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The story behind the new UA Embiid Ones with senior designer Reggie Wilson

Joel Embiid’s brand-new signature sneaker is turning heads.

The 76ers All-Star guard is set to drop his UA Embiid Ones on September 18. The shoe is designed to elevate any player’s performance from any location on the court.


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Process This 💪🏾 @slam @uabasketball

A post shared by Joel “The Process” Embiid (@joelembiid) on

As sports and shoe fans alike know, no story is complete without the right designer. These magicians are the heads behind the project, constantly creating and outlining the tools towards an athlete’s performance.

Reggie Wilson is the designer behind the UA Embiid Ones. A senior designer at Under Armour, he loves the challenge of designing better shoes and constantly aims to help athletes achieve maximum performance.

We had the opportunity to speak with Wilson regarding his career and the behind-the-scenes aspects of professional shoe design. It was an insightful look into the world of imagination and passion that leads to top-notch material.

Sports and design were things that Wilson always had a strong interest in. As a kid in Baltimore, Maryland, the two things that he truly loved were shoe design and NBA basketball. He knew that he wanted to do one of these things as an adult and luckily settled for the design realm.

After working at FedEx after high school, Wilson decided to follow his dreams. When the competitive reality of professional basketball hit him, he remembered his youthful passion for drawing. It led him to shift away from the typical 9-5 job and pursue something different.

“I’ve been exposed to so much and I’ve been able to see so many things because of this job, professional, traveling, things like that. I couldn’t imagine being here 15 years ago.”


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Thanks @lunchtimeq for the shoutout. Congrats @yur_ree_mile @ernie_ske @lunchtimeq @jermsal10 @cedy_ced @go.ashley.go

A post shared by Reggie Wilson (@reggie.wilson.rj) on

Wilson’s largest roadblock came during the financial crisis in 2008, right after he had graduated college. He received an apprenticeship with Reebok, but encountered a hiring freeze, and was forced to go back home and live with his mother.

“I just remember working in the night, during our lunch breaks at two o’clock in the morning just sketching. I would take naps on the shelves at like three o’clock in the morning,” says Wilson.

It was a low point for him, but after he received his first job with PUMA as a designer, he hung up his Walmart badge in his cubicle as a reminder.

The early work made him hard-headed, as working simple retail could not solve thousands of dollars in student debt.

“Let me quote Under Armour’s tagline right now, it was the only way through and I just keep grinding. I was motivated.”

Wilson’s experience as a designer with professional athletes still hasn’t sunk in yet. He remembers walking the streets of Philadelphia, dreaming about one day designing sneakers with athletes. Ten years later, Wilson has walked those same streets with a grasp on his successful work.

Wilson finds pride in working with Under Armour, a company that has helped revolutionize the athletic industry. He loves the story that is attached to Embiid’s career.

“To start playing basketball at 15 and then six months later, he’s in the US to start his transition is a unique journey. We were able to capture some of that with the design of the shoe because if you look at the outsole it literally shows its journey. Where we have Africa in the heel of the shoe and then it kind of transitions to this outline of America,” explains Wilson.

Wilson mentions how it is an all-around good shoe for any athlete, but more importantly, holds that deep storytelling aspect.

The outsole is Wilson’s favorite part of the shoe, as it chronologically follows Embiid’s journey starting with his origins in Cameroon, his childhood, and his eventual path to the US.

Under Armour
Under Armour

Wilson has learned many things in his career, but one notable notch of information is how he utilizes movement and size. There are several decisions that a team must take with this, as they measure the tread thickness on the bottom of the shoes. Even two millimeters of measurement can make a difference in durability.

The process consists of a lot of research, meeting with 76ers trainers, and of course, discussing with the big man himself

“It is important to remember that you are designing for a super athlete that is at the peak of his game on a championship team,” Wilson says. “So it is really, really critical.”

Wilson also recognizes the importance of being a Black man working in this position. There were not many Black designers back when he was growing up, and even fewer designers have the opportunity to design these signature shoes for athletes today.


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Joel often says his life is like a movie. I went to college in center city Philadelphia between 2005-2008. My dorm and college were both on Chestnut St. For 3 years I walked up and down that street reading SLAM magazine, carrying art projects, and checking out the latest b-ball shoes in the Footlocker and Samsun sneaker stores. My ultimate dream was to design b-ball shoes for NBA players. Towards the end of my stay in Philly, I noticed a building being built across the street and I remember thinking “I wonder what they are building”. Fast forward 10 yrs, and I’ve been assigned to the Embiid shoe and I’m headed back to Philly to meet with Joel for the 1st time. We met in his condo, and we had 2-3 hour meeting with him. While looking out the window of his condo, I realized that the building that we were in, was the same building that was being built across the street from Chestnut St, over 10 years ago. My footwear journey started in Philly on Chestnut St, with stops in Boston, Germany, and it brought me back to Baltimore with UA. Now I was back in Philly designing a basketball shoe for one of the best players in the NBA, in nearly the same spot that my journey began. My life is like a movie too #dreamsDoComeTrue #storyTelling #embiidone #underarmour #underArmourbasketball #slamMag

A post shared by Reggie Wilson (@reggie.wilson.rj) on Aug 19, 2020 at 12:22pm PDT

Wilson believes in the importance of the process, and how it can inspire kids of color in the future.

“There are more opportunities than just being an athlete,” he says.

Being a Black man working in this industry comes with a considerable amount of pressure. For Wilson, the pressure is a good thing. The edge that he feels helps him hone in on his work, designing the best possible materials for athletes.

Wilson tries not to think too much about the next few years.

“If you think about that, if you make it bigger than what it really is, you can cripple yourself mentally. Just try to think about it as art. I played basketball growing up, so I can tap in [to] some of those things that I did as a kid.”

In terms of an endgame, however, Wilson hopes to continue working with athletes. Long term, he recognizes the systematic issues that exist in his hometown Baltimore.

Wilson has a “weird dream” to eventually get into politics. He feels that politicians could use a design mind, a different edge than the lawyers and business people who currently fill the spots.

“It’s kind of this outside dream that I have. But I thought the dream of being a designer was a dream as well. So maybe I could be on that ticket in 20 years,” Wilson says.

In terms of advice for a younger designer audience? Wilson says, “Definitely continue to sketch as much as you can.” He advises finding something unique and different that draws passion.

“I would tell a young designer to kind of figure out what you want to be, what is your lane? What will help separate you from other people, because at the end of the day, that’s what makes you stand out and what makes a potential employer want to take a chance on you.”

Wilson’s work as a designer is a motivating and dream-filled story. His designs hold not only a substantial amount of creativity and skill but storytelling as well.

We can’t wait to see what Wilson will come up with next. It will surely take us on a journey.