Everyone in the sneaker community is very familiar with the name Gentry Humphrey, especially Jordan heads. In 2010, TSG caught up with Gentry, so likewise, in 2011 we decided to catch up with him again. It’s amazing how things can change in a year. In this interview with G-Money, he speaks on leaving Jordan Brand (Yes, you read right), his new role with Nike Sportswear, and much more. We could spill all the beans, but if you want to know the full scoop, you’ll have to read the interview below.
It’s been a year since our last interview, how have you been?
GH: Really good! Loving life and thankful for everything I’ve been blessed with!
We understand that your role and position has changed, what’s your new title?
GH: It’s a long one…I’m the Product Creation Footwear Lead for NSW (which is Nike Sportswear) Basketball and American Football. Basically I’m responsible for bringing lifestyle product to our consumer that lives in the 2 sports. We know that the consumer can compete, train and express himself within his everyday life. Our team will assist him with that expression through a lifestyle lens.
That’s interesting, I don’t think anyone could ever imagine you not being part of Brand Jordan. How did it feel when you learned you would be leaving?
GH: It was “Bitter Sweet”. Jordan has been a HUGE part of my life for the last 20+ years. I love everything about MJ and how the “Jordan Family” (What you would call the Jordan Brand) strives to make an impact on consumer’s lives. All of the creativity, insights and emotional energy that was spent, made me a better individual – personally and professionally. Leaving Jordan was “Crazy Tuff”! However, the Brand is transitioning and when the VP of Nike Basketball and the Prez of Nike “call your number”, you gotta be ready to play. When they asked me to take on the role, I had to admit that it was a pretty sweet deal! It gives me a chance to get back to what I LOVE and that’s leading a team in creating compelling product for some of the best consumers in the world. And you know…when it comes to the Nike Vault of product, that’s a pretty powerful arsenal.
You’ve been with JB since 1997/1998, so now that you’re gone how do you feel?
GH: Actually,’97 & ’98 was when the brand was an official sub-brand of Nike but I had the pleasure of working on the Jordan business when it was a part of Nike Basketball. (Ironically, some of the crazy Nike Bball product from back then, are a part of my new responsibilities.) In the beginning, Jordan was a tight crew that had a vision beyond what most people thought it could ever be. The evolution of moving from a $160M business to $1B +, is pretty special. It was and is…a great chapter in my life. The next chapter of my career novel is definitely off to an exciting start.
Surely you have a bunch of good memories from working with Brand Jordan, what would you say is your absolute best memory?
GH: Wow…there are so many I’m not sure I can say there’s only one. Every day that new samples would come in, it felt like Christmas for me (some were sweet gifts that would grace the marketplace and others were definitely “bags of coal”). Every meeting with “Masterminds” like MJ and Tinker, I was able to learn how to think outside the box. When it comes to pure fun…I love playing golf and it’s pretty sweet playing in a group when you’re with MJ and Tiger. I love sports and being able to share a stage with MJ, Tiger, Ali, Lance and so many others, well… it’s a sports fanatic’s dream! Sorry…couldn’t just give you one. I could go on and on…
Let’s talk more in-depth about your new responsibility with Nike. What exactly will you be doing with Nike Sportswear Basketball and on the NFL end?
GH: Besides the info I spoke of earlier, I’ll assist in bringing an integrated approach to the performance and lifestyle worlds of each sport through footwear and apparel. But what I’m most excited about…is trying to bring new product concepts that are relevant to the consumer and the culture that surrounds these two sports.
You are used to being under pressure, but do you feel any pressure with your new role?
GH: Oh yeah! The biggest athletic shoe in the entire industry (the Air Force 1) is now a part of my mix. There are an entire list of pressure points but all I can do is gather info from the best sources possible and make the best decisions possible. Every day is a grind but pressure is ultimately what you allow it to be. I try to make the best decisions possible and not let the pressure take me out of my focus.
What’s your thoughts on the NBA lockout, especially regarding Nike Sportswear Basketball?
GH: I’m worried about the lockout as a fan of the game. I LOVE basketball at all levels and after the great season that the NBA had, it’d be a shame to not have some of the best athletes in the world, do their thang! On the business tip, I’m optimistic on the lockout’s effect on the U.S. but a little worried about the effect when it comes to countries like China. In China, they love the NBA and they follow the players Big Time! I have some very specific thoughts about the entire situation but rather than bore everyone with the details I’ll just say we still have the college game and it’s pretty special as well.
In a year or two where would you like to see Nike Sportswear Basketball and the NFL division?
GH: Well… because the product creation process is a 12-18month process, it’s difficult to do everything that I might like to institute. However, I’m hoping that we will create excitement with products and stories that will allow all of the “sneaker lovers”to go crazy!
Without spilling all the beans, what type of exciting projects can we expect to see?
GH: Cool remix projects. Fresh old school projects. New collabs and projects that have excitement from our high end products to the low end. Unfortunately I can’t mention everything but I think we’ll introduce a few things that people will say “Damn…”! As we get closer to the drops, maybe we can have another conversation where I can be more specific.
The 30th Anniversary of the Air Force 1 is next year. Any special launches on the 2012 AF1 menu?
GH: Oh yeah the team had been working really hard to bring an assortment that is special. I’ll just say that we learned a lot from the 25th Anniversary and we’ll create excitement in several different ways. To top it off, we’ve got bigger plans in 2013.
Is there any thing else you want to say or share with our readers?
GH: I’d like to say “thanks” to you, TSG and several of your viewers for supporting the brand and my personal efforts from the past. While we try our best to do everything right, it doesn’t always work out that way. However, site’s like this, are special because they allow us to make the best decisions possible. I’m really excited about the Future Vision of NSW Bball and Football and look forward to creating some HYPE around our future efforts. Look for some “gorilla marketing” efforts that I’ll be twittin’ about!