Even in a league as media-saturated as the NBA, some things are best spread by word of mouth.
It was Montrezl Harrell who first asked Donovan Mitchell: Would you like some custom shoes? I know a guy.
Three pairs of shoes later, the Jazz rookie is glad he found out about Kickstradomis. And now he’s spreading the word himself.
“He’s a good dude,” Mitchell said. “He’s expanded his business rapidly.”
It takes only a casual scroll through NBA Instagram to find the work of Kickstradomis, the professional name of 31-year-old artist Salvador Amezcua, who lives in Los Angeles. Since diving into the NBA market through a relationship with Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns, Amezcua has seen his business — painting custom designs on NBA stars’ oversized sneakers — grow by leaps and bounds. He’s done shoes for James Harden and Kristaps Porzingis among his high-profile NBA clientele.
One of those leaps came when he reached out to Mitchell through Harrell. Amezcua had been itching to try his hand customizing Adidas Dame 4s, and he knew Mitchell wore them for every game.
The first pair Mitchell requested were for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January. He didn’t ask for anything specific: Make a pair of shoes honoring Dr. King. The rest was up to Amezcua.
“I wanted to make it a powerful shoe with meaning behind it,” he said. “I figure the first thing you see is the toe box, so I put the fist on it. Then I put the quotes [’I have a dream‘ and ‘Let freedom ring!’] on the sides.”
The shoes were a hit with Mitchell — and the rest of the NBA. And so the collaboration continued.
Amezcua since has done two more pairs for Mitchell: a black “Spida” custom and red Dames that drew attention for heralding the 2013 Louisville basketball team, which had its title stripped by the NCAA last month. In the case of the Louisville shoes, Mitchell called Amezcua for a last-minute customization. He asked that the names of all the players from the 2013 team be written along the base.
“It allows you to express yourself and show a different side of yourself,” Mitchell said. “The Louisville shoes were a bigger hit than I expected. Those were cool.”
Amezcua’s path to becoming one of the most in-demand customizers in the NBA was an unlikely one. To start, he’s color-blind — without his trusted labels on his paints, he wouldn’t be able to differentiate between earthy brown and green tones, which often are used colors in his toolbox. He also stopped painting for a year after a car accident in 2016, which made laboring over a pair of shoes for a few hours a painful prospect for his back.
But after some collaborations with Towns, he said he rediscovered his passion for painting. He quit his warehouse job to run his business full time soon after the season started.
“It exploded right after the season started, pretty much,” he said. “Once they started hitting ESPN, it was a wrap.”
One of Amezcua’s big metiers is cartoon characters. He’s drawn from “Dragon Ball Z,” “Rick and Morty,” “The Boondocks” and other toons when customizing shoes for NBA players. One of Harrell’s favorite pairs were Krusty the Clown (of “Simpsons” fame) sneakers he did for him earlier this season.
“He takes a lot of time to actually do the shoe and make it look like what you want to look like,” said Harrell, who has gotten close to Amezcua since they both live in Los Angeles. “Every time he’s working on a new project or finishing, I’m kind of the one who sees the pictures before they go viral. Just seeing a guy who loves working on his craft that actually found the time to do it and be recognized for it is cool.”
Expect future collaborations not just with Mitchell, but also with other Jazz stars. Amezcua is designing a pair for Rudy Gobert’s monster size 20 shoes that will pay tribute to “One Piece,” Gobert’s favorite anime show. He’s also doing a pair for Ricky Rubio that have more personal meaning — they’ll have a theme focusing on fighting cancer, and they’ll debut at a Jazz game later in March for a 5 For the Fight night.
Mitchell helped recommend Kickstradomis to both of them. Word of mouth keeps sustaining his art and bringing new challenges to his table.
“These kinds of projects — it’s an honor,” Amezcua said. “It’s cool to help these guys express who they are and what they stand for. It’s amazing that they’re reaching out and want to do these personal things that mean a lot to them.”
JAZZ AT PACERS
Where • Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
Tipoff • Wednesday, 5 p.m. MT Wednesday
TV • AT&T Sportsnet
Radio • 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone
Records • Utah 34-30; Indiana 37-27
Last meeting • Indiana won 109-94 (Jan. 15, 2018)
About the Jazz • Utah has the highest defensive rebounding percentage in the league (84.9 percent) since the All-Star break. … Rudy Gobert is averaging 15.0 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.4 bpg and 62.2 percent shooting in the 20 games since his last return. … Donovan Mitchell is averaging 3.1 ppg in “clutch” situations, which is 20th-most in the NBA.
About the Pacers • Indiana has been hot, going 7-3 in its last 10 games and winning its last three. … Victor Oladipo leads the league in steals with 2.2 per game. … The Pacers have the third-best defense in the NBA (98.9 defensive rating) behind the Jazz and the Trail Blazers since the All-Star break.