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Would you pay $500 for tennis shoes?

“It’s gotta be the shoes!”– Mars Blackmon (Spike Lee) to Michael Jordan in a 1990’s Nike ad

I grew up once upon a time wearing a pair of P.F. Flyers my Mom bought for me at the old Belk-Tyler’s on Main Street in Ahoskie.  They were made of canvas and rubber with that foam padding insole.  I wore those sneakers everywhere, even church.

Through my late teen years and on into college my tennis shoes were whatever I could find on the bargain racks that didn’t pinch my toes.  Back then I had to keep the ‘dogs’ in decent shape for running, whether on the court or in the street.

In college, I fell in love with those three-stripe Adidas.  They gained popularity in a lot of sneaker circles because of David Thompson and NC State during the Wolfpack’s mid-seventies success runs.

When I left school I swore I’d never pay more than $20 for a pair of sneakers, and I’ve almost kept that promise.  I’m not a runner, I don’t do basketball anymore, and my tennis racket has been officially retired for the better part of 20 years.  I just need something now on my ‘dogs’ that doesn’t pinch or squeak and that I can easily grab a piece of paper to use to wipe off a wad of chewing gum or dog droppings.

And now along come $495 dollar tennis shoes (yes, I know they now serve hundreds of sports other than the racquet-kind, but they’ll always be tennis shoes to me!).

That’s what an undrafted, unsigned, hasn’t-played-a-pro-game-yet teenager from California wants to charge for his “limousines for the feet”.

Well, make that what his father wants to charge.

Unless you’ve only been wearing out your Stacy Adams’ you’ve been keeping up with the news that Lavar Ball (the man who claimed in his prime he could beat Michael Jordan one-on-one!) rejected other shoe company offers and instead opted to brand, manufacture, and sell his own Big Baller Brand of sneakers, the ZO2, named for his son, former UCLA freshman hoop star Lonzo Ball.

He plans to sell them for the unholy price of $495 a pair.

There is very little middle ground when it comes to how people feel about the elder Ball. He claims he’s poised to take over the NBA, speaks his mind freely, and is unconcerned with consequences at all times. He hypes up his sons, most notably Lonzo as a presumptive top-3 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, and Dad isn’t afraid to compare these kids to the all-time greats in the game.

Ball has rubbed a lot of folks the wrong way. In the last six months, he’s beefed with Jordan, Charles Barkley, and Shaquille O’Neal among others over various things, but not everyone is anti-Lavar.

Truth is, they’re not bad looking ‘kicks’; sort of a cross between a street sneaker and a tuxedo shoe, minus the patented leather.

Word is, since last week 263 pairs of the shoes have already been pre-ordered (that’s because they won’t be available until November – by which time his son will be riding the bench somewhere in the NBA.  Starting?…not on your life!).  Nevertheless, that’s a nice bit of change for a young man just starting his business career, with or without Dad’s help.

I still have an original pair of Air Jordan’s that a certain superstar had Nike send me back in the mid-80’s; see, I covered Jordan at Wilmington Laney High School back in the day. While I didn’t wear those shoes that much, I kept them as a keepsake, and now that they’re a little worn over time they should be worth about …$20.

Sick as it sounds, I guess you could say I finally got my money’s worth.

While the Big Baller’s aren’t going to be ‘flying off the shelves’, they may become somebody’s 20-year-old closet keepsake one day just like my old black-red-and-white AJ’s.

And based on deflation, by that time they should be worth a price just about every kid in America can afford to wear to make the corns on their feet hurt.

Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.