$15 Shoes in the NBA

I’m not a big basketball fan, so I missed this great story about Stephon Marbury’s shoes back in 2006 (found via Metafilter). Marbury worked with a shoe company to develop a $15 running shoe, which he’s been wearing all season:

The New York Knicks guard is leading a revolution, what he calls “the Starbury Movement,” against high-priced sneaker brands that market to lower-income kids. Marbury, who grew up in the projects in New York City’s Coney Island, teamed with Steve & Barry’s, a national discount clothing store, and created his own signature sneaker — Starbury One — that sells for $14.98. His Starbury collection includes three other styles of sneakers and a line of urban apparel, most of which sells for less than $10 at more than 140 stores.

I like the thoughtful, moderate approach to the problem of kids dreaming of “being like Mike” and wanting $200 high-tops. They’re not going to convince kids not to emulate NBA stars, so Marbury’s doing the next best thing–dramatically reducing the cost of their admiration. I’m sure it scares Nike and Adidas a little, and doesn’t fully satisfy the likes of AdBusters, but pragmatic solution to a tricky issue.


  1. Yeah, but is that like Lindsay Lohan (or the current flavour of the moment) selling clothes at K-Mart and Wal-Mart? Do kids really aspire to buy those clothes or are they just the clothes you buy when you can’t afford the expensive clothes? However, perhaps it puts you one step above the unbranded clothes at Wal-Mart.

    (I grew up on Zellers & Woolco. No slam intended.)

  2. Much of the cachet of a $100 basketball shoe comes from the “be like Yao” effect of knowing that your favourite athlete wears them. In this case, you can get the street-cred of a good-enough-for-the-NBA shoe at the $15 price point.

    I don’t know if kids are getting these instead of the Nikes they really want, but so be it.

    As for Adbusters, I bet they’re just pissy because the Starbury undercuts the crappy-looking Adbusters shoes by a factor of four.

    As for me, I’d already own some Starburys, except that they are only sold at one chain (Steve & Barry’s), and the nearest one is on the south side of Seattle. I’m not a shoe-hound, but as cheap shoes go, these ones are both leather and reasonably fashionable.

  3. Ah… but where are they manufactured, and by whom? Prisoners in China? How can they be produced, let alone distributed, so inexpensively?

  4. According to the Wikipedia entry, “The shoes are manufactured in China but there is a third man involved to prevent sweatshop conditions.”

    I’ve read that the $200 shoes a la Nike et al *are* produced rather inexpensively, but are marked-up anyway, in part to pay for the huge endorsement contracts (not to mention the massive executive salaries).

    I think this $15 shoe is a good thing, and will be more effective than the self-righteous approach by AdBusters. Hopefully other athletes will follow suit.

  5. One of the Australian NBL stars did a similar thing here a few years back.

    Andrew Gaze, who is by far the most accomplished Australian basketballer we’ve ever produced, had a sponsorship deal with the K-Mart department store chain in Oz. (K-Mart are a broadly discount chain.)

    For the last two or three years of his career he is playing in shoes that retailed for about the same kind of money as the ones you’ve mentioned here.

    Its a good thing, I think. I agree with Ryan in the comments here about the cachet of “be like Yao” (or in this case “be like Drewie” 🙂

    The only catch, I think, is that it either needs to be a hugely popular player to pull it off, or alternately everyone has to do it together. Since the second one isn’t going happen, there are only limited players who could make it happen.

    Gaze is that guy down here. Flag-bearer at the Sydney Olympics, Father of The Year, contestant on Dancing With the Stars, media job with the local cable network. In short he’s a big, loveable, goofy-footed media tart, who’s broken out from the limited popularity of basketball down under to achieve a genuinely broad appeal.

    Down here, I’m not sure there’s anyone else playing at the moment who could run a similar campaign.

  6. Stephan has always been a great player, at a height of 6’2″ he drives the ball well. Props to him for marketing a shoe that everyone can afford! Didn’t Dickies do the same thing, then diversify? I am a 53 year old white boy who plans to buy a few pair, because it’s a great value, and I think they are cool!

  7. it is about time a proffessional decided that putting out a shoe that does not require a mortgage to purchase, i think it is a noble move

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