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This man’s best friend? Ruby-red Chinese Olympic basketball shoes

April 8th, 2011 Posted in Arts and Life

By Rhett Wilkinson
Photo by Eli Lucero, JCOM ’98
Reprinted with permission from the Logan Herald-Journal

LOGAN—It’s funny to think how such a flamboyant show has come from such an overall mild-mannered guy.

At least, that’s how I’ve always pictured myself to be.

Maybe that’s what happens when you’re sitting in the corner of a student newspaper room, discussing who is going to cover that upcoming club soccer game.

Maybe it’s when your interest gets piqued in an otherwise typical meeting when your sports editor suddenly asks for a volunteer to be a scout player for the Utah State women’s basketball team.

Yes, a male volunteer. It’s something many NCAA women’s basketball programs do these days—recruit guys who love the game and aren’t quite ready to give it up completely. For guys who are looking for the opportunity to somehow display their abilities on some sort of collegiate level. For guys being asked to make life tough in practices for the girls so they can be more prepared for their next opponent.

Maybe it’s when you’re using the same worn-down, mud-splattered basketball shoes that you’ve had since early high school—mind that you’re now 21—and one of your fellow scout team players feels some empathy and offers to replace your current kicks with something a bit more shiny; a bit more…unique.

Come to think if it, that’s exactly how such flamboyance came to be.

Now you may wonder why in the world a member of a newspaper staff, under the request of his editor, was seeking to be a part of the basketball team.

Great question. I would ask such a question myself if I wasn’t the one experiencing it.

There’s a bit more to the story behind playing with the Aggie women: The sports staff of the Utah Statesman was interested in having a staff writer write a regular column about his experience, as a male, playing on a team composed entirely of women. The thought was that such an article would make for an interesting read.

Perhaps. But when it comes to playing in style with the ladies, I wasn’t cutting it.

That’s when Will came to the rescue. A native of Oregon who lives close to the Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Will had connections at Nike, where a greater variety of shoes are available compared with your typical Foot Locker or even Nike outlet.

Among these is a replica line of every single team shoe of every single men’s basketball team from the 2008 Summer Olympics. Herein lies the reason why these flamboyant friends of mine are a striking red with white and bold-yellow trim: Those are the official colors of China and its national team, led over two years ago by NBA superstar and national phenomenon Yao Ming.

Today, I wear these shoes with pride, and not just to practice. I was able to use them in a group project that involved creating a film analyzing the 2005 George Clooney-directed movie “Good Night, and Good Luck” for my Media Smarts class. They went perfectly with the All-American, stars-and-stripes Jedi robe apparel and lightsabers that came with it (yes, they looked just like the ones from the movies).

They come with me to Nelson Fieldhouse and to the Health, Physical Education and Recreation (HPER) Building to work out, along with any other time I am playing indoor sports, including our recently completed 1-4 campaign of my 5-on-5 intramural team. In fact, I recently severed part of my finger while at the Fieldhouse lifting weights, which cut any basketball playing of any kind out of my agenda for a couple of weeks. But I couldn’t let that stop me from showing off such a unique item, walking around with them on campus along just to show that I do physical activity in style.

I even carried them around campus while campaigning for a student government position just to create and encourage conversation and share some of my campaign platform.

Now the finger’s nearly back. Once again, I have reason to don what my friends call my “McDonald’s shoes” or “Ronald McDonald shoes.”

Now, the question remains: Do I want to scuff up these babies for intramural ultimate Frisbee? How far am I willing to go to give these fellas some more fame?

This article first appeared in the Herald-Journal’s “Prized Possessions” magazine, March 27, 2011.


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