Big-name shoes that don't cost arm, leg

The Baltimore Sun

We've all gotten so used to ridiculous dollar figures in the sports universe - whether it's player salaries, TV broadcast deals or the price of a game ticket - that it takes something really shocking to get our attention.

So how's this - less than $15 for a basketball shoe with a big-name NBA player's endorsement. Ben Wallace of the Chicago Bulls will be in Baltimore tomorrow pitching his new basketball shoe, called the Big Ben Collection, that will retail for $14.98.

Wallace, a four time Defensive Player of the Year and All-Star, is following in the sneaker-prints of fellow NBA star Stephon Marbury of the New York Knicks, who introduced his own signature shoe for $14.98 last year. In both cases, the inexpensive shoe will be sold at sporting goods discounter Steve & Barry's.

Two years ago, a 17-year-old in Chicago was shot to death for his $110 pair of Air Jordans. Sadly, it wasn't the first time a city kid was literally a victim of fashion. Wallace, who grew up in a large family (he was the 10th of 11 children) in a small Alabama town, said it was important that kids understand they can have something of value "without doing something outrageous, like pulling a gun or jumping someone. ... We've already lost too many kids over basically nothing."

Marbury and Wallace aren't the first NBA stars to be the anti-Jordan in terms of marketing. Years ago, Hakeem Olajuwon was one of a handful of stars who marketed a cheaper alternative to the pricey kicks. Sometimes, those shoes were a difficult sell because kids attached a stigma to them because of the cheaper price.

"I think times have changed; I think the mentality has changed," Wallace said. "I believe people now understand you don't have to have a big sticker price on something and that a big price doesn't mean it's the best shoe. I think by having me go out every night and playing in these shoes and performing well ... that people will realize these are as good as any on the market."

Wallace will be at the Steve & Barry's at the Eastpoint Mall at 5 p.m. tomorrow, signing autographs.

Purple passion

Beginning this week, Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith has declared Fridays to be Purple Fridays in Baltimore County, encouraging employees to wear the Ravens' signature color on the final workday of the week throughout the regular season.

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