How Brian Kortovich went from earning a name at The Rucker to creating brand ACES through storytelling
The intersection of sneakers and fashion continues to become unified as one. Sportswear giants and historic fashion houses have come to terms with the overlap that streetwear and the runway share. …
The intersection of sneakers and fashion continues to become unified as one. Sportswear giants and historic fashion houses have come to terms with the overlap that streetwear and the runway share. There’s no better exemplar of it than within the game of basketball. Pre-game fits and on-court heat have created a specific niche that encompasses style and sport like never before.
Brian Kortovich, founder and CEO of ACES, has tapped into the very fiber that makes high-caliber athletes inspiring as well as stylish — hustle and heart. ACES is an omnipotent brand that derives from Kortovich’s passion for the game that has allowed him to work and help players tell their own stories of perseverance.
Of course, all of it is done in style. We talked to Kortovich about his origin story as a certified hooper into an accredited member of the elite circle that surrounds the game we all love.
Nice Kicks: The Rucker’s ethos and the overall atmosphere are known for being very gritty and hardworking as it mirrors Harlem. Given your upbringing and journey, what did becoming a scoring leader mean for you?
Brian Kortovich: Growing up in Cleveland, I always would hear about the EBC and the storied history of Rucker Park. It is world-renowned as the Mecca of Basketball where players come to compete against the best. From Dr. J to Joe The Destroyer Hammond, Steph Marbury, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and so many more — that place is hallowed ground.
Growing up with ambitious goals, I always dreamed of playing there one day. It wasn’t easy getting on a team, let alone getting time on the court, it’s actually a story itself — but once I did, things just flowed, and the rest is history.
Winning a scoring title at EBC Rucker at over 35ppg is hard to put into words, but just knowing the history of the park and league, it proved that I belong with some of the best players in the world. To me personally, it validates all the years of hard work, mental preparation & fortitude it takes to perform at that level and especially in that environment. I became a marked man, earned that instant street cred as a certified bucket in The Mecca of Basketball that is NYC.
Nice Kicks: How would you define ACES as a brand, and what makes it so important now more than ever?
Brian Kortovich: ACES is a lifestyle brand platform that impacts through style, purpose, and sport. We tell stories through apparel that reflects those from the top athletes in the world to the daily working professionals that are grinding to make ends meet, to the weekend warriors that are in pursuit of their goals. With the powerful brand messaging, authentic story, and universal brand connectivity, it’s relatable to many.
ACES is a symbol of those who fight, grind, persevere and overcome odds. What makes it so important in today’s world, is that we live in a right now society, we don’t have the patience for anything because it’s all there at the click of a button. Everybody wants to be a KD or a big lawyer in LA but doesn’t understand the hours it takes to reach that kind of level of success.
ACES is a reminder of the work you have to put in to be great.
Nice Kicks: Sneakers are a fundamental part of the game. However, they’ve also been more significant than basketball. What do sneakers mean to you? Do you have a favorite memory with a specific model or colorway?
Brian Kortovich: Sneakers are a piece of wearable art to me — the combination of the vision, style, feel, and performance of the shoe make it special. You can’t just put anything on your feet. Growing up, I couldn’t afford Jordan’s or the other shoes most kids wore, so when I finally got my hands on a pair of J’s I was so in love with them that I would keep them in the box and only wear them around the house. I had to keep them joints fresh! I can still remember the first day I found the courage and decided to wear them outside — of course; I scuffed them up.
Nice Kicks: You went from having your sneaker deal with AND1 to now partnering up with some of the biggest names in sports for one-of-a-kind sneakers. What was that process like, and what does that mean to you?
Brian Kortovich: To not only get a shoe deal but in the manner and route I did was unconventional, to say the least, it was an absolute dream come true — especially with a storied brand like AND 1. Shout out and much love to my guys Rob Purvy “The sneaker whisperer”, Dexter Gordon and the AND 1 family. I will always have a special place in my heart for those guys taking a chance on me. It’s crazy to think I started as a kid with big hoop dreams, then transitioning to a founder & CEO of a brand ….to seeing Mike Conley getting up and down the floor at Staples Center with the ACES logo on the tongue for the first pair we did. That opened the door for other NBA players (PJ Tucker, etc ) and other select players across the MLB & NFL to rock Nike ACES + Jordan ACES kicks in-game.
To have “ACES” and our logo on the feet of some of the best athletes in the world — well, that is a bit surreal to me, truly humbled by it all. It all just shows how genuine authenticity resonates with people. You can’t fake that.
Nice Kicks: ACES has had a handful of significant athletes and celebrity co-signs. Do you have a favorite one? What about that moment/those moments mean to not only you but to the brand?
Brian Kortovich: ACES has been seen on the likes of Justin Bieber, DJ Khalid, KD, PJ Tucker, CC Sabathia, Quavo (Migos), Cappie Pondexter, and Tamera Young to name a few. It’s hard to pick one favorite among the athletes/celebs who have donned the ACES logo. I will say this though, I’m humbled and honored anytime someone rocks and co-signs the ACES brand. From the top profile athletes and celebrities to even “Joe or Jane GoHard ” that lives in middle America who just finished his/her first Spartan Race, we are proud to be a part of a group of people that just go out and achieve their goals by any means necessary.
It’s a special moment for me when we see the stories come through and resonate with all the dream chasers, go-getters, and overcomers across the world. They can relate to that hustle and that heart.
Nice Kicks: A lot of people get caught up with the names and the hype. The essence of sneakers is relationships. What’s it been like playing with some of the greats, working with them, and even just building relationships?
Brian Kortovich: The game of basketball has opened up some crazy doors and has enabled me to travel the globe playing the game I love. The friends, family, and relationships you develop through the game are priceless — very hard to put into words, but this game can and will easily turn a teammate into family.
While playing in the NBA was originally the destination, I shot for the moon and landed on the stars with ACES, and today more than ever I am grateful for the relationships I forged with my brothers and sisters on the court. They encourage and inspire me to continue to build this idea that was sparked years ago.