The Ones: Josh Velez
The pro skateboarder discusses clearing the style gap between basketball and skateboarding.
Words: Nic Dobija-Nootens
Photos: @HumphriesPhoto & @Cel.Jarvis
“The Ones” celebrates a new generation of defiant, talented individuals. This edition highlights athletes repping the new skate inspired Air Jordan I Low. Click here for more stories.
There’s a tired, inaccurate stigma about skateboarders — that they pick up a board in order to avoid mainstream team sports. But that’s not Josh Velez’s story. The Brooklyn-born skater actually found skateboarding through basketball.
As a kid playing ball at a local court, Josh saw some skaters roll through the park, which wasn’t a common sight in his neighborhood. Intrigued, he felt compelled to give the curious sport a try, and he grabbed his own deck. Before he knew it, what was at first used as transportation (to and from the blacktop), became the main reason he linked up with friends in the first place. Now, his favorite joke is that skateboarding ruined other sports for him.
And then there’s his Air Jordan collection. Josh’s ever-growing fleet of Jordans, a collection he began amassing as a kid, became his go-to skate shoes. The high-tops that once provided him stability on the court are, to him, the perfect ankle guards for his tre flips.
Like a true New Yorker, Josh sees potential where others may not, whether that’s a classic Air Jordan to shred in or basketball court bleachers to grind. It’s clear that Josh doesn’t play by any rules, as he treats his style the same way he approaches sports — as a fun pick-up game where he calls his own shots.
What was it like to discover skateboarding while you were playing basketball?
I played basketball for a while, and then I saw some kids at the park skating. It was near the court where I was playing ball. It looked different, so I picked it up. For a year or two, I would just skate to the park to play basketball, because I didn’t know if I wanted to cross over yet. Once I learned how to ollie, I left the ball.
You also skate in your Air Jordans. Why is that?
I figured it’d be the perfect way to use them and make a memory out of it — filming in them, taking photos and just putting them to use. I don’t like to collect things and just let them sit there. It means more to me to actually use them. I’m skating through my collection now, so it’s gonna take a while, but I’m gonna skate in all of them.
“Some people get bummed when I pull up to a spot or a skatepark wearing Jordans, but they're usually psyched at the same time, because I’m just doing my own thing and having a great time.”
Why do you think that basketball players and skateboarders are some of the most stylish athletes?
Being the best at whatever you’re doing, but also doing it with style, is important. With team sports, everybody’s got a uniform, so it’s all in how you play. Anybody can put on a pair of Air Jordans and skate in them, but I’m trying to do it in a way that’s significant to me. Anybody can do a kickflip, but my kickflips just look a little different, because of my style, what I’m wearing and how I do it. I try to let my style shine through as much as possible.
How important is style in skateboarding, in particular?
It’s really important, because skateboarding is really individual. When you get dressed every morning, you have to be psyched, especially when you’re pushing around on a skateboard. You want to have shoes that you’re comfortable in. You should like them, and you should be excited about them when you put them on. If you’re confident in yourself, it will make everything else you do in life more meaningful and worthwhile. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve figured out more or less what I like and dislike. When you’re younger, it’s tricky, but as a man now, I’m 100% confident in whatever I do and wear.
How did you get into designing your own jewelry?
Well, my mom would get me little things here and there throughout my childhood, but it wasn’t until I got my own money that I was able to really get creative. Ideas pop into my head, or I’ll see something inspiring, and then I’ll sketch it up and take it to my guy who makes it a reality. We’ve been doing that for about eight years now.
What do you think draws people outside of skateboarding to skateboarding?
There’s a no-rules mentality with skateboarders. We do what we want, we skate where we want. If you apply that to other aspects of your life, especially style, the possibilities are endless. You can do whatever you want to do, and that’s appealing to others who maybe caught up in whatever clichés society is feeding us at the time. Look at a skateboarder, just pushing down the block without a care in the world.
The Air Jordan I Low “Gym Red” is available on Jordan.com and at select retailers in early May.