Q&A: Bulls All-Star Zach LaVine discusses signing shoe deal with New Balance, ending run as sneaker free agent

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After a high-profile run as a sneaker free agent to start this season, Chicago Bulls shooting guard Zach LaVine is officially off the market and signs a deal with New Balance. The two-time All-Star spent much of the first part of the year dressing in different sneakers from all types of brands while identifying the perfect match.

One of the brands he wore regularly was New Balance and you might have noticed a change when during the All-Star game he donned a pair of their kicks. After that moment, it was just New Balance sneakers – Lavine’s decision was made.

In an exclusive interview with CBS Sports, LaVine discusses his experience working through a free sneaker agency, whether a signature shoe is an end goal, and more.

CBS Sports: You were a sneaker free agent all season; what was that process like and what were the things you were looking for in a brand?

Zach LaVine: It was really fun to get out there and find out what I liked. I wanted to be associated with someone who was invested in me and wanted me. The fact that I’m finally settling down and partnering with New Balance and them allowing me to be creative and be myself on and off the court is something that’s really close to my heart. The process was really fun, though, the first two months of going out and wearing anything every day. I haven’t done this since I was in high school, but now settling down with New Balance has been really good for me. I’ve been wearing them since the All-Star Game and I’m pretty comfortable.

CBS Sports: Have you ever had players from other notable brands lobbying for you during your free sneaker agency?

LaVine: Yeah, I got a couple guys like ‘hey, I see you wearing that.’ But a lot of people were pretty much wondering what was going on because I was an Adidas partner for so long and made the decision to part ways. I think more people just weren’t used to me wearing different shoes until it was finally established that I was a free agent.

SCS: What stood out to you at New Balance and made you want to join the team?

LaVine: They cared a lot. It’s always great to be wanted and to have someone invest in you. I wasn’t afraid to do something a little different. I think New Balance is doing a great job on and off the court. For me, personally, having them to allow me to be creative and tell my story, to mark myself with them and to grow with them is something that meant a lot. I was able to discuss with the marketing team. I was able to speak with the owners so it was a good process.

SCS: You participated in TWO WXY this season. Incredible shoe. Is this your favorite NB shoe and will it be your sneaker of choice in the future?

LaVine: These are the ones I wore. They have a few different versions. I wore an unreleased version during All-Star. I have worn lows and mediums. But right now, these are the ones I really love. They are able to process everything so quickly and get me custom colorways so I really appreciate that.

Some of the different New Balance sneakers that Zach LaVine has worn this season.

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SCS: Is a signature shoe one of your goals moving forward?

LaVine: I mean, to have those conversations and be at that level, you have to always be grateful. We are definitely in talks; I obviously don’t want to give away too much information by simply announcing that I’m signing. So right now I’m going to have a bunch of cool PEs and colorways coming out. In the future, you never know what it will contain. I guess you have to wait and see, but I’m extremely excited and we’re both invested with each other. I think that’s a good way to put it.

SCS: You join the NB family, which consists of Kawhi Leonard, Jamal Murray, Dejounte Murray, Darrius Bazley and Aaron Nesmith. What can you say about this collection of talent that New Brunswick has assembled?

LaVine: What’s cool is that it’s not a bunch of guys and it’s a tight-knit group. I’ve already spoken with a bunch of the guys on the list, obviously me and Dejounte have a strong bond growing up together but I’ve spoken with Darius Bazley, I’ve spoken with Jamal Murray, and even with Rich Paul partnering with the brand and seeing their process has been really cool. It already feels like a home environment.

SCS: Since you are so close to Dejounte Murray and he is already part of the New Balance family, have you ever consulted him about your process?

LaVine: I followed my whole process obviously from the beginning of the year until now that I made my decision. Towards the end, I talked to him about his feedback, what he thought of the brand at the start and how it evolved. It’s a new process for me and he’s been with the brand longer and he’s someone I trust and talk to so it’s been a big help.

SCS: Would you love your New Balance team if you had to compete against another brand?

LaVine: Oh yes. I am a competitor first and foremost. Having these conversations is always fun. I don’t think you’ll ever be able to see that unless you’re doing it in 2K or something. I think our roster complements each other pretty well, you have a diverse group with a bunch of top players. Let’s roll the ball and see what happens.

SCS: NB does a great job of collecting EPs and telling stories about their athletes through sneakers. Are you excited about this process and already have things you want to do?

LaVine: Yeah, to me, family means everything, so being able to tell that story and put it in a shoe or an EP would be awesome. Me coming from Seattle, the same as Dejounte, being able to tell my story from there. Different key moments in my career, things that mean the most to you — All-Star, my Slam Dunk contests, my time at UCLA. There will be many of these conversations to come where I can put my own creative thought process into it.

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