In 2023, Jrue Holiday exists in an odd space in the NBA. He is routinely lauded by his peers as one of the best defenders in the league and he was the key addition to a roster that put the Milwaukee Bucks over the top and brought the city its first NBA title in 50 years at the conclusion of the 2020–2021 season. But he is not a superstar, and 14 seasons into his career, many people might not even call him a star.
This could be because Holiday appears publicly to have a low-key personality and a rather dry sense of humor. It could be because Holiday rarely posts on his social media accounts, and when he does, it is almost exclusively to fulfill sponsorship obligations or to promote the outstanding work that he and his wife do through their JLH Social Impact Fund supporting Black-led non-profit organizations in the Milwaukee community.
That is to say, Holiday is about as far out of the national spotlight as a two-time NBA All-Star can be. But ten years ago? The Jruth was a bonafide star, baby. He was all over the small screen as he co-starred in a commercial for Adidas’ “Quick Ain’t Fair” campaign with Damian Lillard, John Wall, and rapper/Mr. Rihanna, A$AP Rocky.
In retrospect, it is a bit odd seeing Holiday billed alongside higher-profile athletes like Lillard and Wall. At the time, though, he was fresh off his first All-Star appearance after averaging nearly 18 points to go along with 8.0 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game for the Philadelphia 76ers during the 2012–2013 league year.
Both co-stars had higher profiles than Holiday. Lillard was finishing a phenomenal debut campaign for the Portland Trail Blazers that earned him an NBA Rookie of the Year trophy. Wall—the no. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft—was still a season away from his first All-Star appearance with the Washington Wizards, though he was a notable new addition to the Adidas roster after parting ways with Reebok following a disappointing partnership to start his career.
Not surprisingly, a fresh-faced Holiday with close-cropped hair gets the least screen time in the ad. He does flash a million-dollar smile while crossing over a nondescript opponent and throws down an animated dunk while ostensibly playing a game of three-on-three inside an Adidas Crazyquick shoe that appears to be approximately 40 feet tall, based on the surrounding cityscape.
The storyline of the commercial—A$AP Rocky’s narration implies that Holiday, Lillard and Wall are a “family of quicks” who live in his neighborhood as his song “Goldie” soundtracks the spot—does not make much sense, honestly. But then again, the career arcs that each player has taken in the past decade may not make much sense if viewed through a 2013 lens.
Lillard has ascended to the highest ranks of individual stardom, even being named to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo, and he has a long-running signature shoe as well as a budget sneaker through Adidas. However, Lillard has been mired in an often less-than-competitive team environment for years and is now in the middle of a trade standoff. Wall strung together five consecutive All-Star seasons from 2013–2018 that were ultimately overshadowed by LeBron James’ domination of the Eastern Conference and the eternal roster mismanagement of the Wizards’ front office. Once his career was derailed by injuries, however, Adidas and Wall negotiated a buyout of his contract in the fall of 2019 when there were three years remaining on his endorsement deal. He was last seen lobbying Kawhi Leonard for some gratis pairs of New Balance.
Holiday, for his part, served as an extremely productive sidekick to Anthony Davis for the bulk of seven seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans and has nominally filled the same role since arriving in Milwaukee. He went a decade without an All-Star appearance before earning the nod again during the 2022–2023 season. The most important distinction between the three players, however, is that Holiday is the only one with an NBA title to his name as of right now.
Adidas missed out on that particular championship, of course. Holiday has exclusively worn Nike silhouettes on-court since at least 2016, most notably the Air Zoom G.T. Cut, which was introduced prior to the 2022–2023 season. The shoe was widely hailed as the best replacement for Nike’s line of signature Kobe Bryant shoes, which were briefly discontinued when the Bryant family’s partnership with the sports giant expired in 2021, leaving NBA players to horde pairs from the line.
During this time, clamor amongst players for the G.T. Cut reached such a fever pitch that the shoe was never publicly released and it was seen exclusively on NBA and college courts. According to kixstats.com, the G.T. Cut is far and away Holiday’s most-worn sneaker, having played 100 games in them and continued wearing the silhouette as his primary shoe even after the introduction of the Nike Air Zoom G.T. Cut 2.
NBA Ringz culture is divisive, but you have to imagine Adidas would have liked to see their three stripes on Holiday’s feet when he hoisted the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy in 2021. There’s always next year.