Wednesday, January 23, 2008

C.Y.I.N. Case Study: Avoid Stephon Marbury's Cheap A$$ Shoes At All Costs

[Editor's Note: Yes, I realize I tend to lose many of my readers when I talk sports, but this story isn't all about sports, so please peep it. The AverageBroSports blog is coming soon. Till then...]

Things went from sugar to sugar honey iced tea really quickly for Knicks guard Stephon Marbury.

Just a few months ago, none other than yours truly praised Marbury for teaming up with discount retailer Steve and Barry's to create a line of ultra-affordable sneakers. Given the ridonculous prices being asked for some athletic shoes, Marbury's $15 kicks were a refreshing change of pace. Parents who couldn't afford nice stuff for their kids would have a reasonable alternative. Kids could have a decent looking and stylish shoe without forcing their parents to choose between the lights or the rent. It was the consummate win-win.

The accompanying good PR changed public perceptions (or at least my perception) of Marbury, who has long been seen as an overrated locker room cancer who's never been beyond the first round of the playoffs. Using his humble beginnings on Coney Island as a backstory, Marbury and Co. rode the good vibes to the tune of millions of sold shoes and an explosion of the S&B stores that carry them. One even opened in my local ghetto mall just before the holidays. When Chicago Bulls center Ben Wallace and tennis star Venus Williams signed on for similarly priced lines of shoes and clothing, it gave the "movement" legitimacy and was seen as a potential game changer in the industry of athletic apparel. After all if the shoes, regardless of manufacturer, only cost $3 to make in some Honduran sweatshop, why the heck would you pay $150 for Nikes when the Starbury shoes are essentially the same product?

The whole ploy worked well, especially for a cheap cash strapped dude like me who isn't particularly brand conscious. I mean, seriously, I'm over 30. What the hell business do I have dropping $175 on some Jordans when I got a kid to feed and a 529 to fund? It's called priorities. Shoes is shoes. I bought a pair... uhh.. or seven.

The overall quality of the shoes was just so-so. I wouldn't trust my ankles to $15 basketball shoes [spoiler alert!!!], so I passed on the admittedly cheap looking signature Starbury One sneaker (pictured above). I did however cop a few pairs of the $10 Air Force One and New Balance ripoffs. They aren't bad shoes for the money, but there's a clear reason why the real things cost five times more. You to some degree get what you pay for, even if you're overpaying. I am more than happy however, with the $15 Starbury Timberland ripoffs (seriously). No, they aren't as well insulated or heavy as the real things, but you'd be hard pressed to otherwise tell the difference in passing. The rest of the Starbury "gear" was a bit too juvenile for my refined grown man tastes. I don't really get down with suede jumpsuits and orange and blue knockoff NBA apparel, so I passed. So, while I rate the experiment somewhat of a mixed bag, I'm still just happy someone realizes how ludicrously overpriced shoes are and tried to do something about it. I applauded Steph, and Steve and Barry's for at least making an effort.

Some folks are clearly not comfortable handling the trappings of success and goodwill, or at least not handling the perceptions of success and goodwill. Stephon Marbury would be such a person. Marbury showed it's possible to go from pariah, to saint, and back to pariah in barely a year's time. He proved this by C.H.I.N. too many times in the past year when he would have been so much better off just shutting up and playing ball. Just a sampling of his gaffes include:

Noting that he didn't see what the big deal about Mike Vick's dogfighting issue was, because many black people consider dogfighting a sport anyway.

Making a very, very, very odd appearance on local NY sports show talking completely out of his a$$ and possibly referring to his own wife as a b*tch. If you've yet to see this infamous 8 minutes on MSG, you're SOL because it's been since pulled from the web. But trust me, it was one of the strangest things I've evar seen with my own eyes.

Admitting to an affair with a Knicks intern during testimony in the Anucha Browne Sanders vs Isaiah Thomas trial this summer. And no, it's not totally relevant to the story, but the intern of note was straight BUSTED. Steph's wife is an ex-model. Poor judgement abounds.

Announcing his intentions to leave the Knicks next season when his contract expires to go play in Italy and further promote his shoes to a global market.

Playing preseason games in non-Starbury shoes.

Completely dogging it on the court for a dysfunctional Knicks team that was supposed to be greatly improved. When benched for poor play, Marbury clashed with Knicks coach Isaiah Thomas and was told to go home. He apologized the next day and returned to the team against the wishes of his teammates.

Returning to the court too soon after the death of his father, and while clearly still grieving and frustrated, further endearing himself to Knicks fans by again dogging it on the court. Booed mercilessly by Knicks fans for his half-assed effort, he is forced by the team to take time off.
Now, the proverbial final daggers were just twisted. Marbury is about to have ankle surgery and will likely be out for the season. And nobody is saying it outright, but there's some inference from the team that his ankle problem was caused by those cheap assed shoes.

Even worse, as part of a "winter clearance", Steve and Barry's has the shoes on sale for the crackhead price of $7.99 a pair. Industry speculation seems to be that Steve & Barry's is dropping Starbury as a pitchman before he completely ruins the company's reputation.

Meanwhile, I'm stuck with a gang of really cheap asses shoes I've never really gotten around to wearing.

Question: Did you buy any Starbury shoes? If so, what do you think of them? Have you been to Steve and Barry's? What do you think of the store itself?


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