It was supposed to be an interview about a new pair of namesake sneakers. But nothing about these last few months, these last few weeks, and specifically, these last few days has been normal. Everything has a deeper meaning, everything is — and should be — about reflection.
God Shammgod, a player development coach for the Dallas Mavericks, knows all too well about reflection, especially in 2020. Shammgod, a standout player out of Manhattan’s La Salle Academy, went on to play two seasons at Providence College and led the Friars to the 1997 Elite Eight where they lost to a talented University of Arizona team, a team that featured future Mavericks star Jason Terry, and Mike Bibby. Arizona would go on to win the NCAA championship that year, but Shammgod’s 23-point performance in that matchup is still talked about.
Shammgod is perhaps best known for creating his signature one-handed crossover dribble a move once described as The ankle breaker, the quintessential unguardable move. “If you don’t know who he is, then you’re probably not very good,” current Mavs guard Seth Curry once quipped in a Washington Post story about Shammgod.
After an abbreviated NBA playing career, the second act of Shammgod’s basketball story will soon include the release of a personal sneaker from Puma — where Shammgod serves as a brand ambassador — and this release couldn’t have come at a more tumultuous time.
True to his humble character, Shammgod is using this sneaker release not only as a way to reflect on his much talked about career, but more importantly he is channeling this momentum towards a greater good: his community.
Mavs Moneyball had a chance to chat with Shammgod recently, about his career, his upcoming sneaker, his community, and how 2020 has affected him.
MMB: First off, with everything happening between the on-going pandemic and the recent murders of black people and subsequent protests, how are you doing?
SHAMM: (a deep sigh) Oh man, I feel blessed now. But I was mad, angry, you know, not surprised, but also disappointed. I was raised in a faith household, so my prayers immediately went out to George Floyd’s family and to everyone else that had an untimely death. And there’s so many, you know? But I have a lot of hope.
MMB: The Dallas Mavericks have been the benchmark on how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic and work-related issues from that, as well as being hands-on leaders during the Black Lives Matter protests. How does that make you feel as an employee and as a Black man?
SHAMM: When I talked about hope, a large part of the hope that I have comes from being a part of the Dallas Mavericks. And that’s not me just saying this because I’m employed by the Dallas Mavericks. I’m saying it because I know the people at the Dallas Mavericks. Mark Cuban has been more than a great leader, you know I don’t like to call him a boss because I grew up in a household where bosses push and leaders pull, and since I’ve been here, Mark has pulled us together. From day one when the pandemic hit the league, Mark was on the forefront pulling together for players, staff, arena staff, all of that. Mark also pulled a kid from Harlem back into the NBA, and brought me back into my purpose as a man who is here to help the next generation. Rick Carlisle, Donnie Nelson, Cynthia Marshall, the entire coaching staff took me under their wing, too. They helped me fine tune my skills without making me feel less than.
MMB: The Legacy Shammgod is a good looking sneaker. What was the process like for your involvement with Puma as a brand?
SHAMM: The process really started over three years ago. I’ve known people at Roc Nation including Jay-Z and Emory Jones. Emory Jones does consultant work, you know, for the culture and he’s the guy that will tell a company what’s good and what will sell. He does this for Puma and he eventually called me to see if I was signed to any sneaker deals. I wasn’t at the time, so an offer came from Puma. Initially, the offer was for me to become a consultant there because I trained so many up-and-coming kids in the basketball world. (Writer’s note: Shammgod knew Dennis Smith Jr. and Trae Young since both were in the 10th grade) But i had some stipulations, if I was going to be a consultant I needed to look out for my community. I wanted to do some tournaments, food giveaways, all free for the community. This was non-negotiable to me. Thankfully, Puma has been and continues to be committed to the culture so this worked out for all.
MMB: Tying in to your role at Puma as an ambassador/consultant, how did the relationship lead up to the development of your sneaker?
SHAMM: The body of work I’ve put in, everything from the 1995 McDonald’s All-American game, to the 1997 tournament, the Shammgod crossover, all of that has created a brand that still resonates with kids today, especially for ball handling. Puma recognized this and backed my camps and training endeavors with apparel. Over time, kids would always ask me why I didn’t have any Shammgod exclusive sneakers and when I wore a pair of custom sneakers that someone made for me, that really drove conversations about a Shammgod pair especially on Instagram. And then Mark Cuban asked me for a pair so I got him a pair, and that only hyped up the demand when he wore them to Dirk’s retirement. When the NBA allowed players to wear whatever sneakers, the discussions with Puma about releasing a Shammgod exclusive sneaker really ramped up and came to be.
MMB: You talked about the need to give back to your community in your deal with Puma. What specific funds or groups, if any, will the Legacy Shammgod sneaker benefit?
SHAMM: Absolutely, I’ve partnered up with Share For Life, a non-profit organization founded in New York that does after school programs, gives out food to the homeless, they work for disadvantaged communities in the city. With the shoe, I’m donating over 2,000 masks to Grant Houses housing project in Harlem, a place where I went to school right up the block. This housing project has the leading rates of COVID-19 deaths in the city. We’re also working on food program for the Marcy Houses housing projects. It’s always been about the community, especially now. It’s not just about a sneaker, it’s about the culture because if you’re going to be about the culture, you have to be about the people.
MMB: What’s your favorite aspect, design-wise, about the Legacy Shammgod sneaker?
SHAMM: During design phase, I wanted to make sure it reflect me, Shammgod, and the culture. We put 1997 on the back heel to reflect my time in the NCAA Tournament, when I first did the Shammgod crossover on national television. We went with a red, black, and white colorway to represent my high school. The concrete on the side is because New York is known as the concrete jungle. But my favorite aspect is inside the shoe where we have a tutorial on how to do the crossover move.
MMB: What has been the reaction about this sneaker release from those who know you?
SHAMM: They’re obviously very excited for me. And I’m excited for this as well, but you know it’s kind of a strange time for it with everything going on. But what I’m choosing to do is make this have a positive effect on community, now more than ever.
MMB: 2020 has definitely been a tumultuous year. What are your takeaways, even though we’re only six months in?
SHAMM: It all started with Kobe Bryant, for me. Kobe was the first kid I ever worked out in my life — I was 17 he was 16. That’s how we became so close, he always said I taught him how to dribble. So his passing in January was especially hard. Still dealing with the passing of Nipsey Hussle from last year. And then the pandemic hit and New York was just devastated by it. So 2020 has been rough, but like I said before, I have hope. One of the things that gets me through is coming to work here for the Mavericks everyday. People here do such a good job of checking on me, when the Mavs say it’s a family here, it really been just that for me. We need to love harder. That’s how we’ll make it through this, not just the next 6 months of 2020, but moving on.