Bottom 10 Inspirational Thought of the Week
“And now the matador shall dance with the blind shoemaker!”
— Jean Girard, “Talladega Nights”
Here at ESPN’s Bottom 10 headquarters, located in the dumpster behind the warehouse where Mike Golic Jr. stores his sneaker collection, we have always been obsessed with footwear. We have always been particularly possessed by presentations of repugnant podiatry, not to mention bad alliteration.
Since Nov. 17, 1984, the birth date of the Air Jordan, the history of the NBA has been written as much with composite rubber soles as it has leather basketballs. And, like the league itself, for every great player and great shoe, there are stacks of quickly discarded and long-forgotten would-be Jordans, whether they be Kwame Brown or the Big Baller Brand Gelo 3.
We are always on the lookout for bad shoes alongside good shoes, and even mud-covered, OK shoes alongside clearance-rack shoes.
— Ryan McGee (@ESPNMcGee) December 23, 2019
So strap on a left-side Starbury II and right-side Dwyane Wade Converse I (it’s cool, they basically match), hit play on Future’s “Tie My Shoes” and read ahead. With apologies to Chuck Taylor, Kickstradomis and Steve Harvey, here’s the Bottom 10 NBA Sneakers.
1. Under Armour Charge BB
In 2012, Under Armour promised a basketball shoe begat from its football cleats. It looked and felt more like a cousin from Tony Stark’s closet — the Mark I version from the start of Iron Man’s origin story that he couldn’t walk in and also damn near killed him. The designers promised a shoe so tough and tight that it could even eliminate the need for players to have their ankles taped. In reality, the two-piece collar and tongue were so rigid they had to be opened up and slipped on like a ski boot, and the Swiss cheese sole turned into ice skates as soon as the gym floor picked up any dust. If you are the kind of person who has spent their quarantine binging horror films, make sure to search for “Charge BB reviews” on YouTube. They’re way scarier than any of the “Saw” movies. One reviewer says shortly after an unboxing, “I just hope I don’t get beat up while wearing these.”
2. Adidas The Kobe Two
You might or might not know that I have covered NASCAR for many years. During those many years, I have toured many race shops and seen many not-yet-finished race cars. They are big, drab slabs of gray, anxiously hoping to soon be painted up in the signature colors of a team sponsor so they can stop looking like a misfit toy and start looking like a winner. I have also seen Adidas The Kobe Two. They are totally the same thing. The Kobe Two was so ugly that if you played Run DMC’s “My Adidas” while wearing them, the lyrics automatically changed to “Your Adidas.”
3. Reebok Preacher Ice
In recent years, there has been a growing nostalgia for Shaquille O’Neal‘s first signature shoe. But those of us who are old enough to remember the Diesel’s arrival to the NBA also remember that at the height of Michael Jordan‘s Nike and “Space Jam” powers, the Preacher Ice was the “Kazaam” of NBA sneakers. Like the genie O’Neal portrayed, these kicks were also capable of magic. They somehow made Shaq’s Size 22 feet look like they were crammed into baby shoes.
4. Warner Bros. Big Country
Speaking of “Space Jam,” Warner Bros. became so NBA-obsessed that the movie studio decided to enter the sneaker game (no, seriously). Their two big signees were Glen Rice and Bryant “Big Country” Reeves. Rice soon departed for a Nautica deal (no, seriously), so Reeves, a 7-foot Vancouver Grizzly out of Oklahoma State, became the face of the WB brand. The shoe itself looked like the biggest, whitest version of the kicks one finds in the wire bin at the back of your local discount store, the kind you buy because you need something to wear that you don’t mind getting dirty while you’re doing yardwork. That’s pretty much perfect, because these days, Reeves is retired and working his cattle ranch in Oklahoma. We can only hope that as you read this, he’s on a tractor wearing a pair of red-clay-caked WB Big Countrys.
5. Adidas Garnett 3
To be clear, there were actually two Garnett 3s. Nike released the Air Garnett 3 in 1999. It was later rebranded the Air 3 because Kevin Garnett bolted the swoosh for AND1, and then the three stripes of Adidas, who released their Garnett 3 in 2003. The shoe was so uninspiring that it ultimately led to the disappearance of KG’s signature series altogether, foreshadowed by his actual signature on the side of the Garnett 3, printed so thin and so tiny that it too seems to be disappearing. By decade’s end, Garnett had disappeared from Adidas completely, joining Chinese brand Anta, who released the 加内特 3. OK, they didn’t really do that. I just wanted to see what “Garnett” looks like in Chinese.
6. Jordan Melo M9
Never one for subtlety, Carmelo Anthony‘s shoe is “highlighted” by a giant M that leaps from the soles of the shoe and grabs at the laces like they were a please-go-away payment from the Oklahoma City Thunder. The M9 is so ugly, MJ’s Jumpman can be seen trying to sail as far away from the center of the shoe as possible.
7. Reebok Zig Slash
In fall 2010, Reebok and rookie John Wall introduced the Zig Slash, featuring ZigTech — a zig-zag-shaped, suspension-based sole that promised to absorb energy from impact and redistribute it as propulsion on the court. Wall’s basketball model launch was accompanied by Chad Ochocinco‘s Zigs on the football field and the cast of “Jersey Shore” wearing Zigs in the clubs. The ZigTech slogan was “the energy drink for your feet.” Sadly, as happens with energy drinks, a promising and aggressive start was followed by a downturn in performance and, eventually, irrelevance. Just like Ochocinco and the cast of “Jersey Shore.”
8. Nike LeBron 13
The LeBron 13 is a shoe truly worthy of its unlucky number, the showcase model dyed in the same color as the interior of your favorite uncle’s ’89 Cadillac Brougham. These kicks will go down as little more than an asterisk to the King’s incomparable career, so much so that the quarter is adorned with a giant, rubber asterisk.
9. Reebok Answer 9
You might be asking yourself, what is the question that the Answer 9 actually answers? And the answer to that question is this question: Hey, what did they do with all of the leftover Stormtrooper helmets when the original Star Wars trilogy wrapped production? Reebok melted them down to make Answer 9s … and they missed the target as badly as the original Stormtroopers always did.
10. Adidas Heat Check
As one played hoops in Heat Checks, temperature-sensitive strips converted feet heat into a chemical change of colors for the three signature Adidas stripes. Unfortunately, those stripes often changed color before the game had even started because of the intense mental and physical labor required to figure out and then execute the lacing of the shoe’s convertible tongue. In theory, it could be switched from performance wear to casual wear via a pair of hidden flaps and a boat dock-like rope anchor circle thingy in the center of the tongue that actually had a sentence of instructions printed on it.