A lot of players have their own signature shoe but only a select few have an entire brand. Al Harrington recently joined that exclusive club when he recently unveiled his new Protege line. I caught up with Harrington in the visitor's locker room after a recent win in Detroit to talk about the new brand.
As Harrington explained, the desire to launch his own brand was more than an act of vanity -- his shoes cost just $34.99, making them accessible to most families regardless of income level.
"It was something that I created like three years ago, and it's been a three-year journey of finally getting it to where it's finally out in K-Mart," Harrington said. "But I pretty much made it because I wanted to be a 'give-back brand,' just realizing that it's hard for people to pay a hundred to two hundred dollars for a pair of shoes.
"I wanted to make a shoe line that was credible by me being able to wear it in games, [plus] Stephen Jackson and Ron Artest. We have a couple other celebrities that are going to be making shoes under the brand, also."
Being a "give-back brand" entails more than producing cheap kicks -- it also means giving them away. Protege and K-Mart have partnered to give away one million pairs of shoes to Samaritan's Feet, a non-profit that provides shoes to impoverished children across the world.
As Harrington explained, he's "all the way involved" in the design process and frequently solicits feedback from teammates. When I first walked into the locker room, I saw this action: Nate Robinson and Chris Duhon were huddled around Harrington's iPhone checking out a new design while suggesting new color schemes.
"I'm all the way involved. I have to OK pretty much everything," Harrington said. "It's a lot of fun. I have a great designer out of L.A. named Dallas Stokes, and he just keeps shoes coming, keep them coming so I always look at them and see what Nate thinks because I respect Nate's opinion when it comes to sneakers and stuff like that. So that's how I make a lot of my decisions."