Friday, December 19th, 2008 at 2:08 pm  |  45 responses

Obsessions Come To A Close

And generous friends come through in the clutch.

Nike Air Penny IIby Chris O’Leary

The picture says it all, doesn’t it?

Sometimes it helps to have friends in high places. Other times, it just helps to have a friend in the right place. For me, that right place was a Foot Locker in Tampa a few weeks back. After some quick but still expensive cross-border phone calls, a Canadian-based friend of mine out of town for work grabbed me my much sought after Air Penny II’s. They made it to me in the mail a few days later and were on the court of my favorite gym a couple days after that.

Sure, they’re a half-size big on me, but desperate measures came into play here. I’ve also learned that in the future, I’ll go a half-size down if given the choice again. The arch pain created by the extra room in the shoe and the intricate lacing that goes into alleviating the problem wouldn’t be worth the hassle on something that wasn’t an obsession.

As much as I love the shoes, I’m convinced now more than ever that they’re in my life to hammer my age home on me. My first wearing of the shoe actually drew a small crowd around me from people in the gym. While they were curious about what I was wearing, none of them knew what the sneakers were.

“Penny Hardaway! Seriously guys, he was the most exciting player in the League! Lil’ Penny? No? Nothing?”

I’ve given up on schooling the youth with sneaker wisdom. Their blank faces are my Kryptonite. That is, if random sneaker knowledge qualified as a Superman-like quality…which it doesn’t. I just had an image of a crime-fighting superhero who’s a total sneaker junkie pop into my head. How crazy would that be? But I digress.

Jordan Ol Skool III’ve hit a good streak of sneaker fortune lately and I’ve been meaning to put something together to talk about some shoes that have impressed me in the last couple of months.

First, Jordan Brand’s Ol Skool II. I’ve been wearing these since the end of September and was pleasantly surprised by them. Billed by JB as something that looks good on the court and with a pair of jeans, I was a little worried that they’d have put performance second on their to-do list. As an admitted Air Jordan snob, I’ve also been a little leery about Jordans that aren’t really Jordans basically since the brand was created back in 1997.

While it’s not a full-on Air Jordan, the Ol Skool II is a good shoe. First, in terms of its concept, it’s a great mish-mash of the old and the new. At first glance, it looked like a LeBron shoe to me—about as new-school an aesthetic you can have right now. Upon closer inspection, though, there are a lot of old-school feeling elements to the shoe as well. The toe portion of the sole is covered in stars, not unlike the Air Force 1. Also from the AF1 page is the half-inch stitching around the outer portion of the sole of the shoe. The pre-1987 version of the Air Jordan logo on the heel is another nice touch for that throwback feel.

Inside the shoe is a simple corduroy-looking makeup, fully taking you back to the ’80s. The lacing method is simple as well, with plain-Jane black laces. No steel lace tips with a Swoosh or a Jumpman engraved on them, no speed-lacing system, no frills in that department whatsoever. That’s not to say the lacing system isn’t good though. I was actually surprised at how well a tightening of the laces really sunk the shoe onto my foot.

On the court, the shoe held its own. It’s light, comfortable and there were no break-in issues, which for a shoe at a midrange price (it’s retailing for $115) is a pretty good thing.

While the Ol Skool II has been out for a little longer than a minute, a slew of new colorways that all hint at the Air Jordan I were released at the first of the month. I like my all-black model (which in itself is old school, if JB was aiming at the mid-’90s Fab Five all-black sneak craze), but these recent releases have stirred up a little new release envy on my end. But that’s something I can deal with. Usually.

Before I get into the next sneaker I’ve been wearing as of late, I’ve got to shout out the generosity of my longtime friend Kirk, who stopped into E-town for a visit shortly after I got my Penny II’s in the mail.

Kirk and I have played ball together since junior high and in that time have shared epic, weather-changing one-on-one battles on my driveway that continue on courts between here and our hometown to this day. I’ll admit that he holds a wide margin in the all-time count in the win/loss column. I can man up when I have to.

What Kirk can’t admit to, though, is that I once crossed him up so bad that he actually blew his knee out and crumpled to the ground. I made my layup, claimed the win by default and then got him the medical attention he needed. I think that needs to become public knowledge before I go any further here.

Like I was saying, Kirk and his fully healed knee stopped by a few weeks back. He made his way up to my apartment with a box tucked under his arm. He said that he’d picked up a new pair of shoes and I assumed he was bringing them up to show me. When I saw the size on the box though, I knew something was up.

Jordan Brand XX2 5/8“I got a pair of Jordan XX2’s,” he told me as he handed me the box. “These ones are yours.”

He gave me the Jordan XX2 and 5/8, a shoe that went under my radar when it dropped last year. While the Ol Skool II is a good shoe, there’s a huge (HUGE!) difference between a JB release and a full-on Air Jordan release, and the XX2 and 5/8 reminded me of that.

From the second you lace up the shoe, to the moments you take your first steps in them, you know that you’re rocking something special. Where the Ol Skool II feels normal on those initial steps, the XX2 and 5/8 is like making the leap from driving a minivan to a sports car. Both might get you to the same place, but that sports car is much more likely to give you a ride that you’ll talk to your friends about for weeks and months to come.

Whereas the XX2 has interchangeable features for the heel (Zoom Air or regular classic Air), the XX2 and 5/8 has only the classic Air. Although Zoom Air is always nice to have, you won’t feel shortchanged with what you get in this shoe.

Having worn the XX2 and 5/8 about a half-dozen times, I can say that it’s been a nice and reliable shoe from the get go. The only complaint I can make on it is that it isn’t very breathable. I haven’t had to make this kind of a comment on a sneaker before, but I actually stunk these joints out after one wear. It wasn’t a permanent, sneaker-scarring stank or anything, but I could smell them after one hour-long wearing. That’s an off-court thing, though. On the court, the XX2 and 5/8 is nice.

Finally, I wanted to wrap up here by talking about the webcast that Nike put on for the Kobe IV last week. While the whole production seemed a little forced (could those kids have been any more subdued?), Kobe IVand the push on the low-top angle was a little over the top in my opinion, Mamba’s latest sneaker has me intrigued.

I’ve got a pair of Zoom Kobe I and II’s in my closet. The I was decent, but could have been better. The II’s technology was impressive, but the shoe dug into my Achilles to the point where I couldn’t wear them anymore. The III slipped by me, but the IV, with its abundant use of Lunarlite foam and Flywire technology (both have made the Hyperdunk what it is) in that low-cut package has me feening for the Feb. 6 release date. The aesthetic isn’t through the roof on this one (again, my opinion), but this could be a defining sneaker in Kobe’s career—of course, winning a championship in the shoe helps give a sneaker that defining status. Somehow, I actually like the colorway that Kobe will wear at the All-Star game in Phoenix.

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  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Kobe’s shoes are horrible….like a pair of Bodyglove surf shoes. Disguisting.

  • http://slamonline.com Tzvi T

    115 is a “midrange price?”
    You must be makin big bucks.

  • http://slamonline.com Chris O’Leary

    No Tzvi, I live in Canada. The high end stuff is 200 and up.

  • http://www.ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Big Man

    $115 is mid-range now? Damn, I’m getting way too old.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Oh, and Chris, congrats on the Penny’s…..still look nice today…and the Jordan Ol Skools should have been branded by the Lebron division….that’s a direct descendant of the King’s line.

  • http://www.ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Big Man

    Oh, I just saw the other comments. Mid-range for me is like $70 bones and most of the time I’m looking for something cheaper than that.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Big Man must breaking down a lot of sneakers. I prefer a pair that’s made right, even if they tend to use higher-quality material which escalates the price.

  • http://twentythreenine.blogspot.com Russ Bengtson

    Congrats on the score. I know all about the “oh, OK, they fit good enough” solution. What’s a half-size amongst friends? (Also, I actually stopped dead in my tracks when I saw the black/red and black/royal Ol Skool IIs today. Amazing what a colorway can do.)

  • http://allday-fadeaway.blogspot.com Nbk

    Im grabbin those kobe’s the day they come out, i can’t play in anything but lowtops

  • http://slamonline.com Tzvi T

    Oh, Chris, You were talking Canadian dollars (Loonies and Toonies??).
    Anyway, Like Ryne said, I’d drop that much, even if it is Muchos Pesos..

  • http://allday-fadeaway.blogspot.com Nbk

    I am still tryin to find the Jet Flights if anyone knows where I can find them please let me know

  • riggs

    kobes low tops are oogly, and how can kids not know about the pennys?!?! or chris rock’s lil penny….for shame youngsters…for shame.

  • Myung

    I didn’t know you wanted those Penny II’s so bad. I have a connect at Foot Locker who used his Employee 50% off (it was a special sale 4 weeks ago) and got that exact colorway for me for $70. If I had known, I would’ve helped you out. Either way, I’m glad you got them. After this CDP tomorrow, I’m retiring for good. I’ve been into kicks since about 1989 (when I got my first pair of Jordan IV’s as a 5th grader), but it’s about time I step away (this realization is of course 5 years too late). I counted up my Nikes and Jordans, and I’m at 51 pairs (which to me, is somewhat embarrassing). Since God only gave me two feet on which to wear said shoes , I think it’s definitely time to step away from the kicks game.

  • http://sjsu.edu davidR

    what did the kids think of the pennys the first time they saw them on your feet?

  • http://slamonline.com Chris O’Leary

    Russ, it’s crazy what the colorway change does for that shoe. The black/black I have is nice, but the red/black, blue/black, they take that shoe to another level. You don’t see that happen too often.

    Myung, thanks for the offer anyway. I still kick myself over letting the flint grey XIII retro pass me by, so I had to make sure I wasn’t left mourning these sneaks. I used to think I’d step away once I had certain shoes, but at this point anyway there’s no end in sight for me.

  • http://slamonline.com Chris O’Leary

    @ davidR: people were interested in what I had on, and I think they liked the Penny II’s but they approached because they didn’t know what they were.

  • Myung

    I’ve passed on so many kicks and experienced regret that I could go on for days listing them for you. My kicks history is just full of regret (shoes I passed on, shoes I once had and sold for too cheap on eBay, etc). Regarding “retirement,” I think the only thing that could bring me back are the Spacejam XI’s. I have a mental checklist of kicks I’ve always wanted and for the most part, I’ve checked off everything off that list (my black-red XI’s are old and beat up so that’s what tomorrow’s CDP will take care of). I’m 31 now and married. When I was hardcore into buying shoes, I was 22 to 27 and single. I HOPE I can honor my commitment of staying away from the temptation to buy more pairs (reading Sole Collector and SLAM doesn’t help). I’ll always consider myself a sneakerhead, but I guess I’ve finally hit that point where enough is enough.

  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    $115 is high for shoes, no doubt. but if you buy Js with any regularity, you’re used to it. But one can aquire some nice dunks, air assaults, vandals, etc for $70 or less in my experience…

  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    The re-release IIIs are retailing for $300+. I want em bad, but unless I win a bunch of money playing cards or something, there’s no way I can swing that.

  • Myung

    I think Atlanta has to be one of the best cities out there for sneakerheads. You’ve got 4 outlet malls within an hour (1.5 hours max) of the city. We get a lot of top releases that some smaller cities might not get (we have a ton of malls, along with a Niketown and a Nike Concept Store), and after just a short time, you’ll find deep discounts around town if you know the right spots. And to top it off, the sneaker game isn’t nearly as fierce as it is in other major cities so camping out is almost never necessary. I feel bad for people in places like LA, Chicago, NY, and SF (as well as those who live in small towns). I highly doubt I’d have been into kicks if I didn’t have easy access to them.

  • Myung

    Ciolkstar, you talking about the black CDP III’s? I just sold mine on eBay and got $197 for them. I know you can get them for under that price. If you’re paying more than even $225, you’re paying too much.

  • http://www.ojhoops.blogspot.com the baconator

    I love the Penny II’s. They’re tops on my sneaker list. Right now I”m ballin in the Air Zoom Flight 96′s and lovin ‘em. They’re super comfy and unlike my Gils they have a nice grip

  • WhaHuh

    I just got my first player signature trainers. the Melo M4. Blew out his knee?? there must have been some underhand tactics there

  • thesubwayconnection

    Chris, two things: those XX2 5/8s are hot, and what gym do you play at?

  • G8RS

    Agreed. Penny’s = hotness Can’t wait to get my all-white pair! Oh kids just don’t know! Remember the Lil’ Penny commercials? classic.

  • h-wag

    Aren´t those black Jordans pictured the Jordan Rizing Stars ?
    Cause they don´t look like the 22s at all.

  • h-wag

    BTW: Getting kicks over here in Germany can be an even greater pain in the ass.
    I really need those Pennys, but they didn´t even release them over here, so If I want some I have to order in the States and pay a lot for shipping and customs…

  • Boing Dynasty

    the Georgetown laces on the blue ol school II’s are dope.

  • Bostwik

    Doesn’t lunar foam eventually deteriorate into nothing?

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Kid Presto

    Somehow I knew Eboy would say that Kobe shoes are just so horrible. By the way, Wade’s shoes have always been my favorite when it comes time to plow the snow out of my driveway. very comfortable hiking boots. fly society in the house.

  • irv

    the penny II have been out for months. Idk how it was difficult for you to get a pair

  • Anton

    any word on when the Jordan 23′s will come down in price?

  • Justin

    irv, these released scarcely throughout Canada, unlike the USA which got them as a general release.

  • http://thesportsdiaryonline.blogspot.com Roy

    Had those Penny II’s when I was 16 or 17. They are one of the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. So glad they retro’d it again. The Retro Penny II’s was released here in the Philippines just a week ago. I tried one on and the comfort of the shoe was just the same as the OG release. Kinda made feel like I was 16 again. I hope I cop those after Christmas. :D

  • http://thesportsdiaryonline.blogspot.com Roy

    I love the Air Penny II’s. One of the best and comfortable shoes ever. :D

  • pb

    still can’t quite believe that people don’t know about the penny’s…if an 18 yr old girl from vancouver knows about the penny’s everyone should know about the penny’s. maybe this will ring some bells for people:

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com/ BETCATS

    a white pair of Air Force 1′s + a black pair of Air Force 1′s+ 5 other pairs of Nikes (a pair of 2k4s and AM 90′s are the only ones i remember the presise ‘name of’ but i got a blue pair of Eastbay that was ‘Kick of the Day’ a while back i named Shelia) + my Bright A$$ Orange Kool Aid Reeboks (GRAIL STATUS FOUND AT ROSS’S!!) + my Fila F13s i pick up constantly with my grass cutting/odd job money for $10-$30 keep me and my size 13 foot lookin good.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com/ BETCATS

    thats what you made me think of Chris, thank you.

  • http://finishline.com aaron12

    Nice Shoes! BTW the second pair of Jordans are team rising stars not XX2 5/8s. The 5/8s are low top.

  • Anton

    Jordan Countdown pack XI/XII for $600, is it worth it?

  • http://www.bbaxn.com Darksaber

    anton, in my opinion, no. But then again i still have a near pristine XI original in the black/ red colour. I just can’t stand the XII’s. And six Hundred?? Hundred??? No wayyyy. Chris is a lucky guy, getting those penny’s, like a lot of sneakerheads, i had them back in tje 90′s, in both colourways. You guys un america have no clue how cutthroat it was to get nice b-ball kicks in europe before eastbay etc. Showed up. Any dude travelling abroad making the mistake of mentioning it to a baller automaticall got buried in sneaker orders. And mine had to look exclusive. No ho hum jordans in white/black for me, thanks. Couldnt wear the penny’s nowadays though, too in love with shox to try lighter soles. I did order a hyperdunk though, looking forward to testing em. Congrats on getting your dreamshoe.

  • http://www.bbaxn.com Darksaber

    myung. 51 pairs? Gangsta. I held a garage sale in september for my old kicks, (moved to asia) invited the juniors and all my teammates, and it was an amusing scene. These were all worn sneaks, some were discoloured and others on the verge of trash. I sold/gave away 24 pairs of iconic shoes (GP’s, pippen’s, hyperflight, penny’s, several team jordan’s and shox’s, og jordan 4,6,11,13′s) and still made 500 swiss francs. Guys were trading shoes in my living room and in my garden like crazy. I shed a quiet tear for those jordans, believe me, considering what i went through to get most of them, and the hours spent in them.

  • Anton

    Yeah I know it’s overpriced but they’re all sold out and I really want the XI’s, especially in the color.
    *sigh* impulse buys

  • http://www.bbaxn.com Darksaber

    I feel your pain, Anton.

  • don

    i wouldn’t wear those kobe lowcuts. ankle thingy.