Although the first two years of Elton Brand‘s tenure with the Philadelphia 76ers have been plagued by injuries and Lottery appearances, the two-time NBA All-Star — who boasts career averages of 19.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game — is going to be a key figure in Philly’s most recent rebuilding effort, holding down the paint while Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner attack from the perimeter.
Over the weekend, Brand was at Girard College in North Philly for the unveiling of his new Converse EB3 signature shoe. The event ran in conjunction with Converse’s Open Gym program, where 150 of the city’s best ballplayers, ages 12-18, ran organized pickup games throughout the day when they weren’t getting free haircuts, dropping by the photo booth, or listening to DJ Truuf on the ones and twos. Open Gym invitees also received a pair of EB3′s from Elton Brand.
During the launch, I got a chance to get up with the 76ers’ big man…
Dime: What do you like about this shoe style-wise?
Elton Brand: I like the classic look. It’s a clean design with a basic flow. I like the colors, too.
Dime: What do you look for in a shoe that’s not only going to represent you, but that you also have to rely on every game?
EB: I look for it to be sturdy. Since I’m a big guy, I need it to keep my foot in place, but still get good movement. I want to be quick in the post, but still have a shoe that’s going to stay together on my foot.
Dime: What’s the appeal of launching the EB3 at an event like Open Gym?
EB: It’s a great feeling. You know, my son’s birthday is today, so I got to spent some time with him and see him smile, and then to come out here and maybe put a smile on some of these kids’ faces, it’s a great thing. Plus, you know, times are hard out here; any time you can get some free shoes and a place to play, that’s big.
Dime: Were you one of these kids back in your day, always looking for somewhere to play?
EB: Absolutely. I was always looking to run, always looking for the next game. I know what that’s like to want to play every day and want to improve my game every day. So it feels good to do something like this, for Converse to be out here as a staple in the community.
Dime: You’re on the other side of 30 now. Does that change your training and your workout regimen at all?
EB: Absolutely. You know, this summer was the longest I’ve ever gone without playing. Just off the recommendations from the trainers and team doctors, I didn’t get on the court until late-July. And that was hard. Like I said, I was that kid who was always at Open Gym, always looking to play and be on the court every day, so I wasn’t used to that. But I feel like it’s working as far as how I’ve felt so far this season. I feel good.
Dime: I’m looking at your career stat lines, and it’s 20-and-10, 20-and-10, every year until you had two injuries. Now it’s like people have forgotten about you. Do you feel like you’ve become underrated again?
EB: Oh, definitely. At the same time, I am fortunate, because I’ve seen a lot of players not make it back from injuries. But I put in a lot of hard work, and my goal now is to prove everybody wrong.
Dime: How do the Sixers look this year?
EB: We’re looking good. Jrue Holiday is so talented; he’s going to be even better than he was as a rookie. He had a triple-double the other night. I know it’s just preseason, but that’s not easy. Andre Iguodala with Team USA this summer, he sacrificed for a common goal and he won. That kind of thing is contagious and hopefully we play the same way this year. Coach (Doug) Collins holds us accountable, and as long as we play our roles we should be good.
Dime: What kind of player will you be this season?
EB: The thing is, Coach was working the game for TNT when I scored 40 in the playoffs. He’s seen it first-hand. He knows what I can do. He puts his players in a position to utilize their talents, so I think I’ll get that opportunity.
Elton Brand’s Converse EB3 is available now at JC Penney for $49.99
UPCOMING CONVERSE OPEN GYM EVENTS:
Oct. 23 — Atlanta (BEST Academy)
Oct. 30 — Atlanta (Georgia Tech)
Nov. 6 — Boston (Boston University)
Nov. 13 — Atlanta (BEST Academy) and Miami (Miami-Dade College)
Nov. 20 — Atlanta (Morehouse College) and Chicago (ATTACK Athletics)