For a Bay Area hoops fan like Ace Cervantes, this past June has been the highlight of his basketball watching career, by a longshot. Sure, the “We Believe” squad of 2008 will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Dub Nation, but the all-around team effort from the top-seeded Golden State Warriors en route to a NBA Championship over LeBron James this spring will be tough to top.
Not only was it the first Warriors championship of Ace’s lifetime, it was the first for the team in 40 years. A longtime sneaker fan who’s lived in the Bay Area all his life, Cervantes has been collecting Air Jordans, rare PEs and Warriors exclusives since the early 200s.
We recently caught up with Ace to hear all about how he got started in sneakers, his favorite PEs and more. You can follow his awesome collection on his @Acervan316 Instagram account.
Nick DePaula: What kinds of sneakers were you into while you were growing up?
Ace Cervantes: I didn’t start off as one of those kids that wore Jordans and Nikes as a baby. I actually didn’t own my first pair of sneakers until I was a teenager. They were luxury items that I knew my family couldn’t afford, and I knew were too expensive to ask for, especially since I was still a child and I could easily grow out of them. But I was always fascinated by them. The design, the style, the comfort, and the lasting legacy they hold, I wanted to know everything about them.
I never asked my parents for expensive items like that, but I swore to myself that when I got older and able to afford things myself, nothing would stop me. Over the years of being in the sneaker world, the most frequently asked question I get is how many shoes do I own. The truth is that the last time I attempted to physically count, I counted a little over 1,200 pairs of shoes with various multiples of different kinds. That was about 3 years ago, so it’s safe to say that number has grown past that a bit. [laughs]
NDP: What are some of your favorite models?
Ace: I’ve been into sneakers for 15 plus or so years, ever since I was a young teen. I never really considered myself a collector when I first started into the sneaker world. Just a regular consumer of shoes. In the beginning I would purchase, wear, and really beat up shoes like how it should be. Certain shoes were not that hard to obtain back then, but at the time, I was just into the general release Air Force Ones and Dunks. When I realized how hard some sneakers are to obtain, thats when I started to really value them and the importance of really taking care of them. I looked everywhere for certain pairs out there and that lead me to online forums like Niketalk, ISS and Sole Collector.
I educated myself in the world of sneaker collecting and met some great people along the way. That’s where I introduced myself to the world of limited, sample, and player exclusive sneakers. I wear a size 10.5, but when I found out about samples and PEs, that’s when size didn’t matter to me when I buy shoes. Of course I always try my hardest to find the size I wear, but if I can’t find that or anything close to it, it wouldn’t stop me knowing how rare a shoe is to begin with. Since some shoes only come in certain sizes, like PEs, I really have no choice. Now the problem was just how was I going to afford them?
When I was younger I never had sneakers. My family couldn’t afford them. I grew up seeing a lot of my older sibling friends with all the newest Nikes and Jordans and that’s where my obsession for them began. I was 10 years old when the movie Space Jam came out and that’s where my connection with Michael Jordan started. At the age of 17, one of my first jobs was at a sneaker store. I started off just as a part timer while going to San Jose State University, and eventually worked my way up to becoming a manager.
I was a manager for 8 years and made my passion for shoes a career. Being able to learn, talk, and sell the product consistently every day really helped fuel my passion for shoes. I moved on past that job years ago but that passion for shoes still burns strong today. Some of my favorite models are the Air Jordan 3, 4, 13, and 23. Outside Jordans for basketball shoes, I am a big fan for the Huarache 2K5, Zoom Kobe 1, LeBron 2, 3, and 4, and the Under Armour Curry 1. I also became addicted recently to the Nike Flyknits due to the design and comfort.
NDP: How long have you been collecting Warriors PEs?
Ace: I’ve been a collector of player exclusives for awhile now, not just specifically Warriors PEs. Around 2006, there was a point in my collection where I owned at least an original or a retro of every single general released colorway Jordan ever produced. I felt like that was quite an accomplishment and I didn’t want my hunt for sneakers to end there, so I moved on to my next goal in samples and PEs.
To put it in perspective, around that time the majority of the original color Jordans had never been retroed for the first time, and the only way to own that colorway was to own the original. I remember myself wearing original 1990 Grape 5s as a daily regular before they retroed for the first time and with the original sole, before sole swapping and restoring was a thing. Since then they’ve already been retroed several times and seem fairly easy to get if you want that colorway.
At that time I never considered buying samples or PEs because they don’t come in my size and I’ll never have a chance to wear them. I knew collecting PEs is a tough and unrealistic goal with so many seen and unseen, so I set my goals low when I first started. One of my first goals of collecting players exclusives was to have at least one of each of the major Jordan Brand players. One Carmelo Anthony, one Ray Allen, one Mike Bibby, one Chris Paul, and so on. After reaching that goal I started to collect PEss of just some of my favorite players in general, for all sports, which led to having cleats from football and baseball players, and other non-Jordan basketball shoes from other NBA players.
I’ve opened up my collection to other brands other than Nike and Jordan and acquired Under Armours, Adidas, Li-Nings and Reebok player exclusives as well. The Golden State Warriors have always been my favorite basketball team. Since they are my home team and so local to me, that lead to several pairs of Warrior PEs into my collection.
NDP: Do you have a favorite Warrior to hunt down PEs of? What are some of your favorite custom details or models you’ve got?
Ace: I have a few favorite Warrior PEs that I’ve been on the hunt for. When I first got into collecting player exclusives, the “We Believe” team had plenty of some of my all time favorite Warriors. Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, and Monta Ellis lead the 8th seeded Golden State Warriors to one of the greatest upsets in playoff sports history. A Jason Richardson 2K5 PE has always been on my list of acquiring. Also on that team, Mickael Pietrus was the only member of Jordan Brand on the Warriors and received his own PE retro 5 and 8. Since then, Warriors on the current team have been on my radar. Before Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson signed their deals with Anta and Under Armour, I was always trying to obtain their earlier Nike PEs. Also since David Lee and Andre Iguodala are both Nike guys, I have been hunting for their personalized Nike pairs as well.
NDP: Lastly, what’s your favorite Warrior PE or shoe from this season?
Ace: I have two favorite Warrior PEss from this year. Both of them are Under Armour Curry 1s. The first is the white black and gold MVP Curry 1’s, the one with all the written details on the back heal area. The general released MVP pair did not include all the written details — it was just a solid all black heel. I first saw those via Instagram when the @Warriors IG posted Curry stretching out in them before the game. The second is the black and yellow Curry 1s that he wore for the majority of the time in the playoffs. That color was not released to the public at all. My hunt for both of those continues. But hopefully one day, when the time is right, I can add them to my collection as well.