Inside The Sneaker Room Of Langston Galloway, 'The Sneaker Custom King' [VIDEO]

You haven't met a sneakerhead like the Pistons sharpshooter.

Will Burchfield
March 06, 2020 - 2:44 pm
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The irony of Langston Galloway's sneaker collection, which spans the walls that double his 6'8 wingspan and climbs to the ceiling in an office-sized room in his Royal Oak home (and that's only half the collection), is that he no longer has the kicks that started it. He lost them. Actually, his mom threw them out.

That's what Galloway suspects, anyway. They were his first pair of Jordan 13's, the ones Ray Allen and Denzel Washington made famous in 'He Got Game.' A reward from his parents for his good grades. Galloway wore them everywhere, wore them home from the Footaction in Baton Rouge, wore them outside and on the basketball court, wore them until they broke down. Then one day they were gone. 

"I was shocked, like, where my shoes at? And my mom was like, 'What are you talking about, what shoes?' We never could find them, so I’m assuming she threw them away. From then on I was like, alright, I’m gonna get 'em back and then just keep collecting from there," Galloway says. 

He says this as he's standing inside his own dream, surrounded by some 600 pairs of sneakers he's spent years -- and who knows how much cash -- collecting. He's got another 500 or so back home in Louisiana. Galloway's sneaker obsession is well known; he wears a new pair of custom kicks every time the Pistons take the floor. The story about his first Jordan's is old, if ageless. But when Galloway meets us at his front door, leads us upstairs and then opens the door to his lab? This is new. 

As we step inside his home, he graciously makes one request: "Just take off your shoes." (Speaking of irony.) I ditch my foolish-looking lime-green Vans, hoping our host hasn't seen them. Evan, our web producer/resident sneakerhead, slides off his Air Max 97 Neon Seoul's. Galloway nods his head in respect, game recognize game.

When it comes to sneaker collections, Evan isn't easily impressed. He's got the real deal in his own basement. He'll even make Galloway do a double-take later in our conversation when he tells him he snagged the Off-White Jordan 5's in a recent raffle on the Nike SNKRs app. "You got those!?" says Galloway, snapping his head around. "Oh my goodness." But the moment we come upon Galloway's collection, Evan goes quiet. His eyes are scanning the walls so quickly, so wildly, I honestly think he might faint.

Galloway gives us a little background, as I wait for Evan to gather his bearings. He did wind up getting another pair of Jordan 13's, once he could afford them in college. He still has the Kobe 5's or 6's -- the ones "with the spikes" -- that he wore when he led St. Joseph's to the NCAA Tournament his senior year. Right now, he's big on "all the school pick-ups," like the Oregon Jordan 13's and the Michigan Jordan 11's. 

At last, a word from Evan. He wants to know about a pair of old Jordan 12's he's spotted that only came in women's sizes. Evan confesses he bought them anyway, because he had to have them. Galloway did the same. Turns out, he's done it a few times. Sneakerheads, man. 

"I just get the biggest size they have," says Galloway, a *men's* size 12. "It might be a women's shoe, but it’s just too hard not to get."

Galloway, who entered the NBA with the Knicks in 2014, came to Detroit as a free agent in 2016. That same season, he signed with Q4 sports, a startup shoe company trying to find some space in the NBA market. Q4 appealed to Galloway for a couple reasons. One, unlike bigger shoe companies, they let their athletes rock other brands off the court. Two, they give Galloway total freedom when it comes to design. 

"They’ve kind of let me have my own freelance to do whatever I want with the shoes," says Galloway. "I’ve had all my shoes customized, all of them different."

If you've watched a Pistons game the past couple years, you've noticed. The NBA did away with its shoe restrictions starting last season. Players these days can wear whatever their hearts desire. Galloway's heart is tethered to his childhood, a ball on a nylon string. He grew up on the cartoons and movies of the '90s. Now he splashes the characters on his sneakers, bringing them back to life. He's a man of his own and a walking re-run, every beautiful night. 

In the past few months alone, Galloway's repped Johnny Bravo. He's repped the Powerpuff Girls. He's repped Pinky and the Brain, Spongebob and Patrick, Garfield and Odie. Over Christmas, he saluted Buddy the Elf and Home Alone. Sometimes he's solemn. He paid tribute to the likes of Harriet Tubman, Jesse Owens and poet/social activist Langston Hughs during Black History Month. Galloway will auction off this year's kicks after the season to raise money for the foundation in his name that supports student athletes in Baton Rouge and Detroit. 

(Get it on the bidding through his website or Instagram.)

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Season 6 Game 58 Jesse Owens...Find the Good ---- #LGKICKS . . . . . #kicksonfire #modernnotoriety #featuredfootwear #dailysole #nicekicks #kicks0l0gy #certifiedshot #sneakgallery #swiftkickz #heskicks #sharpshooters #solewatch #soleperfect #sneakerpolitics #igsneakercommunity #angelusdirect #complexkicks #flightskool #kickfeed #soleysneakers #sneakershouts #whatthekicks #the_perfect_pair #sneakernews #sneakerfiles #andr3wtl #refreshpgh #solecollector

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The ideas for the sneakers belong to Galloway. He laughs when I ask if he ever runs out of inspiration: "The '90s has too much cartoons and movies. There’s always something." The designs (mostly) come courtesy of the well-known sneaker artist Andrew Lewis, who turns around an idea in just a couple days. It was all pretty smooth when Lewis lived in Minneapolis. Then he upped and moved to Vegas. Sometimes, Galloway laughs, the sneakers will arrive on his doorstep a couple hours before tip-off and his wife will rush them off to the area. 

It's this kind of commitment to his craft that puts Galloway in a league of his own in the NBA. 

"I feel like I’m probably the sneaker custom king, because no one else is doing what I’m doing," he says. "I mean, there’s a couple guys that are either working with Andrew or with other people, and they’ve done some good stuff. But over a whole span of 82 (games), I feel like I have the best custom game, for sure." 

Galloway, 28, will be a free agent this summer. His three-year, $21 million deal with the Pistons is about to expire. He and his wife have already begun planning the great shoe migration in the event he signs elsewhere; in truth, they have no idea how it will go. Galloway's sneakers covered just a sliver of the walls in this room when he arrived in Detroit. A new team and a new city could bring all kinds of complications. 

But it's not that free agency Galloway seems to be thinking about right now. His deal with Q4 is about to expire, too. For the first time in his career, he stands to be a big name on the sneaker industry's open market. "Man, it’s crazy," he says. "I got both of them coming up this summer. I don’t know what I’m more excited about, but we’ll see. It should be fun." Wherever he signs in the sneaker game, he's hoping for the same freedoms he enjoyed with Q4.

It's freedom that really defines Galloway's obsession. The sneakers he buys and the sneakers he creates are a canvas for his personality. They allow him to tell us who he is, to share himself with the world. In this way, his kicks stand for freedom of expression. Sometimes, like just the other day, Galloway will lie on the carpeted floor of this room and let his eyes wander the walls, "admiring the scene."

"It's a lot of hard work that’s gone into this, and there’s a lot of players that have been commemorated with all these shoes," he says. "I kind of look back and I'm like, man, this is pretty cool to see what they’ve done with their careers and what I continue to do with mine, trying to customize and build my brand. I could be in here for hours, just looking."

Before we leave, I ask Evan if he's got anything else to add. He does, so we spend a few more minutes talking about the Vince Carter Shox -- the ones up there on the top shelf, signed by Carter himself -- and which player has the best sneaker out right now. It's Kyrie, in Galloway's estimation. He's as engaging now as the moment we walked in. As we finally head for the door, Evan stops, halted by his eyes, and points toward one last case. 

"Oh, you got those Deion Sanders?"