The Miami Heat’s Gabe Vincent and Max Strass sat in side-by-side lockers at Madison Square Garden an hour before their game against the Knicks. Strath was eating vegetables and rice, and Vincent was changing into his uniform after shooting practice.
But when he heard Strath wiping the soles of his shoes with his palm, Vincent stopped.
“Oh,” Vincent said in disbelief, “Are you a licker and wiper?”
“I don’t lick,” Strass replied, dropping the fork. “I’m not licking it. No no no no.” There was anger in his voice, as if Vincent had accused him of a crime. Vincent laughed.
Many NBA players are obsessed with how their sneakers ensure they have enough traction on the court, and some are superstitious. Some people use a variety of wiping methods, including the vicious lick-and-wipe method, in which saliva is rubbed onto the sole of the shoe, and the dry-wipe method, which uses only bare hands. Still, most people rely on the wiping pads placed on the sidelines of NBA arenas. Officially called Slipknot, most players refer to it as a “sticky pad” or “sticky mat”.
“The sticky mat feels like a ritual at this point,” Sixers guard Shake Milton said. “It feels like something you should do.”
Slipknot was created by Jorge Julian in 1987. He quit his carefree job at Northrop Grumman, hoping to make his courts creaking basketball everywhere with the solid sound of sneakers.
At the top of the Slipp-Nott is a translucent sheet with a generous amount of glue (Julian declined to share details to avoid helping his competitors). When the sheet absorbs too much dust and dirt and stops working properly, the user can peel it off and get a new sheet.
Adhesive pads come in a variety of sizes, but the standard is 26 x 26 inches, allowing even a large basketball player to put their foot on it. Some teams with narrow sidelines in the arena, like the Utah Jazz, order small or medium-sized versions. Pads can be as small as 15 x 18 inches, which is just big enough for a size 20 men’s shoe.
Julian’s first NBA purchaser was the Los Angeles Clippers, who bought Slipknot in 1988 at a discounted price of $70 per pad, giving Julian a staff pass to the arena. At the time, many were skeptical about pads because players used wet towels and wiping methods to gain traction. To ease their fears, Julian used a staff pass and carried a VHS tape recorder around the locker room to record testimonials from athletic trainers and players about the effectiveness of the pads.
Most teams now use Slipp-Nott and have customized pads with their team’s logo, and those pads currently cost $588.
“It’s kind of a lifesaver for me,” said Golden State Warriors forward Anthony Lamb. “I play with the same shoes all the time, so sometimes I need sticky pads when my shoes are gone or my shoes are falling apart.”
Ram is playing in a black color version of Nike’s Paul George 6 sneaker. Worn-out shoes sit near his locker, and new ones in boxes. Occasionally, wearing the shoes for “five games or so” can make them slippery.
When the Warriors faced the New Orleans Pelicans in November, Lamb said he couldn’t get to the sticky pad before the game and Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram was on the move. that caused him to fall backwards on the court. Lamb was missing the point for highlights and jokes in the Warriors’ locker room.
“I couldn’t put my feet down,” said Lam, smiling, putting her face to her palm.
Golden State forward Jonathan Kuminga may have more shoes than anyone on his team, and he often has countless shoes lying in front of his locker or in his locker drawer.
Many players use the pad or wipe method, but Kuminga usually doesn’t rely on either. He wipes the sole of one shoe over the other, partly because it saves time, he said, because he’s been doing it since he was a kid. As a result, many of the shoes in Kuminga’s locker look like new, except that the laces are torn and covered in dirt and dust.
“Hopefully, when I get my own shoes one day, I’ll be able to add something to the laces so I don’t have to mess with them every time I wipe them down,” Kuminga said, holding the shoes. With blue shoe laces dyed black.
Knicks big men Isiah Hartenstein and Obi Toppin always end their pregame routines by wiping their shoes with Slipknots. Hartenstein is usually the first to sprint to the pads after the starters are announced, with Toppin following closely behind his teammate and tearing the sheets away when finished.
Hartenstein nearly forgot to do part of his routine before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Heat, but Toppin tapped Hartenstein’s chest and pushed him toward the pads. pointed.
“It’s definitely a ritual for us,” Hartenstein said. “You have to do it before every game and I always go first. We almost got into a fight once because he went first. It will never happen again.”
Julian dominated the NBA’s court traction market after the birth of Slipp-Nott in the late ’80s, but in 2011 Mission Athlete Care developed a bottled liquid that users could rub onto the soles of their shoes. The situation changed with the introduction of the product “Court Grip”. . Dwyane Wade, who was the star of the Heat at the time, was his partner.
Josh Shaw, founder and president of Mission AthleteCare, said at the time, referring to Slipknot, “It’s probably six to 12 months before people realize it’s outdated. Let’s go,” he said. A brief race began for court traction supremacy, but it was court grip that eventually became obsolete. The gray bottle has disappeared from the sidelines, and for now sticky pads store the hearts and soles of his NBA players.