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A couple of nights ago my daughter said she needed a new pair of basketball shoes for her upcoming team camp.  We are about to throw down some cash for a pair hoop shoes.


Thinking back to the days as a teen when I needed basketball shoes, I recall one particular time mom bought me a pair of rejects.

I used them so much they had holes on the bottom.  We didn’t have multiple pairs like they do today.  We did everything in one pair of sneakers.  Shit, I even recall going to mass one Sunday morning with a pair of Chuck Taylor’s on my skinny feet.

These things mom had bought for me down at Gerry’s Junk-shop on fifth avenue and tenth street were yellow.  Yeah, I said they were yellow!  Can you imagine buying a kid a pair of yellow shoes today?  But wait, there’s more;  they were in a bag, no box, just a bag.  And as I held the shoes in my hand I was looking for some sort of logo on the side of the shoe.  No such luck, these low-cut sneakers were brand-less!

While my friends were walking the neighborhood with Puma, Adidas, Converse and Pro-Keds on their feet, the red-headed kid from ninth avenue was walking around in yellow rejects.  Thanks mom, my self-esteem just went down a few notches!

My great-grandfather “Pop” (sorry Gregg Popovich) was a clever man. He had the ultimate workshop in his basement down on fourteenth street between third and fourth avenues. One day my mom and I were visiting and she noticed a huge hole on the bottom of my sneaker; ”

“TAKE THAT THING OFF,” she demanded.

As a kid I usually did what I was told.  Most of the time that is…

Mom took my sneaker and walked out of the room. I thought to myself, “Where the hell is she going?

I heard her talking to Pop who was sitting in the kitchen alone.   About an hour later he returned upstairs and the shoe looked different.  Not good as new, just different.  Upon further and closer review, Pop had inserted a piece of cardboard inside the shoe and wrapped gray duct tape around it to keep them from falling apart.  It was a homemade shoe insert.  Dr. Scholl’s had nothing on Pop.  Hey man, in the 70’s times were rough around my apartment.

The following day I was in the boys schoolyard playing basketball and it started raining.   Kids that were there split but I wasn’t going anywhere; I loved the game too much to allow some water to scare me away.  I didn’t care, I kept playing.

I was playing against a kid we called “Cork-Eye.” His real name is Michael Van Tassel.  He was from sixteenth street between 8th and 9th avenues.   His brother in-law was with us, we were playing two-on-one, fullcourt.  We had the yard to ourselves.  I mean it was pouring, there were puddles everywhere. But we didn’t care; we’d run through them and dribble around them.  I’m sure we heard some thunder and there might have even been hints of lightning but again, we were from the Brooklyn, we don’t shut down when we see a few bolts in the sky.  The odds on getting hit by lightning? LOL.  Hold on a second while I run to the store and buy a lottery ticket.

Heavily involved in the game, I forgot that I had cardboard in my sneakers.  One trip down the court, while I was running I noticed something coming out of the bottom of my sneaker; it felt weird not to mention very wet.  At one point I stopped, grabbed my shoe and looked down at the bottom and saw all this brown, wet, soggy stuff trickling out of the hole in the sole.  I got frustrated and just ripped the rest of the cardboard out and flipped it off to the side of the court.

Cork-Eye might have laughed but it was no biggie.  I played the rest of the game with a hole in my sole.  When I got home my sock was drenched.  I remember hanging the socks out in the hallway to dry.  It’s what you did.

Fast forward to July of 2013, I’m not sure how it would go off  if I bought my daughter a pair of rejects;  she would not be happy with that decision.