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“Sole Survivor,” new from ESPN’s Black History Always series, Highlights the “King of Sneakerheads” Jaysse Lopez

View from Jaysse Lopez's Urban Necessities showroom (ESPN).

True “sneakerheads” know the sneaker industry has come a long way from the days of canvas high tops. Simple athletic shoe collections have grown into a cultural sensation – not to mention quite viable investment options.  

With The Undefeated on ESPN+’s sixth Black History Always special, Sole Survivor, offers an up close introduction to The “King of Sneakerheads,” Jaysse Lopez.

The 30-minute film celebrates the elevation of the “sneakerhead” culture and its importance in the Black community past, present and future.

Lopez, a proud Puerto Rican and New Jersey native, shares his inspiring journey from panhandling on the Las Vegas Strip to becoming a successful owner of Urban Necessities. Lopez’s brand is dominating the sneaker reselling industry. His business made $21 million in profits in a trend analysts predict it will be worth $6 billion dollars by 2025.

ESPN Producer Brian Wilkins directed the latest installment following his directorial debut with Finding Free. ESPN Next Production Assistant, Sania Blu, joined Brian on this project.

Front Row caught up with Jaysse, Brian and Sania on their shared love for sneakers and the making of Sole Survivor


What attracted you to this story about Jaysse?  Jaysse is a bonafide legend. I’ve always known about him because of my love for sneakers. A good friend of mine, Justin Fredericks, a now burgeoning sneakerhead, called me after a chance encounter with Jaysse. He told me more about his backstory and how genuine of a human being Jaysee was. I knew without a doubt that we had to shine a light on Jaysse and his journey.


How did you get started in the sneaker industry? The first shoe that got me reselling was the Area 72 Barkley Posite. I
stood in line after just quitting my job. My wife, Joanie, and I purchased 14 pairs of these shoes not knowing if we would be able to resell one. I was able to resell all of them and from that moment on I knew there was a future in reselling shoes.

How was it working on this particular project compared to your directorial debut with Finding FreeBoth projects had a unique synergy. Finding Free and Sole Survivor are compelling stories about relentless individuals that found an arrival at the ending of their unbelievable journey. I knew as soon I stepped foot into Urban Necessities I was in a time machine because so many of the shoes there have importance in my life, like the Jordan 13 Altitude, which I wore to my prom.


What was your most memorable moment from this first assignment? After a few interviews with Jaysse and Dustin Lee Abraham, the writer of How High, the three of us just stood on the lower level of Urban Necessities and looked at what Jaysse created. I told Jaysse about how his story really inspired me in my young career. He gave me more insight into how at my age he had nothing but never gave up. That moment and the words of encouragement from Jaysse and Dustin are unforgettable memories.  

Jaysse in the backroom of Urban Necessities, where all the magic is stored. (Brian Wilkins/ESPN)
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