The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 5, 2012

Mike Pound: When did shoes become such a big deal in basketball?

By Mike Pound

— When I was a junior in high school, all the guys on the basketball team were told to buy a pair of dark blue, Converse basketball shoes.

When I asked if I needed to get high-top or low-cut shoes, my coach, who had seen me play, said, “Do you really think it matters, Pound?”

Apparently, my coach was under the impression that I wouldn’t be spending much time on the basketball court during actual games. I think my coach was under the impression that I could wear a pair of slippers during actual games and no one would notice.

The thing is, besides our coach, nobody else really cared what sort of shoes we wore during our games. What they cared about was if we won or lost. We could have worn steel-toed work boots and nobody would have cared as long as we won. We could have worn the most expensive pair of tennis shoes made, but if we lost nobody would care.

For the record, when I was a kid the only tennis shoes that could make you run faster were PF Flyers. I know this because that’s what they said in the PF Flyers commercials.

By the way, when I played high school basketball, the word “expensive” was never used in the same sentence with “tennis shoes.” When I played high school basketball, tennis shoes were just tennis shoes and nobody would ever think of paying more for them then you would pay for a pair of dress shoes.

Of course, when I played high school basketball, James Naismith was still working a few kinks out of the rules of the game.

What I’m saying is that tennis shoes didn’t really play a big role in my high school basketball career. To my knowledge, tennis shoes didn’t really play a big role in the big-time college basketball or NBA worlds, either. When I was a kid, Bill Russell was my basketball idol and I can honestly say that I don’t remember ever hearing someone talk about his tennis shoes.

I say this as I look at a copy of an Associated Press sports story devoted to the news that NBA star Dwyane Wade has switched tennis shoe brands. I should point out that only old guys still refer to tennis shoes as “tennis shoes.” Most people today call tennis shoes “sneakers.” Today, the only time someone would call tennis shoes “tennis shoes” is if they bought them to play tennis. No self-respecting young person would play basketball in a pair of tennis shoes. A self-respecting young person would only play basketball in a pair of shoes endorsed by a celebrity basketball player.

I don’t really mind the elevated status given to sneakers in today’s world. What I mind is having to read sports stories about basketball players switching brands. Granted, I didn’t have to read the sports story, but I was at work and the alternative to reading the story was working.

Clearly, I had to read the story.

In the story, Dwyane said his sneaker contract expired at the end of September and that he and his former sneaker company made “a mutual decision to not extend the agreement.” Wade also said that he and his former sneakers would always remain friends and would share custody of his socks.

In the story, Dwyane said he has not yet unveiled plans for what brand he plans to wear in the upcoming basketball season. I don’t know what sneaker brand Dwyane will wear this year, but I know what brand he should wear.

PF Flyers. Seriously, they do make you run faster.