for Luca-Isoplette – that’s why it’s amazing to work with athletes. Without Luca and without his pressure and new understanding and he comes, clear, completely new vision, we would not have come up with this European and / or this international vision IsoPlate. He is the first local European signing athlete in our lineup. It’s special for us to have our first one from Europe.
Loti says the isopleth turns out to be a single drop that they squeezed. Doncic talks about the wisdom he’s found throughout his travels, which is not only an interesting mathematical playground, but also a rich narrative backdrop from which to draw.
This is where another member of the “Science Project” comes in. It’s Kelsey Amy’s job to design the promotional and player edition colorways that Jordan’s athletes will wear in games. She and her team have to pull stories from everyone and then interpret them visually. Her designs have made waves in the WNBA and NBA. In fact, she is very nice and already knows about Ljubljana’s connection with dragons, and she introduced us to the famous Postojna cave in Slovenia, which Luka had previously visited. “Yeah, it’s like a little train and it goes through the tunnel,” Doncic said. “It’s cool.”
Amy conceived Luca 1’s Colorways as an intended album, not a random playlist. She said that throughout the 1st cycle of initiation, we will be traveling through the pre-mapped journey of Luca’s life.
“I think every colorway we have has a purpose to tell the story of Luca, the basketball player, and then Luca the individual,” Amy told KICKS. “So, upbringing, roots, what are his hobbies? What are his motivations? “
She also sees her work as an educational platform. Doncic arrives in Dallas where they don’t praise the Dragons, but they do praise the Cows. She has a chance to help him explain his story to those people.
But this tale does not end in Dallas.
Much of Luke 1 is designed with emphasis. Doncic found no resemblance to Nicky D’s images of his signature in front of the computer screen and in front of the computer screen.
“I think it’s very different now that you’re designing your own shoes.” “I had a lot to say about the colorway and how the shoe would look. Jordan gave me the opportunity to be involved. Fifty-fifty, we chose the colors together. It was a long process. It wasn’t easy, but it was easy for me. It was more difficult for the people on Jordan’s side to decide on the shoe.
He said that the pressure was reduced because the brand team withdrew from it if it did not feel new growth. In the year They listened to the entire process that began during the 2020 season when he was on the bubble.
Jordan sneaker designer and lead designer of the Luca 1, Joel Greenspan, remembers the design process clicking after a trip to Dallas.
“Although most of the meetings with Luca were done under pressure,” Greenspan told KICKS. A real breakthrough came in November 2021 when our team was able to visit Dallas and meet Luca in person. “This was our first in-person interaction with Luca, which was huge for us. It’s one thing to show a bunch of ships on Zoom and give a thumbs-up, but it’s another thing to be able to show the shoe in person, get his reaction and see him appreciate how he thinks it fits his style. . It’s the game that makes the process so worthwhile. We spent the whole day with him, went out to dinner together and learned more about him, which inspired us to finish his shoes with renewed energy. We look forward to future iterations. “That was really inspiring. Everything felt like Luca magic to me, and I hope people feel that magic when they get close to these shoes.”
“A lot of people can’t say they own a pair of shoes, especially a brand like Jordan,” Luca said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Finally, after fully working out the design and getting hold of his first pair—but not wearing them because he didn’t have the size in the first shipment—Doncic scored the Luka 1 with the Utah Jazz at this past summer’s playoffs.
“It was an amazing feeling,” he said. “It was a playoff game, an important game, I just came back from injury. I’m really excited to show off my shoes. It was unbelievable.”
The paths finally met. Dragons led him, conquest followed him and magic swirled around him for so many years that the wizard could actually somehow become a reality. The way he plays the ball, mercilessly destroying it with a smile on his face, discovering little pockets that were previously unknown, makes the world stop and look at him. No matter what he wears, every time he sticks it comes with a surprising promise. They don’t feel so far away when he plays miracles on the court. His personal map is vast, and growing. That’s why he couldn’t pick just one moment that was the most cinematic. This is all a legendary quest.
“I would say the whole trip. I’ve been dreaming of playing in the NBA, and now here with my signature shoe, it’s been an incredible journey. As a child I could only dream of being like that. It’s incredible. I am only 23 years old. It’s a long way to go hopefully,” Donchi says.
He has taken the road that no one else has taken. And it made all the difference.
But this tale is just beginning.
The KICKS 25 is also available in this special gold metal edition. Shop now.
Portraits by Alex Woodhouse.