Searching for No. 5.

by August 06, 2007

By Russ Bengtson

It was Friday afternoon when the impulse hit me: I wanted a green Kevin Garnett Celtics t-shirt. Not a jersey, because I had no interest in spending $170 on something I’d probably never wear (and besides, jerseys are over, right?). A t-shirt would do. And I knew from this Boston Herald story that they were already being produced and shipped out to stores. How hard could it be?

First stop, Modell’s. There’s one over on 34th and Seventh, five or so blocks from the crib, right across the street from Macy’s and the Manhattan Mall. I dodged traffic and tourists, rode the escalator downstairs and…nothing. Lots of Yankees stuff, and plenty of clearance-priced Team USA basketball jerseys, but nothing Celtics related (unless you count the discounted rack of Larry Bird Dream Team jerseys—the only OG Dream Teamer so represented). So much for this being easy.

Instead of heading straight to the NBA Store uptown, I decided to stop in the HUGE Foot Locker around the corner on 34th (as opposed to the medium-sized Foot Locker on 34th less than a block away). It’s actually a Foot Locker, a Lady Foot Locker and Kid’s Foot Locker all in one—which I’ve never understood, really. Is there something in the word “Foot” that implies “adult male”? I didn’t think so. Anyways, came up empty there, too. The only name/number NBA t-shirts I saw were for Greg Oden and Kevin Durant—cool, but not what I came for. Next!

The walk to the NBA Store in August is a perilous one. For starters it’s ridiculously hot and humid, and for relievers it’s a 20-block walk chock-full of tourists and their spawn. Which means no shortage of unscheduled gawking stops, groups blocking off the entire sidewalk, and people actually laying down on said sidewalk to try and better capture their inner WeeGee (except without the murder). I wouldn’t lay on a New York City sidewalk unless I’d just been shot dead, and even then I’d stop to think about it first.

The trip, of course, resulted in only more failure. I spied a No. 5 jersey in the Celtics’s “locker” on my way down the spiral ramp to the second level, but that was the extent of the KG merchandise. No t-shirts, no headbands, no nothing. (Well, KG Celtics merchandise, anyway. If you’ve ever wanted a KG No. 21 Wolves jersey, now might be the time.) In desperation, I even went over to check out the jerseys, but there were only three—all of the less-desirable white home variety—and the sizes were strictly Star Jones: 56-52-56. I’m a 44 at best.

Still, there was a store employee standing right there (helping out a Euroteen with a pair of Celtics shorts), and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask. He went to see if they had any other KG merch, and came back almost immediately. “Nope, that’s all we have,” he said, gesturing to the jerseys. “We got in 50 yesterday, and they sold out right away. We’re supposed to be getting 100 more tomorrow—if you want to come to the customer service desk I can take your name and number…” As he said this last part, he was already walking off in the presumed direction of said desk.

Whoa, hold on there, Sparky. Impulse purchases are much more fun when they’re just that. And the idea of putting my name down amongst the 30 or so who already had (lots of KG fans in NYC apparently—who knew) just for the privilege of getting a phone call and a question as to whether I was still interested just seemed like too much work.

I didn’t bother going back the next day, either. Maybe later.


In an unrelated note, I ran into Pacer forward Troy Murphy at 1:30 a.m. Sunday (that is, post-midnight Saturday) on the street at Astor Place (where 8th Street turns into St. Mark’s Place in the East Village) and talked to him for a little while. Let’s just say that Jermaine O’Neal isn’t the only veteran questioning the Pacers’s plans. I did not film said conversation with my cell phone—sorry.

I also realized after the fact that I confused him in my mind with Austin Croshere, so when I asked him about “change of scenery” and the like, I was talking about something more recent than his trade from Golden State to Indy. Which may have come off as confusing. So Troy, if you happen to read this, my bad.