My family and I moved to the area in 1989. Transplants. Not influx. There's a major difference kids. Yes. We came to BILLTOWN from Billings, MT. That's where I spent my ‘wonder years.’ Dude. Why would you ever leave Montana? Well Pops landed a job at Lycoming College and my vote didn't count. I took full advantage of my gorgeous surroundings back then. I enjoyed fishing and the great outdoors. I also played lots of sports. I tried every single one and basketball quickly became my favorite. I can't tell you the number of hours I spent in the driveway as a kid. I was possessed. Perhaps that is why I am filled with joy when I see my eight-year-old son outside doing the same. He loves the game too.
We spend lots of time on the hardwood together. Jensen is playing in two hoops leagues and we watch plenty of YOUTUBE clips. While he tends to stream highlights of Curry or Lebron, I stick to the classics like Larry and John. #rhymed. We have deep conversations over no look passes and short shorts. Mom usually tells us no more right before bed each night.
I can somewhat recall a few of my biddy ball moments when I was his age. I wasn't the greatest athlete, but I was a proficient scorer who played no defense. Okay I admit it. My points per game go up at least 25% each year at every level. Except for my PORT days. Kenny kept track.
I can't remember my very first pair of basketball sneakers, nor do I think it really mattered. Hmm. A few of my friends had the original Jordans or the Reebok Pumps and of course I was jealous. But most of my kicks were always reasonably priced. Sure, my teammates and friends knew me as the preppy white boy from the east end, but I never put much emphasis on my hoop shoe swag.
By the time we got to high school Coach Pete White hooked us up with TEAM shoes. I had very little input, but I was grateful. Halfway through my senior year one of my cheap NIKE AIRs broke. Since I was the ninth player on his eight-man rotation, I didn't qualify for a replacement. Instead of buying the $125 KOBEs, I decided to rock my best friend’s indoor soccer shoes for the remainder of the season. True story. I was that guy wearing a pair of Adidas Sambas during warm-ups of the 1995 AAAA State Championship Game. I didn't play. #coachesdecision.
Jensen is quite the opposite when it comes to his sneakers. The kid already has an extensive collection. I always thought I'd be that parent who would never go overboard for a pair of shoes. Well I finally caved this XMAS and shelled out some bread for the Curry 2s. I created a monster. Now he can't stop obsessing about basketball shoes. His wealthy Aunt Kelley from CA can share in some of the blame. But this is insane. What just happened? Over priced sneakers just pole vaulted over Pokémon and replaced Minecraft as the number one thing that all eight-year-old kids now talk about. It's embarrassing.
I reached out to a few of my former players and friends who were also obsessed and rabid shoe fans. I was hoping they'd offer some suggestions on how I could stop this madness.
Cameron St. James is a senior from nearby Montgomery. I got to know him well as he played for me for two seasons. St. James is one the area's best guards and I believe he led all of District IV in scoring. He recently tallied his 1,000th career point. Quite an achievement. Cameron just loves his shoes. I used to joke when he showed up to a practice every Monday with new kicks. St. James mentioned he had 38 different pairs of basketball sneakers. Say what?
"Shoes are a way to express yourself on the court," Cameron explained. "And in basketball certain kicks give you a sort of swagger and make you feel more like that player."
My best friend Paul McGinn has a ridiculous amount. He has been collecting Nike Air Jordans well since they came out. Paul lost count at the boxes of shoes he currently has. I'd guess it's somewhere in the hundreds. No joke.
"I collect sneakers for several reasons," Coach McGinn Snapchatted. "I collect kicks because I am a fan. I collect kicks because it somehow still gives me credibility with the young kids. I collect kicks because of the cats I've built friendships with standing in line at the mall in the early morning hours of a random Saturday morning. Shout out to Rome. Shout out to Florida. Shout out to Darry."
"It's beyond functionality," Paul continued. "It's about scoopin' up the coolest, rarest, and most exclusive kicks no matter the cost. On release days, our area gets limited inventory. If you were lucky enough to cop a pair, you couldn't wait to show them off that night or Monday at school."
I sure hope that Jensen is just going through a phase. My brain hurts. Sporting matters. Yo Mike. Is it the shoes? #cheers