A young boy is down game point in a play-to-eleven pickup game in his neighborhood park. On what might be his last defensive stand, he stretches with all his might to block a right-handed layup for the win.
Using every inch at his disposal, he just taps the ball with his fingertips, gathers it up and takes it out to the three-point line.
Knowing it’s going to take an astonishing comeback to earn bragging rights among his friends, the boy drops down to one knee, pulls back the tongue of his right sneaker and whispers, “Please let me be like Mike.”
We’ve all either dreamed, laughed at or lived one of these Calvin Cambridge moments. As crazy as it seems, we like to believe there is some fragment of our favorite athlete’s talent embedded within the rubber soles caressing our feet.
With every pair of shoes comes a sense of confidence, a belief that springing past the competition (yes, a Nike Shox pun) is within the realm of possibility.
This spiritual shoe connection is something any athlete dreams for, but as the most important law of economics goes, “Nothing is free.”
On Tuesday that proved to be truer than ever, as the Wall Street Journal came out with a report that the Nike LeBron X sneakers will cost $315 at full price, with a stripped down version still emptying the pockets at $180.
The shoes are indeed top-of-the-line, but at some point one has to wonder how much profit Nike and LeBron are taking away from this business venture. An even bigger unknown is how much negative press the newly crowned champ will endure for overpriced shoes after just having been let out of America’s doghouse.
But the simple fact is that recently, shoe models of high profile athletes have been expensive, and unsurprisingly so. Decades ago this was not the case, but we now live in a world in which giving in to consumer trends and materialism somehow defines social status.
Sadly, the urge to be current isn’t going away any time soon. In the meantime, I think it’s time to pull up a chair, keep the New Era sticker securely fastened to the bill of your hat and reminisce over some memorable shoes.
Puma Cell Meio: Usain Bolt (2008)
To say these shoes were popular after the Beijing Olympics is to say The Fonz was just sort of cool. A version of the part Jamaican, part gold medal shoes was worn by Lighting himself during a 100 meter final in which he broke stride with 15 meters to go and still posted a world record time of 9.69 seconds. To Nike founder Phil Knight, Bolt was “the one that got away.”
Nike KD II Creamsicle: Kevin Durant (2010)
After the release of Durant’s first shoe model, the basketball world was abuzz with excitement over what the newest version would look like. The world was first graced with the presence of these loud kicks in a nationally televised game against the Dallas Mavericks (a game in which Durant did not play particularly well) during the 2009-2010 season and has since seen many KD models, both in mass and limited release. Unused original Creamsicles are now considered few and far between and thus the market price for them has increased.
Air Jordan Derek Jeter Mid (2007)-
Nobody aside from Derek Jeter could’ve had the kind of marketability to make baseball cleats stylish. Think about it—cleats are meant to get dirty, whereas basketball shoes are often taken out then promptly wrapped in tissue paper and neurotically stowed away as collectors’ items. This shoe and probably Alex Rodriguez’s first Nike Shox model revolutionized the way popular baseball cleats were consumed. Now baseball fans can tune in to Sunday Night Baseball and see Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia wearing size 15 Air Jordan XI Concord cleats.
Adidas Stan Smith II (1971)-
Retail (present, adjusted for inflation): $50 or less
If you’ve lived, chances are you’ve seen this shoe. Despite not being the world’s flashiest creation, the Adidas mainstay has gotten the job done on the tennis court and the training field for over 40 years . The stripeless (an Adidas rarity) creation has sold over 30 million times since 1971 and is currently available in eight different colors and styles. Not bad for an old piece of leather, huh? Consider the Stan Smith II the “Godfather” of modern-day tennis shoes.
Adidas Crazy 8: Kobe Bryant (1998, 2005)-
Making its debut with Kobe as the Adidas KB8 at the 1998 All-Star Game, this shoe has been a classic ever since. It disappeared for a while in 2002 when Kobe left for promises of better marketing (see his Nike Black Mamba short film starring Bruce Willis and Kanye West) and pay with Nike, but was re-released by Adidas as the “Crazy 8” 2005 to rival Nike’s sales. It worked. Different color combinations using the Crazy 8 design are still worn by UCLA, Kansas and Baylor basketball players, among others.
Note: Retail prices are averaged where no singular price could be found. Current prices reflect eBay and other for-sale values, as many of these shoes are no longer produced. At original release, more expensive, deluxe versions of each shoe were sold to consumers but not recorded here. For the Stan Smith II’s, a market equivalent of $50-ish has been maintained since its original release.
- Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars (1917)
- Air Jordan 1 (1985)
- Adidas AdiPower Predator TRX FG: Kaka (New: 2012)