In the ever-evolving sports media landscape, one that is increasingly-fixated on eye-catching headlines, the All the Smoke podcast has emphasized authenticity as the foundation of its conversations. Led by former NBA champions Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, who are each known for their unapologetic attitudes, the duo have crafted a space for athletes and media personalities to keep it real with them — bringing on everyone from Steph Curry to Shannon Sharpe in their 231 episodes to date.

With the podcast’s fifth anniversary quickly approaching, they teamed up with renowned sneaker customizer The Shoe Surgeon to craft an All the Smoke-themed take on the Air Jordan 4 — one of Jackson’s favorite Air Jordans. Reminiscent of 2022’s “Black Canvas” thanks to its color blocking, the kicks serve as a fitting tribute to the podcast with a premium build joined by references to the show scattered throughout, including a “10-21-19” hit at the lateral heel — the date of the podcast’s first episode. The two noted that it was important to maintain the classic appeal of the AJ4 while adding their own flair to it with elements like the All the Smoke branding and the “smoked out” Air unit.

Crafted as a friends-and-family-exclusive, a mere 93 numbered units were assembled, though fans will have the chance to win a pair themselves. A lucky few are set to receive the kicks via the AN EVENING WITH ALL THE SMOKE tour’s first stop in Chicago on June 4, as well as by entering social media giveaways that begin on June 10.

In celebration of the special sneaker and forthcoming tour, we sat down with Barnes and Jackson — who took time between recording episodes of the show with Reggie Bush, Shawn Kemp and Nate Diaz — to discuss the podcast, sneakers and of course, basketball.

We’re coming up on five years of the podcast this October. At what point did you two know that you had something special?

Matt: We came out the gates strong. J.R. Smith was our first guest and a clip of him talking about his fabled misstep in the 2018 NBA Finals went viral, and from there we were on the map. Of course, the Kobe Bryant interview for our eleventh episode drew an audience, especially as it was his last exclusive interview.

What about podcasting do you guys enjoy most?

Stephen: Being able to open up our guests to have authentic conversations — having them be comfortable enough to share things with us that they wouldn’t say anywhere else. Matt and I live our lives for everybody to see and people know when they come on to the show, we’re going to keep it real and not sugarcoat anything.

Matt: It goes beyond the conversations too — we’ll sit back and drink, smoke, listen to music and build a sort of fellowship before we even get to recording. There’s an element of humanization that allows guests to open up. I can’t tell you how many times people have said “well man, I haven’t told anybody this.”

Based on your interactions as teammates in the past, could you have imagined that this is where you’d end up after retiring from the NBA?

Stephen: Not at all. Back then you get lost in the relationships as you play with so many different people around the league. So to have not only a lasting relationship, but one that has turned into a business now is incredible. I say this all the time — Matt’s been an angel to me. We were great players but overshadowed by a lot of negative things and doors don’t open for guys like us. To be where we’re at now, it’s a real blessing.

The tour kicks off next week. What are you each most excited about?

Matt: Being able to create an environment that is an experience on top of a great show is something we’re both looking forward to.

Stephen: It’s always fun to get out there and talk to our fans, give them a hug and just be there with them. Growing up as a hooper, I never had the chance to talk to an NBA player and get advice from them. With all of the support we receive, to us it’s mandatory that we get out there and be able to physically thank them, and as a people person I can’t wait to do just that.

“Getting my deal directly from Michael Jordan when I was stuck in those bullsh*t Protégés was a blessing.”

Pivoting over to some sneaker talk, Stephen, what was it like becoming a Team Jordan athlete?

Stephen: I wore the same pair of Jordans from sixth to eighth grade — back then you’d catch me in those shoes going to school, outside shooting hoops, at the parties and even the middle school games themselves. Getting my deal directly from Michael Jordan when I was stuck in those bulls**t Protégés [a budget-friendly footwear line sold at K-Mart in the ’00s that endorsed Andrew Bynum, Metta World Peace, Al Harrington and Jackson] was a blessing and it meant everything to me to have that deal.

What do y’all think of the basketball shoe market today?

Matt: When we played, it was often just black-and-white kicks. There was a lack of exciting colorways. Nowadays, I enjoy the creativity that players and designers bring. We even see up-and-comers like Sabrina Ionescu and her shoe crossing over to the men’s game and I love what she’s doing and look forward to seeing what Caitlin Clark and A’ja Wilson do as well. The market is in a great spot right now — beyond the expanded scope of signature athletes you have some real creativity at play.

Stephen: For me, I like both the AE1s and the KAI 1s. With Kyrie, not only am I a big fan of him, but he’s putting his own spin on the shoes. It’s great to see him be able to stand on his own while climbing back up in the scene. As for on-court play, I see everybody in low-tops — we even have big men who are wearing Kobes now. When I was playing, we’d see the bigger guys in high-tops and most others in at least 3/4-height kicks, but now they’re all risking their ankles with these lower cuts.

When it comes to the NBA Finals, what is it like being on the world’s biggest stage?

Stephen: You have to pay attention to everything. You’ll have some of the best shooters go out there, and because of the moment and each possession counting, they end up unable to make the same shots they normally would. What really matters is being able to focus on the game. You can use fans as motivation, but you have to be able to block them out too. The guys that can compartmentalize all of the details and put everything together are the ones who shine in the big moments, but there are very few guys who can do that as many of them buckle under pressure.

Matt: It’s a mixture of everything and you want to be playing your best game at the right time as the margin for error is a lot smaller. Your ability to adjust within each game is crucial as everything is magnified — the world is watching and the lights are bright. It’s a blessing to have been in that moment and it’s very mental at that point — you have the best teams and players going at it.

Stephen: You have to be on the same page with your teammates too. Back in 2007 with Golden State, it was a closeout game six against Dallas in the first round of the playoffs and Matt is coming down on a fast break — he had the open three but knowing that I had just hit five or six in a row, he made sure it swung my way because he knew I’d knock it down.

“This is a championship that Jayson Tatum needs. He’s been so close so many times now and it would elevate him as one of the top young players and possibly place him next in line to be the face of the league.”

Who do you guys think will seal the deal and win the NBA Finals this year?

Matt: I think Dallas is playing their best basketball at the right time with everyone getting involved. On the flip side for Boston, whether or not Porzingis is available is major. Either way, I really like their team and this is a championship that Jayson Tatum needs. He’s been so close so many times now and it would elevate him as one of the top young players and possibly place him next in line to be the face of the league. It’ll be a great battle between two young teams so I’m looking forward to it. As for a winner, the NBA is the winner, it’s going to be a great series.

Stephen: Dallas is going to have to step their game up a lot. Boston has been in the Finals before and this is the most seasoned and championship-ready Boston team that the franchise has had since drafting Tatum. I’m going with Boston because it feels like they’re the team that is ready right now.

Looking ahead to the future, where do you two see yourselves in five years?

Stephen: I see myself following Matt to the stars — wherever we’re going, we’ll continue to win and I’m going to play my best in my own role for the team.

Matt: We’re building a media empire. Looking ahead, I see us as one of the biggest, best storytelling companies out there with all of my brothers and sisters that I believe in and that believe in us. We’re going to change the way athlete storytelling is done and while many have tried to before, we have the secret recipe to make it happen.

The ‘AN EVENING WITH ALL THE SMOKE’ tour kicks off tomorrow, June 4, in Chicago at the Athenaeum Center. Check out the ‘All the Smoke’ website for tickets and updates regarding future stops.

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