Words: Jian Deleon

To a certain kind of athlete, basketball may be life, but in the Philippines, it’s a sport that runs deep throughout the country’s heritage and culture. For all intents and purposes, the archipelagic nation is a basketball country.

Raoul Reinoso, the Director of Special Projects at Titan, knows this connection firsthand. He left his dream job to help create a first-of-its-kind basketball ecosystem with Titan, now the Philippines’ premier basketball lifestyle boutique. It’s a path that has proven to be more rewarding and expansive than he could have ever imagined.

“Ten years in, we look at ourselves as global basketball citizens,” says Reinoso. “We have a unique perspective on basketball, and we’re excited to share what we’re trying to do beyond Manila and the Philippines.”

Celebrating a decade of offering elite products and services to a country of discerning basketball enthusiasts, it’s fitting that Titan chose to reinterpret the Air Jordan XX3 and Air Jordan XXXV, models that represent both nostalgia and cutting-edge innovation. Reinoso views the XX3 as one of the first sneakers that the Philippines claimed as its own, after the country was one of only 23 global destinations to release the shoe back in 2008. Re-interpreting the new game shoe was a no-brainer, and both shoes carefully unite the heritage color palettes, premium materials, logos and stories of both Titan and Jordan Brand.

In many ways, the shoes channel Titan’s past and present in hopes of charting a path towards the future. Even though the shop has made great strides in moving the culture of basketball forward in the Philippines, they hope to use the next ten years to take that energy global.

Here, Raoul Reinoso talks about the collaboration and what’s next for Titan.

The Filipino national basketball team has a competitive history in FIBA. Most people probably don’t know that the Philippine Basketball Association is the second-oldest professional basketball league. How does Titan speak to this on-court heritage?

Titan has always been a big supporter of the national team. We try to be a platform that rallies national pride, and we’ve always championed these stories through basketball products and experiences. Aside from that, we always celebrate and pay homage to the legends of the past, whether players from the national team or at the professional level, and they’ve inspired and informed our approach over the years.

You’ve described Titan’s approach to basketball as “360-degree,” which includes seven stores, e-commerce, SLAM Philippines, athlete management and even barbershops. How do all of these pieces connect to serve basketball fans like nowhere else?

We always envisioned Titan to be more of a collective rather than just a brick-and-mortar shop. We’re like an ecosystem, and that gives us a better proposition for our consumers, who can experience the brand across different touchpoints. The grassroots aspect is such a big part of what we do. Our purpose is to really empower the next generation of basketball players as much as we can. In addition to clinics and tournaments for the kids, we have the Titan Basketball Academy, a year-round program that trains young athletes. We’re fortunate that despite the lockdown and the pandemic, we’ve been able to continue that virtually.

One of the Titan barbershops

Ten years is a huge milestone to celebrate. How has Titan adapted to the dynamic shifts in basketball and sneaker culture along the way?

When we started Titan, we were really focused on the community aspect. We wanted to create a space where like-minded people could come in and really talk about hoops and share their passion for product, too. Half of our retail locations have barbershops, and that plays an integral part in building community. It serves a purpose outside of getting a fresh cut; it enables us to really have a discussion with those who come through. Building those relationships is part of our foundation. It’s what keeps us grounded. We’ve fostered a community around the brand and expanded those relationships through the years, both locally and globally.

How does it feel to see professional athletes embracing their Filipino heritage on a global scale?

It makes you proud of your roots. It’s also a testament to the core values and characteristics of us Filipinos; we’re hard workers, even in difficult circumstances. We continue to see that right now with the younger kids. As Filipinos, we are always trying to play at the most elite level.

An Air Jordan display at Titan

How would you describe what MJ means to the Philippines?

The funny thing is, even though basketball has always been popular in the Philippines, the game wasn’t as accessible as it is today. During MJ’s era, unless you were one of the lucky few who had cable, you’d probably get a game or two a week. That was basically our exposure to MJ, yet despite those limitations, his influence on the Philippines is unquestionable. People went great lengths to really watch and learn more about him, whether it was through stories from parents, or having overseas relatives literally send tapes of his games. Obviously, we all witnessed The Last Dance when it came out, and that breathed new life into the connection. It also introduced MJ to another new generation. Kids today are now able to appreciate the stories we told them even more, because they’re able to watch his story unfold in the docuseries.

What are some of the ways that Filipino sneaker culture distinguishes itself?

Because we’re such a big basketball country, it’s really rooted in our passion for the game. You could compare it to how Air Max is synonymous with Europe. I would say that’s the case with basketball sneakers in the Philippines.

“MJ’s influence on the Philippines is unquestionable.”

How have you seen Filipino sneaker culture evolve in the past decade?

Our consumers have always been informed, but now, their taste is a bit more nuanced and discerning. The easy access to information plays a huge part. The stories they’re being told, and the personalities who wear these shoes, greatly influence consumers. Also, because of our interest and passion for the game, the Philippines is quite influenced by what’s going on in the United States, as well.

Another thing is that Titan has been a Tier Zero account for quite some time, and that represents the growth of the community here at home. It’s given us access to the same product as other key basketball countries around the world. That evolution translates not only into fashion, but how people look at the product, as well.

The Air Jordan XX3, as a shoe, has special resonance for Filipinos. What makes it so significant there?

When the XX3 released back in 2008, specifically the “Titanium” colorway, it was limited to 23 doors in North America and 23 doors globally. The Philippines was part of that list. We hadn’t seen a performance basketball shoe create so much energy here until that shoe came out. I was there. Filipino consumers came out in droves trying to get their hands on a pair. It was the first time I saw sneaker lines outside of a store, so it was fitting to bring the shoe back.

Early sketch of the Air Jordan XX3 x Titan

How did you approach the design of Titan’s Air Jordan XX3?

The XX3, in itself, was quite ahead of its time. It was the first basketball shoe under the Nike Considered Design line. It was very innovative, from the choice of materials to how it was produced. What makes it even more special is that it was the 23rd shoe, a number synonymous with MJ. That’s why we chose this shoe to tell our story.

We applied Titan’s signature color palette of black, white, red and gold, but we elevated how they are represented. We switched the white to Sail and shifted the red to a Bright Crimson. Our colors are reminiscent of one of the most iconic teams in basketball, but it’s also a nod to a PBA team that our co-founder, Jeff Cariaso, played on. The application of gold is pretty prominent on the shoe. It has that idea of elegance and sophistication.

What also jumps out, when you look at the shoe, is the shard pattern on the upper. The original sneaker had this intricate stitch pattern that tied back to MJ’s identity. So we gave it a bolder and more explosive aesthetic with the lightning shards, to bring energy and ferocity to the shoe. There are some design cues from the OG version, like MJ’s thumbprint on the back of the tongue. The outsole still maintains that thumbprint pattern for traction, and the toe box has his signature all over.

Let’s talk about the Air Jordan XXXV, the newest game shoe model featuring Jordan Brand’s latest innovations. What informed your approach to the Titan collaboration version?

We wanted to throw it back to a cleaner, more traditional and more athletic color blocking, given that you’ll see this more in the paint than on the streets. The details are more subtle. The three stars are a nod to the Philippines. Though gold is more prominent on the XX3, Bright Crimson is more visible on the XXXV, particularly on the Flightwire, the tongue and the heel tab.

Both shoes have the black, white, red and gold palette, but on the XXXV, they are elevated through premium materials and textures, which breathe more life into the colors — especially up-close. The Sail color translates really well on the Eclipse Plate 2.0, which reminds me of a pool cue ball when I look at it. It adds a luxurious touch.

What kind of other uniquely Filipino basketball stories would Titan like to tell in the future?

Every street has its own story to tell. Every corner has its own legend. Every playground has its own greatest games. We have a deep well of stories and various unique voices to tell them. As a brand, we want to continue to be a vehicle for storytelling and inspiring younger kids, in order to empower them and help them achieve their basketball dreams.

The Air Jordan XXXV Titan and the Air Jordan XX3 Titan will be available starting December 23 from Titan and December 29 from Jumpman doors and select retailers in EMEA, APLA and GC. North America will launch both shoes on January 23. View the full list of retailers on Nike News.