His quintessential status as one of the greatest dribblers in the history of the NBA has paid off handsomely for God Shammgod.
So much so that on Monday, Shammgod will have a sneaker named after him that’s called the Legacy Shammgod. The sneaker is made by PUMA and pays homage to the way he changed the game with his ankle-breaking crossover move.
“I’m honored that a company like PUMA would do something like this for me,” Shammgod told Mavs.com. “It means a lot to me and it means a lot to my supporters and the young kids that look up to me as far as basketball is concerned. It’s a dream come true.
“It’s something that I just thought would never happen — even if I had played 20 years in the NBA. So for it to happen now is a testament of the PUMA company being aware of the culture and it’s a testament to all of the hard work that I put in and just keeping my faith in God and knowing His plan is better than my plan. Everything is becoming clearer, and God is giving me a sense of purpose as far as reaching young kids and helping young kids develop as people and as athletes.”
The Legacy Shammgod sneaker obviously has a special meaning to Shammgod, who is a player developmental coach for the Dallas Mavericks, with emphasis on ballhandling and defense.
“Everything on my shoe means something significant,” Shammgod said. “It’s not just a shoe to have a shoe.
“If you look at my shoe, I put the concrete lining on the bottom of the shoe because I’m from New York City and we call that ‘The Concrete Jungle.’ The shoe is red, black and white, which are the same as my high school colors.”
Mavs owner Mark Cuban is already sporting a pair of the Legacy Shammgod sneakers with pride.
“I love my Shamms,” Cuban said. “They are special occasions shoes. And he even asked me for my input, so I feel a little ownership in them.”
Shammgod is anxiously anticipating Monday’s sneaker release.
“The shoe release is going to be at all the PUMA stores and at Puma.com,” Shammgod said. “We were going to do an opening in New York, but since the pandemic happened. . .
“I was going to be in New York, but now I’m going to be online talking to people.”
So how does someone who is not a world-class, household-name athlete get a shoe named after him? Well, Shammgod certainly broke the mold when it came to that discussion.
Shammgod, 44, was a high school legend at New York’s La Salle Academy, where he was a teammate of future NBA player Ron Artest. Shammgod also played in the 1995 McDonald’s All-American game alongside future NBA players Paul Pierce, Chauncey Billups, Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, Stephon Marbury, Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Robert “Tractor” Traylor.
What set Shammgod apart from others is the crafty way that he dribbled the basketball, plus that iconic signature crossover move that he first performed by accident while he played for Providence College in the Elite 8 round of the 1997 NCAA Tournament against Jason Terry, Mike Bibby and the Arizona Wildcats.
“The shoe would never have come about if it wasn’t for the (crossover) move that I did in the 1997 tournament,” Shammgod said. “The move came about because I was on the right wing and I tried to do a different move and the ball slipped out of my hands, so I ran as fast as I could and I wasn’t able to pull it back with my right hand.
“So I pulled it back with my left hand, and then once I saw that, I watched film about it. And then the next thing I knew, when I went back home to Harlem I saw a lot of kids were like, ‘I’m doing the Shammgod, I’m doing the Shammgod.’ “
Shammgod acknowledged that the move actually was created by accident.
“That’s the crazy thing,” he said. “But the reason why I think it took on a life of its own is because the skills before that. I was known as one of the best ballhandlers, so it just took on a persona of its own.”
The Legacy Shammgod, which retails for $110 and features PUMA’s heritage and performance tech in one court-ready shoe, also took on a persona of its own.
“On the back of the shoe it has 1997,” Shammgod said. “Inside the shoe on the sole it has a tutorial on how to do the (crossover) move, because everywhere I go everybody wants to ask me, ‘Hey, can you show me the move, can you show me the move?’
“So inside the shoe it shows exactly how to do the move. And on the tongue it has GS for God Shammgod.”
Shammgod’s crossover move has been so dominant and so legendary that it has been widely used by NBA players such as Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Dirk Nowitzki and Billups.
“They say imitation is the best form of flattery, so for me it’s just humbling,” Shammgod said. “I’m already a humble person, so it’s already humbling just seeing that, because I could have played 20 years in the NBA and (messed) it up and not have all this endearment and all this love. And that’s what it is – it’s love.
“Whether it was Harrison Barnes to Luka Doncic to KP (Kristaps Porzingis) to even just being on the court with Dirk, and Dirk asking me about the move, I learn something from them every day. Just as much as I help them, they help me to be a player development coach, and I pick their brain and I pass that along to the next generation.”
So, what members of the Mavs have perfected Shammgod’s crossover move?
“Luka hasn’t pulled it out yet in a game, but Luka does it real good,” he said. “I’m trying to get KP to do it now.
“Dirk does a good one, but he’s slow. He does it with a long jump shot, so it looks real good.”
Mavs guard Tim Hardaway Jr. also is on Shammgod’s radar, interesting considering that Tim Hardaway Sr. had superb dribbling skills and is a five-time NBA All-Star.
“For me to be able to teach Tim Hardaway’s son how to dribble is a great thing because I used to look up to Tim Hardaway Sr,” Shammgod said. “For Tim Hardaway Sr. to say, ‘Make sure you stay on my son, keep him working on his handles,’ that’s amazing.
“And I wanted to dribble because of (Hardaway Sr.). And now he’s telling me to make sure his son gets the stuff that I’ve got.”
Shammgod said he even became friends with Westbrook because of the Houston Rockets’ guard’s use of his dribbling move.
“Chris Paul and Kyrie, friends of mine, they do the move the best,” Shammgod said. “But the one that I’m impressed with the most is Russell Westbrook, because he’s a person that don’t do moves.
“So when you see a person that never really does moves, doing your move, you just feel humble. Since he’s been doing it, me and him have gained a relationship.”
Shammgod’s dribbling skills took on a new meaning, he said, this past Jan. 26 when Kobe Bryant, his 13-year old daughter, Gianna, and seven others died in a helicopter crash in California.
“I think it all came to light more when one of my closest friends in basketball passed away, which is Kobe Bryant,” Shammgod said. “In high school when I was in the 12th grade and Kobe was in the 11th grade, his father asked me to teach him how to dribble. Then, 20 years later when Kobe retired he was just going over his basketball career and in an interview he was like, ‘I know everybody know who God Shammgod is, but what people don’t know is at 16 years old he taught me how to dribble. And he was 17 years old.’
“And then he brought me to LA and I started working his daughter (Gianna) out. The whole thing was tragic to me and it was really heartfelt, because I just saw them at the Lakers’ game and Kobe told Gianna, ‘Tell him what you did.’ And she was like, ‘Oh, I did the Shammgod to this girl.’ “
Shammgod believes the Legacy Shammgod sneaker didn’t materialize just because of his unique basketball skills. Janine Saulsbury, the founder and executive director of the Share For Life Foundation in New York, noted that Shammgod has been a much-needed fixture in the poverty-stricken communities in New York City.
“Shamm is donating 1,997 masks through PUMA that will be distributed to Grant Houses (a public housing project) through the New York City Housing Authority,” Saulsbury said. “The Share For Life Foundation — we’re a non-profit located in New York City — provides programs, educational programs and videos, and services directly for the residents of the public housing community in the New York City Housing Authority, which is the largest public housing authority in the world.
“There’s almost 500,000 residents that live in the New York City Housing Authority, and most of them live below the poverty level. So that’s one of the reasons why Shamm wanted to get involved.”
It’s a project that’s near and dear to Shammgod’s heart.
“The first group of masks that he’s donating is going to Grant Houses, located in Harlem and close by where he went to high school,” Saulsbury said. “And one of the reasons why he chose that location is because Grant Houses has the No. 1 cases of coronavirus deaths in the public housing community.
“And the reason why he chose that number (1,997) of masks to donate is because that’s the year that the Shammgod move came out.”
The Legacy Shammgod sneaker is a project that was some two years in the making. Shammgod said hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, who also is a creative director for PUMA basketball, had an indirect role in the sneaker.
“Jay-Z’s best friend, Emory Jones, does consultant work with PUMA, and he came to me and asked me if I would be interested in consulting with PUMA,” Shammgod said. “They had called Jay-Z and they just said: “Hey, I think you should do a deal with Shammgod?’ I guess they believed in what I was saying.”
The Mavs hired Shammgod in 2016 at the request of forward Harrison Barnes.
“He is a huge fan and asked us to bring in Shamm,” Cuban said. “Didn’t take me long to realize Shamm had an amazing ability to teach ballhandling, which is no surprise because he is just an athletic human. I saw it was a way to make our team better.
“Shamm is a legend in basketball — at all levels. He has a move named after him. He has earned this deal with PUMA because of his heart, his impact in the community and who he is as a person. His position on the staff is probably the least important part of who Shamm is. Like I said, he is a good human.”
That feeling is reciprocated by Shammgod.
“Once I got to the Dallas Mavericks under the tutelage of (coach) Rick Carlisle and Mark and the rest of the coaching staff, I’ve learned new stuff every day,” Shammgod said. “Coach Carlisle helped develop me into a great player development coach — all the coaches helped me a lot. I’m just so grateful and so thankful because it’s a blessing, because when I was at Providence College coaching (from 2012-15) I was trying to get into the NBA and a lot of teams were saying good things.
“But Mark Cuban being the person that he is, he’s the one that went out on a limb, because that’s who he is. Even though I had credibility and I had all this notoriety, he still was the first to go out on a limb to bring me back into the NBA, and so far the ride has been even more than I could imagine.”
The ride that Shammgod has taken Share For Life on also is more than what Saulsbury could imagine.
“He’s an ambassador for us in that he helps to bring awareness to the organization and provide services and donations and sponsorship support, so he’s really important to us,” Saulsbury said. “Shamm is very passionate about the services that we provide to young people with the coronavirus, and also the unrest in the country. Youth in the New York City Housing Authority are more at risk of going to jail, being killed, they become part of gangs, and they don’t have much to do.
“One other initiative that Shammgod is involved with is our voter registration and Census campaign. Shamm talks about how changes can be made, and one of the ways to make change is to vote. We provide information on how people who are not registered can vote and also to fill out the Census information.”
Shammgod takes pride in the tireless work he’s done in the New York City community. He sponsored a cancer walk with PUMA, a back-to-school basketball tournament for kids ages 5-through-14, and he also donated PUMA backpacks to the NAACP.
“I was doing a lot of camps and a lot of clinics,” Shammgod said. “I was giving a lot of summertime cookouts for the public just to feed the community I came from.”
Shammgod played two years of college basketball at Providence and was a second-round pick by the Washington Wizards in the 1997 NBA Draft. He played two seasons for the Wizards and wound up playing in eight other leagues around the world before retiring in 2009.
In retrospect, Shammgod believes his life would have been much different had he stayed at Providence for at least one more season. Then again. . .
“I really believe that all along this was my purpose,” he said. “Did I want to play in the NBA 20 years? Absolutely. Did I want to be in the Hall of Fame? Absolutely.
“But I think this is my purpose. I’ve got a shoe named after me, I’ve got players in the NBA emulating my move. It’s just such a humbling experience for me. And now we’re doing the stuff for New York City with the masks and giving back to the people I grew up around. I just feel this is my purpose.”