Have you ever wanted to know what are the most iconic NBA Finals sneakers of all-time? Or the story behind the greatest photos in NBA history? Or even just how to style sneakers with a suit? The NBA and iHeartMedia’s newest podcast, “Running The Break with C.J. and Alex,” aims to those questions and more.
“There are so many podcasts breaking down stat lines and records or numbers — and I love those. But in figuring out how we enjoy the game, a lot of that is the tunnel fits or the sneakers players are wearing,” said C.J. Toledano, the podcast’s co-host. “There’s ways you can engage in the NBA 24/7, and I think we’ve found that.”
“Running The Break,” hosted by Toledano and Alex Wong, is focused less on the Xs and Os of the game and more on any and all off-the-court topics. It’s not just Toledano and Wong talking, though, as NBA players, broadcasters and more have already stopped by. Since launching in May during the NBA playoffs, the podcast’s 13 episodes have included conversations with Golden State Warriors guard Damion Lee (on golfing with the Curry family), TNT’s Adam Lefkoe (on hanging with Shaq) and an NBA Finals fashion wrap-up chat with comedian Rob Haze.
However, the podcast could not run without co-hosts Toledano and Wong — who joke that the offseason is the time the “pros of basketball content step-up.” But with their NBA content experience and NBA fashion expertise — including deep-diving into specific topics, such as the mid-1990s NBA jersey trend — they live up to their motto.
As for best dressed NBA player of all-time? Toledano and Wong disagree, with Toledano backing Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook and Wong backing Hall of Famer and defensive maven Dennis Rodman.
“I’m going to go Russ,” Toledano said. “He takes chances, but then he knows how to do the basics really well. It’s something you’ve never seen before. He made an official photographer’s vest fashionable.”
To Wong, Rodman takes the title for how he helped inspire league-wide outfits today.
“You look back at Dennis Rodman’s fits — the rock band tees, colorful pants and trucker hats. Those are all the things that a lot of these younger players in the NBA now aspire to be like. Fashion’s just about expression for a lot of these guys, right? I can’t think of a guy who expressed himself better than Dennis Rodman.”
Outside of hosting the podcast, Toledano is the founder of Follow Through — a creative studio that specializes in developing and producing sports entertainment content that fuels culture. He also previously was the Creative Director of House of Highlights and Bleacher Report, a content producer for the Detroit Pistons and a stand-up comedian for 12 years.
“It all goes back to when I was a kid. I was the only Asian kid in my school, but didn’t want to be known as the only Asian kid — so I focused on what made me stand out, which was a love for comedy and basketball,” Toledano said. “I was a 90s kid, so I wanted to dress like Michael Jordan, which opened up the world of the game off the court including an interest in sneakers, memorabilia and trading cards. This podcast really came from how I consume the game.”
Wong is based in Toronto and produces another podcast, “The Raptors Show,” which is the No. 1 basketball podcast in Canada. He has also written NBA articles for GQ, SLAM Magazine, Complex and more. He loves telling unique, niche stories on NBA teams such as a feature he did for GQ on the Cleveland Cavaliers and their “Game Of Thrones” fandom.
“I remember watching ‘NBA Inside Stuff,’ and really loving learning about the behind-the-scenes and the personalities of the players. Growing up, so much of the interest around basketball was sneakers or collecting jerseys and it’s cool to be able to have a platform now to have those conversations with our listeners,” Wong said.
Wong’s book, “Cover Story,” breaks down some of the best-known basketball magazine covers of the modern era. That book impressed Toledano and inspired him to want to work with Wong.
“That project is so specific, and that’s why it was perfect that we teamed up. Alex will deep-dive into the corners of NBA fandom,” Toledano said. “We’re gonna have the deepest conversations about the most random NBA stuff.”
Toledano and Wong hope “Running The Break” will uncover the relationship between basketball and fashion, and both said fashion allows players to express themselves and their personality off the court.
“You look at a 23-year-old player who might’ve just come into the NBA. He might be mixing streetwear with high-end stuff and designer names,” Wong said. “Then you look at a player who has been in the league longer like Carmelo Anthony or like LeBron James, l they have more of a grown man look, right? Everybody is trying to reach for individualism, and it’s cool to see different age groups go at it differently.”
Added Toledano: “These players have to wear the same uniform in games. Players are recognizing their opportunity to get their identity and message out there once they’re off the court, and it just starts with fashion.”
Overall, Toledano and Wong aim to create unique NBA fashion and culture content during the 2022-23 season. They hope to eventually talk with NBA stylists who work with players, and highlight WNBA players who are trailblazers in the fashion space. To them, “Running The Break” can appeal to hardcore and casual NBA fans.
“We’re going to get into those deep cuts for the hardcore fans, but also casual basketball fans can just learn from the conversations we have,” Wong said. “Our goal is for listeners to just tune in and enjoy what is just a really casual conversation on all things in the basketball space every week.”
New episodes of “Running The Break with C.J. and Alex” are released every Wednesday and are available on the iHeart app, Apple Podcasts and wherever podcasts are streamed.