8. Do you have an interesting or unique locker room sneaker story?
McMenamin: Two immediately come to mind. One is kind of quirky, the other is a bit of a conspiracy theory for you sneakerheads out there to mull over. The quirky one? Antawn Jamison puts his socks and sneakers on first, then puts on his pants. Just weird. The conspiracy theory? Back in 2011, the five-year anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game was approaching and I asked if Kobe would wear the Nike Air Zoom Huarache 2K4s in homage to the kicks he wore when he torched the Raptors. He said he hadn’t really thought about it and I tried to appeal to the respect he has for Michael Jordan by pointing out that MJ wore his original Air Jordan 1s in his last game as a Bull at Madison Square Garden in the spirit of nostalgia. That’s when Kobe kind of blew my mind. He told me Michael didn’t wear those old Jordans to celebrate his career coming full circle at the Mecca, he only did it because Nike had decided to start selling his retro Air Jordans and what better way to drum up interest in potential buyers who wanted to be like Mike than have Jordan make it seem like he just decided to wear them in a game for old time’s sake. The story kind of hurt the kid in me who grew up idolizing Jordan, but the sneakerhead in me loved hearing the real behind the scenes stuff at work there.
MacKenzie: I’ve had more than one NBA’er tell me that DeRozan has ruined their stop at RIF in LA because he’s bought out their size 14s. After an All-Star weekend trip back home last season, I asked DeRozan how many pairs of shoes he came home with. The number, which I won’t reveal here, made me weak and is higher than the total number of shoes currently in my closet.
Twersky: I do…but I’d rather share one that was told to me by Allen Iverson. I can’t recall if I’ve ever published this on SLAMonline, but I’ll tell it anyways. Early in Iverson’s rookie year, back in 1996 when the League was 180 degrees different, the young guard was wearing the now-iconic but then hastily-finished Reebok Question Mids. Because he signed with Reebok so late in the game, Iverson didn’t really have much of a say-so in the makings of the shoe. With that in mind, Iverson struggled early in the season with finding the perfect fit. As he recalled for me recently, he used to take off his shoes after games only to find blood covering his socks. Granted, the blood didn’t stop him from killing the competition and granted it didn’t stop the Questions from achieving fame, but it also didn’t stop constant razzing from his teammates. Derrick Coleman in particular was relentless. Reebok, AI said, fixed the problem quickly but still…It’s kind of funny to think about, and would’ve been dope to witness. If only they would’ve known then what we know now.
Kerby: Not really locker room, technically, but I wrote something really nice about Brad Miller, who is my favorite non-MJ basketball player ever. That made its way to his wife, who started following me on Twitter and eventually mailed me a pair of his game-worn Hyperfuses. Amazingly, they ended up arriving on my birthday, making it the best birthday in the history of time.
Kiel: I remember going to the Heat vs. Spurs game on Easter Sunday this past season. Coach Spoelstra DNP-CD’ed LeBron James, Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade as a tit for tat-type of move because San Antonio sat a few of their key players against the Heat earlier this season. Players don’t usually talk to the media when they don’t dress out, but a couple of nights before Dwyane told me he wanted the opportunity to detail his new playoff shoe. I went into the interview thinking that I was only going to get commentary about Dwyane’s shoe from Dwyane himself, but 3-4 players, including LeBron James, seemed to know everything about the Li-Ning Way of Wade as if it was their shoe. LeBron knew pretty much every Way of Wade colorway that Dwyane wore leading up to that game and helped him name his top 5 signature colorways. With players being so busy with building their own brands, it was different to see a high-profile player like LeBron – who has one of, if not the most popular signature shoe line – dish out great details on a shoe you would think he knows nothing about (King James Aids Dwyane Wade in Naming Top 5 Kicks).
Wong: Shane Battier used to serve as tech editor for HOOP when he was playing in Houston. I had never met him in person so when the Rockets were in town playing the Knicks, I went to introduce myself to him before the game. We talked a bit at his locker as he was getting dressed (I have to add that Battier is one of the smartest and most self-aware professional athletes I’ve ever met) and as he was about to lace up his shoes (he had recently just signed with Peak) he asked me what I thought about them. Now I’m pretty open-minded when it comes to footwear, but I’m also terrible at hiding my true feelings about something. When he asked me, I looked at them for a bit and just managed to let out a: “they’re cool” (or something to that effect) but my face must’ve said otherwise. Battier laughed and told me (I’m paraphrasing as this was a few years ago now) “It’s ok, I get paid to wear them.”
Whitaker: I remember when Nate was on the Knicks and before one game he was lacing up a pair of Barkleys, and I asked him if he had a lot of them at home. He told me he had asked Nike for some Barkleys and they didn’t have any in their archives in his size, so he had actually gone on eBay and ordered the pair he was wearing that night in the game.
Ungvari: I don’t have my own story but my favorite story is about Kobe Bryant and Ruben Patterson and it took place the last game of the 2003-04 regular season. The Lakers were battling Sacramento for the Pacific Division title and the second-seed in the Western Conference Playoffs. Sacramento had lost earlier in the evening to Golden St. but owned the tiebreaker over the Lakers. If the Lakers were to lose the game they’d not only concede the division title and the second-seed to Sacramento but they’d also fall behind San Antonio and into the fourth-seed. Portland had already been eliminated from playoff contention and the only thing they had to play for was making the Lakers road to another title more difficult. With the Blazers up by three points and only eight seconds left, Patterson, who was a teammate of Bryant’s for one season with the Lakers, missed a pair of free throws that would have made it a two-possession game. The Lakers still had a chance. Now Patterson, who had once nicknamed himself “The Kobe Stopper”, was tasked with guarding Bryant on the final possession of regulation. He did as good of a job as one could expect and yet Kobe still managed to get off a circus-like shot that sent the game into overtime. But that wasn’t all. With the Blazers up by two points and only one second left in the second OT, once again Bryant got the call, once again it was Patterson’s job to stop him, and once again Kobe delivered. But this time it wasn’t for the tie but for the win. After the game, Patterson visited his former teammate in the Rose Garden’s visitor’s locker room and asked Kobe if he could have the sneakers he was wearing and if Kobe would autograph them. When reporters asked Patterson about it, he replied with, “Yeah, I asked for his shoes. I said, ‘You’ve got to give me your shoes for that one.'”
Cason: The most memorable one is interviewing Michael Beasley pregame before the Heat were set to take on the Bulls in Chicago. The interview was for Sole Collector and with any Sole Collector interview, I always had the mag with me to introduce myself and SC to get the players familiar with the mag. This issue was the ever-popular Jordan issue. Beasley was the only player out of around 13 that season that actually begged to keep the mag before the interview begin and I hesitantly gave it up as I hadn’t had the chance to look through it or read it. Adidas had just done a PE of the TS Supernatural Commander for Beasley and the interview centered on that, him being a sneakerhead, etc. For an adidas guy, at the time, Beasley was very open about his love for Jordan’s and how he would have loved to sign with them. All while he’s talking about Jordan and his love of the brand, Quentin Richardson is sitting across from him just smiling and holding up one of the three PE’s he was deciding to wear before the game. Beasley talked about the changes he would make at adidas as far as making the shoes better from a aesthetic standpoint. He then talked about the money being the reason he signed with them over Nike after having gone to a Nike school in Kansas State. Information like this is great because he was honest and very forthcoming, but it isn’t good news for a guy on an adidas deal. I edited most of the interview to where it was still a good read and wouldn’t put Beasley in any hot water.