After receiving attention on a game-to-game basis for his rare and exclusive sneakers throughout the Phoenix Suns‘ playoff run, guard Langston Galloway has his biggest surprise yet planned ahead of Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
He’s unveiling his own sneaker brand.
ETHICS, a company co-owned by Galloway and his wife, Sabrina, plans to tell the story of the undrafted 6-foot-1 shooting guard’s unlikely path from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Saint Joseph’s University to a seven-year career in the NBA. He will wear an all-white version of his ETHICS LG 1 signature shoe throughout the Finals, with a full retail release of several colorways planned for the fall.
“My work ethic has gotten me to this point in my career,” Galloway said. “But the ethics started since I was a kid to becoming a grown-up, living out my life and living out my dreams.”
With his prior shoe deal with Q4 Sports set to expire last season, and several companies on a spending freeze to sign new sneaker deals, Galloway spent the majority of the 2020-21 season as a sneaker free agent. Behind the scenes, he had decided to take matters into his own hands.
“I love wearing the brands, but the most important thing to me, was having ownership and leaving behind a legacy for my son and my daughter. That was my mindset,” the 29-year-old said.
He outlines a design, concept and branding process that began in early 2020, with the hours spent on ETHICS ramping up once the NBA season was cut short in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Me and my designer went in full steam,” he said. “Talking every single day, sharing sketches, and then, once COVID happened, we were on a call or Zoom every day. Once we got in touch with the factories, we got the molds, different details that we wanted to have on the shoe and the test samples — it was a lot of countless hours going back and forth.”
Used to his nonstop travel and practice schedule during the season, his wife had a different perspective.
“The best part about it was even though you guys had to pivot with communication, you also were sitting at home with us,” Sabrina Galloway said. “You literally said, ‘Let me just dig 10 toes deep, cause I can’t go anywhere or do anything.'”
After “having a billion different questions” for the factory partners and ultimately getting physical samples of the shoes in his size 12.5 to try out, tinker with and adjust along the way, Galloway and his wife also focused on the branding, marketing and potential roll-out of the company.
That led Galloway to enroll in the Harvard Business School and NBA’s joint program “Crossover into Business” in February. The three-month course pairs professional athletes from various sports with Harvard MBA students.
Athletes enrolled gain insight into the business world and partnership structures at a high level, while also receiving advice and feedback on specific projects they’re pursuing.
“It was a huge part!” he said. “The group that I had helped me with ideas, but also I was able to review cases on startup businesses.”
Galloway says he has landed on a price point for his shoe in the $100-$120 range, to appeal to “kids that’ve been through similar things.” The design of his first LG 1 model is a mix of familiar and forward, “a way to give kudos to all of the nostalgia and all of the shoes that I’ve worn in my past,” he added.
The brand name is also decidedly more of an overarching concept, with the potential for other athletes to join down the road and create their own signature footwear under the ETHICS umbrella.
As more and more players of all levels around the league look at their marketing and branding, Galloway mentions how ventures like Lavar and Lonzo Ball‘s Big Baller Brand got players thinking differently, and looking at ownership versus endorsement in all of their deals.
“They were trendsetters for sure,” he said.
With his Suns taking on the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night, Galloway revealed that he received his finalized pair of LG 1s several weeks ago.
“I was like, ‘I gotta put this on the court,'” he said. “I was thinking, ‘Well, I’ll wear it the first round.’ No, we’re doing good in the first round. ‘The second round?’ Nah, we’re about to sweep. ‘OK, third round?’ I think we’re going to make it to the Finals.
“We have a really good team and a really good run going here, so this is perfect timing and exactly what I wanted, making the Finals. You couldn’t ask for any better of a story to pull them out.”