On June 22, the day of the 2017 NBA draft, Jimmy Gorecki was busy watching his daughter’s ballet recital. His phone began to buzz with texts from his friends about No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz and his eclectic sneakers.
Made from actual basketball leather, the shoes were designed by Gorecki’s employer, the Los Angeles-based footwear brand No.One. After proposing the concept to No.One in April, Fultz, an acclaimed basketball player at the University of Washington now drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers, debuted the sneakers on the draft day red carpet.
“Just something about it felt like it was gonna be big,” Gorecki said of the attention the shoes received. “It just blew up.”
Gorecki, a Norristown native and 2006 public relations alumnus, works as the marketing director at No.One, a luxury sneaker company that launched in January. While limited edition shoe models can be purchased through the company’s website, Gorecki works one-on-one with some clients to create their own personalized sneakers.
One of his clients was Emory Jones, who works with rapper Jay-Z for the entertainment company Roc Nation. Jones selected the Bravo Speckle, a sneaker made with black-and-white speckled Italian pony hair. Gorecki said that after Fultz saw Jones’ complimentary Instagram post about his shoes, Fultz messaged the company for a pair of his own to wear on draft day.
“Sometimes they say the stars just align,” Gorecki said. “In that case, it really, really did.”
When designing his pair of sneakers, Fultz had one main request: that the shoes be made of the same material as a basketball. Gorecki said No.One had already worked with the NBA’s leather supplier, a Chicago-based tannery called Horween Leather Company. As a result, the leather from Fultz’s shoes “could have been made into a game ball,” No.One’s creative director Mark Gainor said in an email.
Despite Gorecki’s excitement about working with Fultz, he said he was disappointed when on May 16 the Boston Celtics won the No. 1 overall pick at the NBA draft lottery. This meant Fultz would most likely not be heading to Gorecki’s beloved hometown team — the 76ers.
“After the lottery, I’m not gonna lie, I had a drink or two and I just finally texted [Fultz and his friend] like, ‘I really wish you guys would’ve ended up with the Sixers,’” Gorecki said. “And they both just kinda laughed and were like, ‘Yeah, you know it’s just kinda the way things just work out with the NBA lottery.’”
In the following days, Gorecki said he paid close attention to any trade rumors regarding the draft picks. Then, only three days before the draft, the 76ers made a trade with the Celtics for the No. 1 pick.
“I was a season ticket holder when [Allen] Iverson was [on the 76ers], I cried when they made it to the Finals, I cried when they lost in the Finals too,” Gorecki said. “So it just kinda all worked itself out.”
When draft day finally came, Michael Mancini, Gorecki’s longtime friend and the godfather of his daughter, monitored the news closely, anticipating the reveal of Fultz’s shoes. But as he saw the story spread throughout the major sports news outlets — from Bleacher Report to SB Nation to ESPN — Mancini said the volume of media buzz had far surpassed his expectations.
“Everyone can’t stop talking about [Fultz] without talking about his shoes,” said Mancini, a 2008 communications alumnus. “I’m like, ‘This is crazy, this is blowing up even bigger than I thought.’”
Mancini and Gorecki’s friendship, as well as their mutual interest in sneakers, stretches back to when they first met on Main Campus in 2002. But in those days, Gorecki wasn’t selling shoes to NBA players. Instead, he was wearing out one pair per week in service of his passion: skateboarding.
Having frequently commuted from Norristown into the city as a teen to take part in Philadelphia’s burgeoning skateboarding scene, Gorecki landed a sponsorship with the skate brand Aesthetics in 2000. At the same time, he began working as a sales representative for Ubiq, a Philadelphia-based shoe retailer. These early roles, coupled with his public relations studies, helped Gorecki develop his appreciation for marketing, he said.
“As a professional skateboarder, you’re the main marketing vehicle for whatever brand you’re skating for,” Gorecki said.
Now a professional marketer, Gorecki said his role in helping to showcase the newest sports star of Philadelphia has marked a “career milestone.”
“I’ve spent my whole life just telling people how much I [appreciate] Philadelphia and everything it’s done for me,” Gorecki said. “Just to be part of sports history in that town, it just felt like it was for all of us.”