Rap Game Corvallis, Oregon.
I was in the fifth grade playing Y-League ball with the Muskogee Bulls when they showed up. Seemed like they were from another planet. They had zippers. Zippers. The outside shell and design of the shoe a perfect compliment to its chattery, masterlock of a defender namesake, Gary Payton. They were the Nike Air Zoom Flight 98. You could also just call them “The Glove”.
I’m the one white guy in the front row. I’ll pause so you can laugh at how altogether frumpy and “When does Power Rangers come on? Just kidding I know when it comes on I was just trying to make conversation” I was. Killing it as the lone guy on the team who was committed to the sleeveless anti Ewing vibe. Somehow managing to be even whiter than the shirt that rested beneath my jersey.
It was 1998 and we were in the midst of Jordan’s year long supposed final farewell to the league. We seven lived in Oklahoma and had no professional basketball geographical allegiance to speak of, so, naturally, we adopted da Bulls as our squad of choice. Why not name your rec league team after the most dominant one on the planet?
Our allegiances spread to our footwear as evidenced by our point guard’s shoes. That PG whose first name, ironically enough, was Jordan, is sitting in the front row to the left of the trophy mean mugging because we keep it too real in the 918. Jordan’s Dad, Rodney, was our coach and he was, for all intents and purposes, the best. A big time supporter of His Airness and defender of anyone who thought about bringing up some other players names in the same breath or sentence as The Greatest One’s.
Once we were playing out of town in an AAU tournament in Oklahoma City. The whole team stayed the night at a hotel and Trey, our starting 2 guard, had brought with him his Nintendo 64. We got to playing NBA Jam and I selected the Pistons. I then chose to control Jerry Stackhouse. There was chatter in the room that Stack was going to be the next Jordan. Rodney put the suplex on that argument fairly instantly saying we were all stupid and, looking back on it, we so were.
Unrelated to absolutely everything, the Muskogee Bulls were actually a pretty well oiled machine that dominated the Eastern half of Oklahoma AAU basketball for the better part of our four year existence. Despite my better efforts and desires to be the mini Bulls version of Pippen or Rodman, I was always more of a Longley. Some would question why I didn’t give thought to attempting to be our team’s version of MJ. Well, even at the super unintelligent, extraordinarily naive age of eight, I knew I did not have near the game to be our version of the G.O.A.T. I played what some people would call “low to the ground” or “really excruciatingly awful” or “The skinny but still somehow fat child version of Greg Ostertag”.
Anyways. The shoes. They were a birthday present. My parents got them for me and then my Mema acquired the shoes from my parents and gifted them to me in the summer of my tenth year. She did what she always did when she gifted me shoes: Acted like the place had messed up and given her just one shoe, then soon after realized she may or may not have been handed some clues that may or may not help me find the second shoe via a scavenger hunt she may or may not have had everything to do with. It was a great running bit. On par with “Don’t call it that” in Arrested Development and “I have maggots in my scrotum” in The Book of Mormon.
The shoes were the first shoes I ever cared about enough to designate as “basketball shoes”, which is to say that they were used only for basketball and not to make dudes jealous during P.E. or recess at school. I was going to take care of these things so they treated me well. I honored them, and they honored me. You see the trophy. Hardware matters.
Alas, the world turns and feet grow and the toes on a foot can only scrunch and curl so much before it’s time to retire the shoes that changed the face of shoes. Sad day when I graduated to some silver Team Jordans in the fourth grade. But they meant something to me, these shoes. I put forth effort to keep them looking clean and tried to do them as much justice as my pudgy blonde gap-toothed self could at the time. Slow footed and banished to the post to rebound for our guards, The Gloves were a way for me to connect to the perimeter, weirdly. The place where, to me, the athletes roamed. Me and the other tall dudes on the team just waited under the goal for errant threes or drop offs from our penetrating guards. I suppose, to put it as simply and shallowly as I possibly could, the shoes just made me feel cool. I felt faster. Felt like I jump higher. I couldn’t, of course, but isn’t life about feelings?
I bring the shoes up because they’re coming back. According to www.drjays.com, there’s rumors that these shoes may be finding their way back onto shelves sometime this year.
Go crazy, folks. I’m not Scrooge McDucking into any gold coin pools or anything, but I’ll do all I can to squeeze some life out of my wallet so I can cop a pair. I also accept cash donations if you’d like to help a kid, like me, get a cool pair of unnecessary, most likely gonna be overpriced shoes, today. I’ll make a Kickstarter or an Indigogo if necessary. I fear nothing.
And yes. I regret the ankle socks. A lot.