It Takes A Thief

by January 29, 2011

by Chris O’Leary/@olearychris

It’s not too often that us regular folk can relate to pro athletes. We don’t have their money, their lifestyles, their exotic aquariums, their carousel of beautiful significant others, or their sneakers.

Earlier this week though, I read a story (that was high on CAPS LOCK “FACTS” and low on unimportant things like objectivity — but that’s what tabloiding is all about) on Gilbert Arenas that made me sigh and say, “Yeah, I feel for you, dude.”

As MTO noted this week, Gil apparently had his house cleaned out by his ex-girlfriend/babies momma. Among the looted goods was his sneaker collection.

I don’t want to get into the he-said/she-said nature of the story. You can probably figure out what I want to get into, though.

No matter what your social standing in this world, I think we’ve all had a pair of sneakers stolen from us at one time or another in our lives. I know I have. I had a pair of Scottie Pippen Flight high tops in…it would have been 1991, I think. All black, white stitching, high as a damned ski boot. Kind of like how casual sneaks are today. Anyway, there was a leave-your-shoes-at-the-door rule at my local Y. I left my shoes at the door and the second I went into the gym (not sure why I wasn’t wearing the shoes to play in), someone helped themselves to my sneaks.

I was mad about what had happened but as soon as I saw the empty space where my Pippen Flights were supposed to be, I knew I should have known better.

The worst sneaker theft I’ve ever seen happened to a friend of mine. We were in grade nine and he had just picked up the aqua Air Jordan VIIIs. With the black, teal and purple mix, the shoes were the best of both worlds for Kirk. He loved MJ and the Bulls, but also was a big fan of the Charlotte Hornets (I’m having a visual of a teal Larry Johnson Champion replica jersey, matching hat and possibly a teal Hornets winter Starter jacket — but my memories could be hazy).

Kirk was probably the first sneakerhead I knew. When all of the other guys at school got on him, asking him why he had so many pairs of Nikes, he only shrugged and responded “They’re awesome.” He was a pioneer in our circle of friends that way. So, yeah. He loved these sneaks and was giving them the royal treatment. Only wearing them in gym class and at basketball practice, taking them off during the day and storing them in his locker.

He learned that day, though, that jealous eyes are everywhere. He came out of an afternoon class to find his locker door wide open, his aqua VIIIs a brief, brief memory. He had them for exactly three days.

His parents put their feet down on the issue, too. No replacement pair. Not when he had other shoes to fall back on. So he went without and grew more bitter by the year. For years, well into his adulthood, he’d tell the story of finding his locker open, the sneakers missing and drum up all of the emotion that he felt that day back in junior high.

When the aqua VIII finally returned a few years back, I grabbed a pair off the shelf and sent them Kirk’s way. I have a picture tucked away somewhere in my apartment of him holding the shoebox with a kind of dazed grin on his face (it would have served this story well, I know). A grown man, married with two kids and a multitude of pets by the time he got his sneaks back, he looked like a kid on Christmas Day.

This is where the similarities with the pro athletes end, because that feeling that Kirk waited almost half of his life for is something that Gil can get back many times over every day if he wants to. It sucks for anyone to have their favorite sneakers stolen from them, no matter how much money you have. We’ve all seen what kind of collection Gil has and it is (was?) obviously extensive. When he heard that his sneaks were gone (if that happened, still no confirmation from a legit news source), I can guarantee he felt the same way that Kirk felt when he peered inside his locker that day a long time ago.

As Gil goes out and replenishes his stock ($111 million deals are good that way), his path will veer back towards the ridiculous, further away from the status quo, where we’re at.

In its own way, it was nice while it lasted.