Sneaker Stories

How DJ Khaled blends his passion for golf and Jordans

A conversation with the music producer about golf, his Air Jordan partnership and goal of his next sneaker collaboration

MIAMI — As soon as he hears the question — “Can you change into a pair of Air Jordans?”DJ Khaled disappears to one of the many sneaker closets inside his mansion.

It’s a sticky day late in July on Miami’s Star Island, and less than 24 hours before DJ Khaled, the Grammy Award-winning producer, would be hosting his first charity golf tournament benefiting his We The Best Foundation. And Jordan Brand joined as the primary sponsor of the event.

The company’s involvement stood as a testament to its long-running relationship with DJ Khaled, who’s been a Jordan collaborator since 2015.

Last fall, DJ Khaled and Jordan teamed up for his first retail release: a two-pair collection of Air Jordan 5s in “Sail” and “Crimson Bliss” colorways. The set dropped after DJ Khaled had received several special make-ups previously, such as the Air Jordan 3s to celebrate the release of his albums, Grateful (2017) and Father of Asahd (2019), limited to his friends and family of the producer.

Reggie Saunders, the Jordan Brand vice president of entertainment marketing who has landed Jordan partnerships with music’s elite from rappers Drake to Travis Scott and singer Billie Eilish, arrived at DJ Khaled’s crib a few minutes after the producer wrapped an interview with Pro Football Hall of Famer-turned-podcaster Shannon Sharpe. Once Saunders came along, DJ Khaled slipped upstairs to swap out all-white Air Force 1s for a pair of Air Jordans from his extensive collection.

Before the conversation began, DJ Khaled reappeared from the house’s upper level. Over the balcony, he extended a lone sneaker: the Travis Scott x Air Jordan 1 Low golf collaboration, a shoe that isn’t expected to drop till October.

Andscape talked to DJ Khaled about his newfound passion for golf, the relationship he’s built with the Jordan Brand over the years, and what he’s praying for in his next sneaker collaboration. Saunders, DJ Khaled’s regular golfing partner, joined the conversation.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

DJ Khaled sits for an interview with Andscape writer Aaron Dodson.

Mickey Pierre-Louis for Andscape

Clockwise from left to right: Rapper DJ Khaled; Reggie Saunders, global marketing director for Jordan Brand; Samantha Baker, Jordan Brand global narrative communications manager; and Andscape writer Aaron Dodson.

Mickey Pierre-Louis for Andscape

Khaled, where does this passion for golf come from?

DJ Khaled: When I was a kid, my friend used to live on a golf course. I was in middle school at that time. We’d mess around and drive the golf cart recklessly. And we used to hit balls everywhere. We were just hitting them to have fun. But I knew then that I loved golf. At that time, I was a kid, and I dreamed of becoming a music mogul. As time went by, once in a while, I was playing, and I realized I still had that beautiful — well, I think it’s beautiful — swing. Then the pandemic hit, and all my friends and neighbors say, ‘Let’s play golf.’

Me and Reg played when I started getting back into it. We started playing every weekend, consistently. Then, it turned into every day.

My day is now the golf course, studio and, obviously, family all the time. I’m working on a new album in the studio, and golf is making me think clearer. My ideas are coming to life clearer because there are less distractions. And if I have to work office hours, I can work on the golf course. I’m doing my Zooms, my emails, my calls. The only difference is I’m hitting a bomb. I’m hitting a chip. People do yoga, people jog, people exercise — I play golf.

What was your first pair of Jordan golf shoes when you started playing?

DJ Khaled: The first pair Reg gave me was the Bred 4s. Those were the first shoes I rocked on the course. Once he knew I was playing golf like crazy, it was like, ‘Now, you know, I need everything.’

I got the ‘Black Cat’ 4s with pony hair. Me and Reg wear those all the time. We pull them out and stunt. I started wearing the Air Jordan Low 1s because they’re light. When you play golf and walk 18 holes, you realize the lighter your shoes, the better. I’m into sneakers, so I started getting deeper into golf shoes. I got a sample pair of the 2019 Masters low-top Air Jordan 11s, with the snakeskin and prayer hand graphics on the tongues. I pull those out once in a while. I got the Torrey Pines 4s, with that turquoise blue and purple in that special material. I’m passionate about finding golf shoes in the same way I feel about collecting my sneakers. And, God willing, you never know, you might see a We The Best Jordan golf shoe one day.

Reggie, what was that first call like when Khaled said, ‘Yo, I need some golf shoes!’?

Reggie Saunders: That first call was great because we were starting to get into golf around the same time. Once, Khaled kind of smiled and said, ‘We’re outside.’ It was amazing because this was what, a year and a half ago, Khal?

DJ Khaled: I would say it’s been a year and a half of consistent playing. I went overseas and I couldn’t wait to get back home to play. And when I got back home, we just couldn’t stop. It just became, I don’t even wanna say it, but an addiction. And the thing about golf is it taught me how to make time. I started waking up a few hours earlier than I ever did, not just because I wanted to play golf. I just wanted to do more in a given day. And that made me more happy.

Do you feel like a Jordan Brand athlete now?

DJ Khaled: I am. I’m a golfer! You can’t tell me, or nobody else, that I’m not a golfer. I’ve been a part of the Brand Jordan team for years, and we’ve done so many great things. But now, to be able to play a sport that MJ isn’t known for but played too — it’s authentic. There’s nothing like wearing Jordans to play basketball. And, of course, we like Jordans for style and fashion, because it’s the culture. But now I get to play golf in my favorite sneakers. And what I love about Jordan golf shoes is they’re Jordans! You know what I’m saying? I’m like, ‘This is incredible! I’m wearing Jordan 4s, 1s, 11s on the golf course.’ It shows you how powerful the sneaker is.

DJ Khaled takes the course wearing the “Cool Grey” Air Jordan 11.

Mickey Pierre-Louis for Andscape

I walked MJ’s course at The Grove [The Grove XXIII is Michael Jordan’s personal course]. It was me, Reg and Mark Wahlberg. On our way out, I saw so many legends. People you only see on posters. Moments you only see in pictures. And those people were like, ‘Yo, Khal! What up?’ We were leaving, and Reg said, ‘Jordan is probably out there now.’ It’s just a vibe over there.

Saunders: We’re on the driving range, and David Falk pulls up. [2020 Masters and 2016 U.S. Open champion] Dustin Johnson is to our left. [Four-time PGA major champion] Rory McIlroy is even like, ‘Aye, Khaled, can I take a picture?’ It’s a great culture that Jordan is building through golf.

DJ Khaled: What we’re doing is being ourselves, which we encourage everybody to be. Even doing this tournament, it’s about coming together. Golf brings people together. And you end up building relationships you don’t even realize. When you get to know somebody on the golf course and catch that vibe, beautiful things come with it. I’m talking about energy — positive energy. With me, when I’m screaming, it’s my soul speaking about a nice shot. It’s hard to be quiet after you hit a bomb.

Saunders: And the beautiful thing is, if another person hits a good shot, Khaled is celebrating like he hit the damn shot. I made a putt once, and he’s like, ‘YOOO!’

DJ Khaled: I once heard Michael Jordan say in an interview that with golf, you’re challenging — and battling — yourself. So, seeing great putts, chips and shots, even if they’re not from you, is exciting because golf is hard.

DJ Khaled exits his Maybach at Miami Beach Golf Club.

Mickey Pierre-Louis for Andscape

Every time you pull up to the course and open the door of your Maybach, the first thing anyone sees is the Jordans you’re wearing that day.

DJ Khaled: Right! Jordan, head to toe. That’s just me being me. I love wearing fly sneakers. And I know the young world loves wearing fly sneakers, too. There’s a beautiful addiction to fashion and sneakers, no matter where you go. And most of those sneakers represent Michael Jordan — an idol, a legend. Someone who has spread love and brought people together because he made our favorite sneakers. So, when I show my sneakers daily at the golf course, I’m really spreading love.

Reg, how did you and the brand pinpoint DJ Khaled as a partner? 

Saunders: We’ve been at this together for 20-plus years. Our brother Joe Crack, aka Fat Joe, introduced me to Khaled way back when he was a DJ on the radio in Orlando. But Khal was bubbling, making things happen, and we just connected. We always stayed on each other’s radars, and Khal always told me, ‘Watch, we gonna be the biggest.’ He had his slogans already that he would pull out. And he talked about this concept of being ‘Still in the meeting.’ He would always say, ‘Until I get a Jordan launch, we’re still in the meeting.’ Then, once he got his own ‘We The Best’ Jordans, he said, ‘Let’s have another meeting.’

DJ Khaled: The key is that I don’t want the meeting to end. Being ‘still in the meeting’ was basically like, ‘Reg, please, I want to be a part of the Jordan team.’ Either way, I was already a part of the team. Even though I wasn’t officially signed, I didn’t wear anything but Nike or Jordan. I’ve been rocking with Michael Jordan for my whole life. I have a baby picture, and I’m wearing Jordans. You wouldn’t see me in anything else. So, I always kept Reg up to date on everything that I was doing. I was showing him the vision of where my brand was going, and authentically, Jordan was already a part of my brand.

What I love about Jordan is it’s a family. It’s my first-ever golf tournament, and Jordan Brand is sponsoring the event. It’s one thing to get sneakers, but it’s another thing that the brand stepped up to help. I told them I was doing it, and they said, ‘We’ll do it with you.’ A golf tournament is a big thing to take on. It’s a lot of work behind the scenes. But it’s unbelievable for Michael Jordan, Jordan Brand and Reggie Saunders to embrace my idea and help. This is for my foundation to benefit kids and raise awareness for diversity in golf. We want to let the young world know, ‘We’re here. And golf is our sport, too.’

DJ Khaled wears the upcoming “Olive” Travis Scott x Air Jordan 1 Low Golf, set to release in October.

Mickey Pierre-Louis for Andscape

DJ Khaled brings his signature energy to the golf course.

Mickey Pierre-Louis for Andscape

You broke the internet a week before the tournament when you got an early pair of the Travis Scott x Air Jordan golf shoes that aren’t supposed to drop till the fall. How did you get your hands on them?

DJ Khaled: That’s the beautiful thing about being true to the brand. When you’re part of the team, you’re gonna get blessed. But, I still gotta be on my A game as a sneakerhead. Even when my sneakers were coming out, I was trying to get a sample pair before Reg gave me the sample pair! That’s just how much the sneaker game excites me.

Last fall, you had your own Air Jordan 5 collaboration release. How special was that moment?

DJ Khaled: I’ve been Team Jordan for a while. And one of the beautiful things about being on Team Jordan is you don’t have to put a sneaker out. But what I learned, being a part of the family, is there are levels to it you build. And there will be a time when they’ll surprise you like, ‘Yo, Khaled, by the way, you’ve got a release coming out.’ Even when they gave it to me, I still didn’t believe it! Because we did a friends and family release, and I was happy with just that! Which is massive. That ain’t regular s—. I’m primed for another one right now.

Your friends and family release was years ago. 

DJ Khaled: But we got an actual release. Reg actually flew the team in. We were sitting in here designing together. We’re having numerous meetings, and I’m like, ‘Oh s—, this gonna be real.’ We dialed in on that collab. For the first release, we wanted to make sure it was coming from Miami. Reg and Jordan approved certain leathers that cost way more.

When you get an opportunity to collab with Jordan, and the shoe actually goes in the store, you’re chosen, you know what I’m saying? I just made sure we did a fun collaboration, and Reggie wanted me to be who I was. Originally, we were only gonna put one shoe out. I asked him if we could do two. He went back to the team, and they didn’t say no. I also asked him for something that probably nobody would allow. But, Reg knows me. So, he knows that I’m coming from great intentions for the bigger win.

I told Reggie I wanted to tease my release almost a year in advance. 

Saunders: Yup.

DJ Khaled: I said, ‘You gotta understand, I’m getting a Hollywood star, and that picture is gonna be forever.’ I’ll wear them on the day I get my star, and we’ll put all the shoes around the star. I said, ‘You gotta trust me on this one. We’re not gonna even tell ’em it’s a release.’ They’ll think it’s family and friends. Let ’em know it’s just for me! I don’t care.’

So, when the time comes, I’m wearing them, my sons are wearing ’em. There are pictures everywhere. Then, the internet blows up, like, ‘Is it a release? Is it friends & family?’ I wasn’t telling anybody. But months later, Reggie confirmed the release. And the brand gave me Cyber Monday.

DJ Khaled (left) and his son Asahd Khaled (right) attend the Hollywood Walk of Fame Star ceremony for DJ Khaled on April 11, 2022, in Hollywood.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Saunders: Remember, I was in Milan, and I sent you a picture of Marco Belinelli, who had them on. 

DJ Khaled: The Team Jordan players started wearing them. I saw Jayson Tatum rocking them walking into the game, and I’m like, ‘Oh, my God!’ The organic love was beautiful. And when they came out, people were ready for them.

The shoe is already beautiful. And MJ is letting me tweak it for today’s time and my personality because he believes in my brand enough to say when to believe in his.

Now that you’re entering the golf chapter of your life, is it a goal to collaborate on your own Jordan golf shoe?

DJ Khaled: That has to happen. God willing, when the brand announces my next release, a golf shoe has to be a part of the package. Because I golf!

Once I love something, I don’t know how to do it halfway. That’s why I’m careful with what I put my energy into because I only know how to do it one way: All the way.

DJ Khaled’s son Asahd Khaled (right) displays an early passion for footwear like his famous father (left).

Mickey Pierre-Louis for Andscape

DJ Khaled (right) shares his enthusiasm for golf with his son Asahd Khaled (left).

Mickey Pierre-Louis for Andscape

Khaled, how special is it that Asahd is becoming a true sneakerhead?

DJ Khaled: I hit Reg yesterday and sent him videos of Asahd, who’s already on the computer buying sneakers on his own. And now, he picks the superlimited ones that I can’t find. Even my connections can’t get ’em. He’s like, ‘Dad, how come you got those and I ain’t got those?’ And I don’t wanna let him down. I tell him they don’t make certain shoes in his size, and he goes, ‘Let’s just make our own!’ It’s beautiful to see kids love sneakers, then love basketball, and even love golf, and it all comes back to the sneaker. It’s beautiful.

Have you played golf with MJ?

DJ Khaled: I haven’t played with MJ yet.

Sanders: We’re setting it up, though.

Aaron Dodson is a sports and culture writer at Andscape. He primarily writes on sneakers/apparel and hosts the platform’s Sneaker Box video series. During Michael Jordan’s two seasons playing for the Washington Wizards in the early 2000s, the “Flint” Air Jordan 9s sparked his passion for kicks.