What’s up, everybody? Legendary Lade here and I’m back with my first column of the year. It’s going to be another monumental year of sneaker releases but there are still a few that I need to highlight from last year. While I aim to stay current with my coverage of drops, I want to be very intentional about the sneakers that I highlight!

Sometimes that means going back in time to write about a release that is equally special and impactful to the industry and consumer alike beyond just another “hype” release. After all, a major part of the sneaker game — of being a sneaker collector, aficionado, hype beast, or whatever you may identify as — is going back in time to get the sneakers that you may have missed. The grails. I know that I’m still chasing drops that I missed — some from last year, some from my childhood. It’s all a part of the thrill!

Rich Paul knows all about the thrill. As the modern-day prototype of what a sports agent is, the founder of Klutch Sports Group, one-fourth of Lebron’s “Horseman,” and all around outlier, the thrill of being the first sports agent to have a sneaker collection is a feat he couldn’t pass up. But not just for the sake of being first. For the implications that it has on his community and communities alike across the world. Communities that have been typically underserved with opportunities and resources. “The only way to shift power is to empower” was a key mission statement and anecdote when Rich was conceptualizing and delivering his first sneaker, the New Balance 550. The 550, with its nods to retro basketball and stylish wearable ease, is a fan favorite NB silhouette — it made my Top 10 list of best sneakers last year — and I’m now on my third pair.

Rich Paul x New Balance 500

Rich Paul x New Balance 500

Rich’s pair, at first glance, minimal to the eye, is packed with nuanced details that call you to look deeper. (I’m all about the details!) The blue and cream coloring throughout the sneaker speaks to the idea that the sky is the limit while perforated leather touches on the texture of a basketball. Signature NB branding can be found at the sole with Rich Paul branded woven labels on the tongue and the insoles. What are your thoughts on these?

The Rich Paul x New Balance 550 was released globally on December 10, 2021 for $140.