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Monday, August 31st, 2009 at 3:08 pm  |  27 responses

Retired Sneaks

The Tai Chi is coming back. Are you ready?

by Chris O’Leary

There are a lot of sneakers in my closet. Stacks of boxes, divided by brand and usage: casual/outdoor on one side, on-court-only on the other.

Out of all of those shoes, only one pair—my red/white/silver And1 Tai Chis—have been retired. Normally, I don’t agree with retiring sneaks, unless they’re unusable but still have sentimental value. But that’s not the case with my Tai Chis. They sit in my closet and are ready to go.

The reason they’re retired is because the Tai Chi was on my feet for the greatest moment of my basketball-playing life.

I’ve mentioned here before that my playing days didn’t really ever amount to much. Buried on the bench in high school where I went entirely unrecruited, my competitive playing days were done at the end of my senior year.

Six-years removed from high school, the apex of my playing days finally found me. The stage, my university intramural league, was as informal as it can get. No jerseys, no numbers. Just 10 guys on a court with refs who seemingly earned their 10 bucks an hour by trying to out-bad-call each other as the night wore on.

But still. First place in the league was on the line. The two undefeated teams in the league, my squad and…I don’t know, some other guys. They don’t matter in this story anyway, aside from the fact that they were there.

Like any good clash between two undefeated teams, the game was back and forth from the opening tip. We got down late in the second half and things looked bleak. Trailing by two, I bricked a three from the elbow that  seemingly sealed our fate. The other team had the ball in the final seconds of the game (there were no scoreboards, just the ref’s countdown—”15 seconds!” he bellowed) and I assumed they’d milk the clock and we’d have to foul.

But then, lady luck gave the bad guys a shot below the bAND 1 Tai Chielt. The other team’s guard saw an opening at the top of the key and drove, popping a shot from 15-feet out. The rebound shot off the rim and landed in my hands.

I looked up and saw a full court open in front of me. “Go,” I told myself. And I went, as fast as I could up the court. Scoreless on the night, shooting terribly and being otherwise ineffective, I heard the ref’s countdown. “Five, four…”

All five guys on the other team flocked towards me. A crossover to the right, then left freed me of the first two.

“Three, two…”

Another two came straight at me and I lost them with a spin dribble.

The last defender stood about 10 feet away from me and gave me the shot.

“One…”

As great as the effort may have been, I was out of time. All my dribbling and running had gotten me somewhere between my own three-point line and halfcourt. I blindly launched the ball with one hand, watched it arch and then turned my back to walk towards the bench.

A strange silence filled the gym. I looked back at the rim and saw the mesh swaying, the ball bouncing high into the air after going through.

My teammates let out howls of celebration as they ran towards me. I could feel the adrenalin running from my legs to my stomach, to my chest, like a soaring thermometer. I channeled a 1999 Allan Houston for my post-game celebration.

That night, I got home and unpacked my gym bag. I looked at my Tai Chis and knew what had to be done. I straightened up the laces, tucked them inside the shoes, kissed the front of them and packed them away. I haven’t worn them since.

Tomorrow, I’ll drop the conclusion of my Tai Chi tribute, as And1′s Rob Purvy talks to me about the November re-release of the shoe.

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  • http://twitter.com/NotebookNick thesubwayconnection

    Hahaha. Sick. Yeah, I’m ready. My brothers both had a pair, and I could never get them. White/Carolina, and Black/Red. I can’t wait to get a pair.

  • NC

    Awesome story!

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

    I actually had a couple pair of the Tai Chi’s and loved them.

  • Ken

    Well-written; I really enjoyed that story.

  • http://slamonline.com/ niQ

    Good Story! And yes, the Tai Chi’s were the best shoe to come out of And1. I always loved the White/Red colourway!

  • http://slamonline.com/ Tzvi Twersky

    I owned a few pair, Chris. Didn’t hit that shot in em though.

  • http://Solomon Solomon

    i had a pair of black and blue ones, dont know if it was specific to this pair but on the lateral side of the left shoe it read half man and on the right half amazing. i loved those shoes. they were complete shoes in my opinion. does anyone remember these?

  • claude

    loved these shoes went i had in 7th grade….VC rocked em in that epic ’00 dunk contest too

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    YES!

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Awesome job, Chris. Nice story too. And the H20 clip was SWEET, that was the first basketball team I ever liked.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Besides the Raptors, I think. I don’t remember which team I liked first, the Raptors or the Knicks.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Blinguo

    Follow through Chris! To not even watch the shot finish?! Granted it all worked out in the end.
    -
    That shot ended up costing the Knicks soo much more than money. Although they got to the Finals.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    I really liked the design of the shoe and the name. Bringing back the Wu-Tang school of hip hop/streetball meets Chinese symbols.

  • tealish

    @Teddy: Tell me about it. Those Knicks were incredibly easy to like. Oh so close they came.

  • T Bone

    man the Tai Chi was such a nice pair of kicks…. i was at university when they came out and couldnt afford to get kicks… 6 years later i stumbled on a pair and copped them straight away! along with my Adidas ADAN I & IIs they are in my hallowed “only wear on a dry day when you aint going to be going anywhere dirty” section. i got the grey and white ones, but the pair i really wanted were the Spree inspired black and blue ones. if i ever see those for sale…..

  • http://www.boogiewilliams.com Boing Dynasty aka Free Lester Hudson

    Dude, you couldnt get across halfcourt in 5 seconds?

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

    @boing: There’s a reason I was stapled to the bench in hs. That and I had five guys kind of close in on me once I started to make my move.

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  • the REAL Headless Chicken

    I have my Tai Chis retired in some box somewhere as well… Awesome story, awesome shoes.

  • D Rose

    GOT THA VINCE CARTER’S SLAM DUNK SHOE IN WHITE/RED…NOW I WANT TO GET THA BLUE/BLACK N OTHAS

  • slider man

    WoW! what a story man! & what a Heroic comeback! that Tai Chi of yours, are sure Good Luck! you should wear them again. you are a one of a kind player mr. Chris you have a big heart & a great will to win. for me, they should look at you as a roll model. Thank You Very much for this story. it tells me that i can regain my swagger back. Good Luck to You. Yeah Man! I am ready for the Return of the Tai Chi! PEACE. :)

  • steve richards

    And 1 sucks. They have never had any good shoes. Why are they still in business. Who is the idiot who thought of MLK tribute.

  • http://House-of-Game.de Chris

    yaha i have the “half man half amazing” kicks but the best and1 kicks was the “madgame´s” or guys?

  • Sneaker lover

    What’s the big deal with that shoe. I never did like And 1 shoes because they have that funny shape. They all look like those” I dream of Jeannie shoes”. I think a lot of people felt that way thats why they fell off. Lastly they were bad for the game with all that crazy dribbling. Check out Boondocks piece on them.

  • Noel

    I member my first Tai Chi’s they felt Great they were very Light so i was always light on my feet man i miss those shoes but Glad to hear there coming back i cant wait i’ll be gettn me a Pair when there out again…love the White and Red Tai Chi’s were almost my High School Team Shoes… Great Story Great Shoes… Cant Wait!

  • bardia

    I like this shoes (tai chi) but I couldn’t find it anywhere in my city and even in china!

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