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5 for Friday: George Kiel

We talk all things sneakers and the balance between style and substance in basketball culture with a man who’s immersed himself in the subject.

We get to interact with some pretty cool people here at Hudl. Between coaches, video coordinators, players and talent evaluators, we search for insights inside the basketball space. Now we want to share that access with you.

Welcome to 5 For Friday, where we sit down with one individual each week and hit them with five questions.

This week our guest is George Kiel, the founder of coiski.com and former Editor-In-Chief of NiceKicks.com and host of the “Sneak Peek” and “Kicks On Court Weekly” Youtube video series. Kiel is also the founder of the Kiel Colon Cancer Foundation, which puts on the Kick & Roll Classic 3-On-3 Basketball Event in Austin, Texas, each summer.

Kiel is fascinated with the sneaker culture in basketball and is respected as a sneaker insider. Allow him to explain why shoes play such a big role in the sport, but ultimately it’s a player’s game that does the talking.

Why have sneakers become such an important piece of basketball culture?

“I think that sneakers are the best way for athletes to express themselves in an individual manner. With basketball players, everyone wears the same jersey, the same shorts. But the shoes kind of allow them to show their own personality and create an identity. Back in the day, everyone wore the same team shoe. But now, with the option to be able to wear whatever you want, it gives them a chance to have a different identity and express themselves.”

Does basketball shoe culture feed off the importance of brands and individuality in society overall?

“Definitely. That’s a direct thought. Shoes really play into that, and you can tell a lot about a person from the shoes they’re wearing. That gives you a different type of market to attack, and I’ve seen many professional players, by showing they have a fun personality with their shoes, go on to sign lucrative deals with brands. Those brands can see these guys know about their shoes.”

What’s one high-profile example of a brand recognizing a player as a personality?

“Look at the Lakers’ Nick Young. For a while, he just wore everything that was from his closet, his collection. We actually did a video. We went to his house and saw everything that he wears. Brands took notice of that and just last year, Adidas signed him to a multi-year contract. If you go back and look, his time wearing the shoes from his collection gave him the platform to show people and show brands that he’s quite the shoe guy.

“You see the brands on the other side, they do a lot of marketing on the shoes of their individual players. You’ll see a LeBron James or a James Harden, they’ll make them some shoes that are inspired by something that they like off the court. It definitely is a personality thing.”

There’s a popular phrase, “Look good, play good.” Can a certain brand of sneakers give a player confidence?

“In my opinion, no. You hear that a lot and I guess it can give you some type of confidence when you’re looking good. But you have to have the game, first and foremost.

How do you find the balance between style and performance?

“It all depends on what you’re using it for. If it’s basketball, I’ll definitely recommend a performance-based shoe, but you don’t want to have a performance-based shoe that just is horrible aesthetically. You try to find a balance. The latest that the brands have to offer have been a combination of both. Nike is making some awesome shoes from the likes of Kobe, LeBron and Durant, and they actually play good as well. There are some shoes out there that are not as appealing, but for the most part there’s a nice balance right now.”

BONUS: Can you tell us more about the 3-on-3 tournament and where people can go to learn more about your foundation?

“It’s a colon cancer awareness event that we run in Austin for the Kiel Colon Cancer Foundation, which I’m the executive director of. It’s a sneaker-themed basketball event, and we raise awareness through different panels and special guests. It’s more of a basketball festival than a 3-on-3 tournament. We have some of Austin’s best food trucks there. We have music. We had (former NBA star) Nate Robinson as a special guest last year. It’s a big-time event where you can get educated and play for a good cause.

“People can go to our website at kielcoloncaner.org. On the homepage, there is stuff about our event. There’s a donation tab. Anything about our organization you can find there.”

Previous 5 for Friday entries

Mark Turgeon, Maryland head coach

BJ Johnson, USA Basketball assistant director

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