Unless you’re an NBA fan, you might not know who Jeff Hamilton is. If you are, you still might not know who Jeff Hamilton is.
Should you fall into the latter category, you’ve probably seen one of his jackets. Celebrating the successes of NBA franchises through proud displays of team badges and city insignia, Jeff’s leather NBA champions jackets became a beloved outerwear choice of the ’80s, ’90s, and 00’s best basketball players —counting Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Lebron James as fans.
His jackets also permeated pop culture outside of the NBA. Madonna, Nelson Mandela, and Muhammad Ali have all sported Hamilton’s designs, while Drake wore a “Farewell Mamba” varsity jacket, complete with Kobe graphic and Toronto Raptors badge to Kobe’s final 2016’s NBA All-Star Game. This year, The Weeknd merged two sports worlds by wearing a custom jacket to his SuperBowl halftime performance.
Now, Jeff Hamilton’s designs are being honored in the sneaker world. The designer has hooked up with Chinatown Market and Converse to release a collab pack paying homage to two of the NBA’s biggest franchises — the Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers.
Firmly ingrained in the basketball world, Hamilton and the NBA was a two-way love affair. Case in point, after the 1998 NBA Finals and Michael Jordan’s famous “last shot,” legend has it that MJ, cigar in one hand and champagne bottle in the other, demanded his Hamilton-designed jacket before proceeding with any further celebrations.
It’s not just the jackets that have been there at these moments, but the designer himself, too. He’s proudly attended “every single finals game that Michael Jordan has ever played.” He’s also been in the locker room before some of basketball’s most important matches. “Before the 2002 NBA All-Star game in Philadelphia, I was talking to Kobe. I said to him that he’ll win the MVP. It’s yours to win, I told him. The next time I was in the locker room with Kobe was the 2004 All-Star game in Los Angeles.” Those two matches saw Kobe’s first and second All-Star MVPs.
Through close and genuine friendships with NBA stars across three generations, Hamilton is deeply connected with the sport’s past. It’s only right that he gets to leave more of his mark on its present and that’s why this sneaker collab makes perfect sense.
Hamilton’s sneaker pack includes two classic Converse silhouettes — the Pro Leather and Chuck 70. Both coming in two Bulls and Lakers colorway options each, the shoes pay tribute to the Bulls’ ’98 and ’93 Championships, while the Lakers’ ’85, ’82, and famous 2002 wins are marked.
A brief mention of that 2002 win and the NBA tales keep coming. Jeff has a lot of them. “After that game, I was looking for Kobe. I found him sat in the corner of the locker room, meditating with the trophy in his hand. That famous image with Kobe looking sad with the trophy in his hand, taken by my friend Andy Bernstein, happened right then.”
Speaking about the collaboration Hamilton says, “I was first introduced to CTM by Ronnie 2k. After Kobe’s passing and The Last Dance documentary coming out, we talked about how we could revive the iconic jackets, particularly the most well-known pieces like the 1988 and 2002 jackets, in response to this growing interest from a new generation. The reaction has been amazing.”
Though he still maintains a close relationship with Michael, Jeff’s many stories of NBA friendships, including how he knew LeBron James as a teenager and once “swapped a jacket for his high school basketball jersey” suggest he’s never been a one-team man. Still, it feels special to get a Converse collab from a man who is usually devoutly Jordan.
“I’ve been a loyal Jordan guy for a long time. But growing up in France, I loved basketball when people like Jerry West and Magic Johnson were playing. At that time, Converse, the Chuck Taylor, and the Pro were everywhere. These sneakers feel natural for me. Getting Michael to wear one might be difficult, though.”
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