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

After a highly-publicized run as a sneaker free agent to start this season, Chicago Bulls shooting guard Zach LaVine is officially off the market and signing a deal with New Balance. The two-time All-Star spent much of the early part of year suiting up in different sneakers from all types of brands as he went through the process of identifying the perfect match. 

One of the brands he wore regularly was New Balance and you could notice a shift when during the All-Star Game he laced up a pair of their kicks. After that moment, it’s been all New Balance sneakers — Lavine’s mind was made up.

In an exclusive interview with CBS Sports, LaVine discusses his experience through sneaker free agency, whether a signature shoe is an ultimate goal and much 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 actually really fun to go out and figure out what I liked. I wanted to be partnered with somebody that was invested in me and wanted me. For me to finally settle down and partner with New Balance and have them allow me to be creative and be myself on and off the court is something I truly care about. The process was really fun, though, first couple months going out there and wearing whatever everyday. I haven’t done that since I was in high school, but now to settle down with New Balance has been really good for me. I’ve been wearing them since the All-Star Game and I’ve been pretty comfortable.

CBS Sports: Did you ever have any players from other notable brands lobbying for you during your sneaker free agency?

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

CBS: What stood out to you about New Balance that made you want to join the team?

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

CBS: You’ve hooped in the TWO WXY this season. Amazing shoe. Is that your favorite NB shoe and will that be your sneaker of choice moving forward?

LaVine: Those are the ones I have been wearing. They have a couple different versions. I wore a version that hasn’t come out yet during All-Star. I’ve been wearing the low tops and the mids. But right now those are the ones that I really like. They’re able to process everything so fast and get me some custom colorways so I really appreciate it.

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

CBS: Is a signature shoe a goal of yours moving forward?

LaVine: I mean, to have those conversations and be at this level you always have to be thankful. We’re definitely in talks; don’t want to give too much information away obviously with just announcing that I’m signing. So for right now I’m going to have a bunch of cool PEs and colorways coming out. In the future, you never know what it’s going to hold. 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.

CBS: 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 NB has put together?

LaVine: What’s cool is that it’s not a bunch of guys and it’s a close-knit group. I’ve talked already with a bunch of guys on the roster, obviously me and Dejounte have close ties with growing up together but I’ve talked with Darius Bazley, I’ve talked with Jamal Murray, and even with Rich Paul being partnered with the brand and seeing his process has been really cool. It already feels like a family environment. 

CBS: With you being so close with Dejounte Murray and him already being part of the New Balance family, did you ever consult with him about your process?

LaVine: I went through my whole process obviously from the beginning of the year up until now that I’ve made my decision. Toward the end I did talk to him for his feedback, what he thought of the brand early on and how they’re growing. It’s a new process for me and he’s been with the brand longer and that’s somebody that I trust and talk to so it helped out a lot.

CBS: Do you like your New Balance squad if you had to match up against any other brand?

LaVine: Oh, yeah. I’m a competitor first and foremost. Having those conversations is always fun. I don’t think you’ll ever be able to see this unless you do it in like 2K or something like that. I think our roster stacks up pretty well, you got a diverse group with a bunch of high-level players. Let’s roll the ball out and see what happens.

CBS: NB does a great job putting together PEs and telling stories about their athletes through sneakers. Are you excited about that process and do you have things you already want to do?

LaVine: Yeah, for me family means everything, so being able to tell that story and put it into a shoe or a PE would be great. Me coming from Seattle, the same as Dejounte, being able to tell my story from that. Different key moments from my career, things that mean the most to you — All-Star, my Slam Dunk contests, my time at UCLA. There’s going to be a lot of these conversations going forward to where I’m able to put my own creative thought process into it.