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Sunday, March 14th, 2010 at 4:37 pm  |  19 responses

The Jordan 2010: Being That Guy

With great sneakers comes great responsibility.

by Chris O’Leary/@olearychris

Sneakerhead confession time: Up until this past month, I’d never owned a brand new pair of original issue Air Jordans.

Sure, I’ve picked up my share of retro Jordan releases over the years, but to me that’s not the same as having the new Jordans when they release. Those retro sneaks are the old J’s coming back, you know? The exclusion of the OG’s from my sneaker resume wasn’t so much about cash (though I would have had to EARN those MF’s back in the day) as it was knowing that buying shoes like that brought with it a world of trouble that I didn’t want any part of. And I don’t mean some dude stealing them out of your locker, like what happened to my friend Kirk and his aqua VIIIs when we were in the ninth grade.

I’ve seen it happen from my first days on a basketball court. Some anonymous guy shows up looking for a game. He’s let in and inevitably, like dogs sniffing each other out, everyone checks New Guy’s kicks. In that instant, no matter how casual the conversation seems, everything changes.

“You got the new Jordans. Those are pretty nice, man.”

That’s it. Doesn’t matter what New Guy says back. It could be any of the following:
a) Yeah, thanks. I like them.
b) I’m a big MJ fan, had to get them.
c) Stop looking at my feet and shut the f*ck up. I’m gonna leave a Jumpman-shaped scar on your head before I get off this court.*

Regardless of how New Guy has responded, the weight of the world just backed its big old ass onto the court and it’s looking to get comfortable on this dude’s shoulders, whether he knows it or not. The comments start right away.

New Guy blows a layup; he turns the ball over at midcourt trying to run point; he misses a bunch of shots and gets roasted on D. It doesn’t have to be all of these things happening consecutively, but as any one of them pop up, you hear it.

“Nice move, Jordan.”

“C’mon man, be like Mike.”

“Is it the shoes? It’s gotta be the shoes.”

Having just stopped playing hockey before I got into ball, I had instant flashbacks to the poor kid who foolishly grabbed the 99 jersey at the start of the season that was (incredibly!) always available. Unless you had supreme game, the pressure that came from such an atteDwyane Wadention-grabbing move, whether it was 99, 23 or 23′s kicks, was only outweighed by the snide comments that followed said players’ inevitable shortcomings. And (cue Taylor Swift**) when you’re 15, or around that age, those comments feel like they last a lot longer than Funny Guy’s five seconds of being the court jester.

So with all of that in the back of my mind, a few days after their Feb. 13 release I strung together the sleek and thin laces in my new J’s and prayed to the basketball gods that I wasn’t making a death march from the locker room to the court at the Y. It’s a tough moment when you realize that you’re now that guy in the new Jordans, walking into what you know to be a lion pit.

With two weeks’ worth of wearing the shoes now behind me, I have to say that there was an unexpected factor that came with them. True, terrible games (I had a few) made the shoes feel much heavier than their 15 ounces and with every airball (there were a couple), turnover or brain fart where I’d stand under the basket with my hands down and a potential rebound sailed by me (there’s always a lot of those), I grew to assume that those comments were being made.

There’s a flip side to wearing these shoes, though, that makes it totally worth it to have them.

Great games are perfectly framed with J’s on your feet. Fadeaways out of the corner feel extra nice. A string of them is even better. Finishing at the hoop (even if it’s not a spectacular move), or sending an incoming shot attempt back to the free throw line, I felt like I got more bounce in every step afterwards. Smart decisions, a big rebound, a touch pass through traffic, doing it well in J’s is the basketball equivalent to doing it on ecstasy. Not that I’d know.*** I just thought that’d be a good simile.

We should talk about the shoe.

Look at the 2010, or talk about it with people and the first thing that comes up is its transparent window. Some have praised it, others hate it. I would have liked to have seen some sort of variation on it, like an embedded Jumpman or maybe a silhouette from a defining moment in Jordan’s career. I know they’re big on that over there. It’s classic JB to push the envelope with elements of their design. Sometimes it works, with materials like elephant print or patent leather. Other times, like using a giant steel-like encasing over the forefoot doesn’t go as well.

I look at the window (which I’ll admit is growing on me) and I wonder if it’s an example of Jordan Brand execs just sitting around and trying to come up with ideas that would never fly anywhere else, but because they’re JB, anything goes. Eventually, peoDwyane Wadeple will fall inline and lap it up.

It’s not like that concept is completely foreign in other industries. You can’t convince me that Eminem hasn’t taken this approach with everything he’s done after 2002, or that the people at Apple didn’t come up with the iPad on a dare.

But I digress.

Feelings of inadequacy or unjust superiority that the shoes stirred up in me aside, my experience with the 2010 has been a good one, but it wasn’t flawless. The toe box is a little wide on my feet, which led to a small blister and a slightly bloody sock in one of the first wearings I had with the shoe. Use of a neoprene ankle sleeve cut that problem off at the knees, protecting the outside of my foot where the blister formed and simultaneously cutting back on the movement in the shoe. If you tape your feet up or wear ankle braces when you play, you probably won’t notice this problem, if you encounter it at all.

From there, it’s all good. The full-length Zoom Air unit comes from Nike’s running line and is great if you like getting on the court and staying on for long stretches. Stacked Zoom Air in the heel adds to your overall comfort, and while I don’t notice the benefits of the asymmetrically lined up collar line on the back of the shoe — it matches the uneven placement of your ankle bones — the idea of it makes sense.

The shoe stresses breathability, with a mesh lining underneath its forefoot cover (the cover is another first for an Air Jordan). Perforations along the shoe’s upper also help air it out. And the window plays its part in breathability as well.

So at the end of the day, whether I leave the court feeling like the G.O.A.T. or just the goat, I’m trying to live up to my own ridiculous expectations in a comfortable and responsive sneaker. HOWEVA, if I have to play on an empty or a full stomach, or sense a 2-13, turnover-laden performance looming, I’ll be stepping onto the court in something a little more anonymous.

*I’ve never tried C, in any circumstance.
**The fact that I know even those four words to that song kills me on the inside a little. The ghost of Biggie Smalls should kick in my door.
***Really, I don’t know.

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  • http://box634 Flight

    FIRST

  • FastLebron

    probably should have spent money on retro j’s or something classic rather than the wades. just imo

  • http://www.innoutnba.com Lucas Shapiro

    To be honest, I’ve never owned Jordans either! Likely never will… I can find quality sneakers for half the price!
    Great read though.

  • Rich

    Thanks for a great read, Chris. I was dreading yet another Jordan Brand advertorial, so it was great to read a personal, balanced piece, reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of the latest latter-day Jordan eyesore, sorry, shoe, and what it means to step into a pair of J’s.

  • Twinparadox

    Great review…I’ve never gotten the chance to own an OG jordan too…2010 would be a nice year to start, but then again, these don’t come cheap. I’ll just wait for that right colorway.

  • k.a.

    never noticed it was that big a stigma to wear AJs on the court, at least on this side of the world. Its only glaring for u awkwardly wear it if your a total stiff who can’t dribble, can only rebound and only score on layups. Novelty wears off fast once ppl decide u can or can’t play. Been rocking AJs on an off since AJ 6. Good times.

  • nastierthanu

    If ur nasty u get props in flip flops. At one point I rocked the early 90′s filas before g hill. Game recognize game grandad and u looking unfamiliar

  • Michael Scorn

    Players didn’t dare wear Jordans in the hood I hooped in; or they’d walk home in socks.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/online/category/blogs/san-dova-speak-easy/ San Dova

    Good stuff.

  • therighttoremainsalient

    loved the article – it’s the very same reason iw ear steve nashs 13. i can blow assignments on D. make or at least attempt behind the back passes and not comb my hair! ^_^

  • http://twitter.com/givemethecure Andrew

    I copped 2 pairs when they dropped, have worn 1 for casual, but considering our team missed playoffs in my rec league, haven’t rocked em on court yet, for precisely the reasons listed above. I miss too many open jumpers to feel confident enought to miss them in brand spankin new Js. I’ll stick with the decidedly more inconspicuous kobes for now. At least every other crap guy in the gym is wearing them too.

  • Soundproof

    I don’t wear Jordans on the court, I get to worried that the price makes me second guess what I want to do in a game. I like tough shoes like the KD2 that I’m rocking right now. I don’t care how I beat those up either. Good shoe.

  • http://SlamOnline BJ

    I have the 2010′s and I’ve owned a few pair of J’s in my day. I can say the 2010′s are more for performance rather than fashion. I mean they accomplish the goal of grabbing attention. Every sneakerhead either loves them or hates them. I also play ball in Thorolo basketball socks. The socks have so much cushion that they provide extra shock absorbtion to your feet. The reason you go blisters is probably because you didn’t wear the right type of sock with your shoes and you allowed your feet to slip. I love the construction of the shoe because it’s perfect for performance. Great traction and great respone time to quick cuts. D Wade made them look good and after dropping 38 last night, I can say that he deserves to be THAT GUY.

  • http://slamonline.com/ niQ

    Good read. Bloody sock? I hate it when that happens. Was it at the back of the ankle?

  • LA Huey

    Only player shoes I see at the gym are Kobe IVs, LeBron Soldier IIIs, and the occasional Jordan Retros. Kobe wearers always seem to be gunners and LBJ wearers all play like Brad Miller. There’s a weedhead that plays/looks like Joakim and sports a pair Airwalks.

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

    @niQ, the sock got bloodied on the outside of right foot, at the bottom of my pinky toe. But either thicker socks (I had a regular Nike thing on) or an ankle sleeve/brace took care of it. @LA Huey, I notice a lot of basketball eccentrics end up playing in shelltoes. That’s what I thought your Joakim lookalike would have had.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/ niQ

    I see. I don’t think I’ve ever worn a pair that’s done that but I’ve came across a few shoes that irritated the back of my ankle enough to bleed. One of them included the Shelltoes.

  • LA Huey

    @Chris, the eccentrics kill me with their shoe game. Then there’s always the middle-aged white guys rocking their New Balances…btw, nice article Mr. O’Leary. I know we all worship at the Church of Hoops here but its nice to get a chance to talk about doing the Lord’s work. =)

  • FLUXLAND

    Great piece, Chris.

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