Those Red Octobers were a good lesson that even for the NBA’s most recognizable players, the sneaker trade can be harsh. Once, another high-profile NBA superstar sent McLeod on a wild goose chase to track down a few pairs of Kanye’s new shoes for him. Her connect at Barneys said he had a few pairs. ”I’m like, ‘Oh this will be easy,’” she says. “It was not that easy.” The shoes at Barneys were gone by the time she got there. She was told to try now-shuttered retailer Atrium, and then the Nike Store and it went on like this until it was the end of the day and she was still sneakerless. She vowed from that point on to avoid the trouble of dealing with rare sneakers.
And so, when Tucker asked her in 2018 to help track down a pair of the new Serena Williams x Virgil Abloh Nikes, she passed—and then walked by an Off-White store in downtown New York City that was hosting a surprise drop of the sneakers. She bought them without issue; he wore them in the tunnel a few months later. This is the first tenet of P.J. Tucker’s sneaker collecting strategy: sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. You know that old phrase about how luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity? Tucker is the relentlessly prepared sneaker collector.
Because when it’s not just sheer luck, it’s hard work. Even though he is the NBA’s posterboy for rare shoes, Tucker has explained that he still doesn’t get sent all the hottest new releases. He was not seeded the Nike x Ben & Jerry’s “Chunky Dunky,” for example—one of 2020’s biggest releases. “That was a release I didn’t get,” he said, still a little shocked. Persistence, though, won out. He checked resale sites like eBay daily for the Chunky Dunkys until he found a pair in his size. (Tucker apparently uses his real name as his handle when buying shoes through eBay, a fact that leads to funny interactions with fanboy resellers.)
Most of Tucker’s sneaker finds require more sleuthing, though. “Don’t think this is as basic as, ‘Just let me go on StockX and buy this,’” McLeod says. But while McLeod says she’s been around to see how Tucker gets his shoes, she won’t give away his secrets.
Luckily, someone else will. One sneaker reseller who has helped find sneakers for Tucker in the past (and who asked to remain anonymous) outlined the way these more advanced transactions happen. Take the Jordan 5 PRFCs, for example. If Tucker had come to him looking for these shoes, this dealer explained, he’d immediately reach for his Rolodex. In the case of the PRFCs, he would reach out to “essentially anyone that would have access to [Anthony’s] personal camp,” he says. He’d work from the assumption that the shoes were issued to those in Anthony’s inner circle, as well as the players and managers on the Puerto Rico team. (The fact that these shoes likely leaked from Anthony’s inner circle is why Melo told Tucker, “It’s not about you having them, it’s about where you get them from [that’s a problem].”)