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Killer kicks (cont.)

Posted: Monday February 13, 2006 3:24PM; Updated: Monday February 13, 2006 3:24PM

Since then, I've always been into shoes. I say "into" instead of "obsessed with," because there are people out there whose lives revolve around shoes. They have stacks and stacks of shoes in their closets, shoes which will never be worn or escape their boxes. I'm bad enough to keep my wife irritated -- I probably have about 30 pairs of sneakers in my closet at any one time -- but I wear them, and from time to time I go through and throw away the worn-out pairs. At the very least, I'm not like these people.

In January, Brand Jordan invited 20 assorted editors to Portland for a sneak peek at the Air Jordan XXIs. We were all sworn to secrecy, then taken to the incredible Nike campus, which looks like a lost Big Ten school.


We eventually settled into a darkened meeting room, then met D'Wayne Edwards, the designer of the XXIs. He talked about drawing inspiration from the grill of a luxury car, about Michael Jordan's insistence on incorporating elements of motorcycle racing boots into the design, about the new I.P.S. cushioning system. Edwards passed around pages and pages of notes and fabric swatches and drawings. From the back, one dude kept asking insanely technical questions. (This guy turned out to be Professor K., the Internet's preeminent sneaker performance reviewer.)

Finally, the shoes were unveiled. A respectful hush filled the room. For that brief moment, we were all shoe nerds.

My Jordans showed up about three weeks back. I broke them out of the box and wore them that night to a Knicks game, where a New York player who endorses a different shoe brand nearly jumped me for them. Since then, I've been stopped on the streets of New York six times because of those shoes: "Aww, man! Where'd you get those?! Ohhh!" I've noticed packs of teenagers on the subways giving me the once-over, and jealous NBA players staring me down (including you, Robert Horry). A barista at my regular Starbucks nearly jumped the bar. (Top that, Peter King.)

Even though no official photo of them can be found on the Jordan Web site, there are images out there, and people who care about sneakers (or just being cool) knew what the XXIs looked like. I've never feared being jumped on the NYC subway for my iPod or anything like that, but wearing these shoes was like wearing boots made of diamonds and other precious jewels. I was never actually scared, but I will say that I can't wait until Saturday, when the Air Jordan XXI will go on sale at stores across America, at the low, low price of $175. And then I'll be just another guy with them.

Are they worth nearly two bills? Though I never actually, you know, played basketball in the shoes, they were comfortable enough to stomp around the asphalt jungle for a month.

And as I often do my best to explain to my wife, you just can't put a price on cool.

Upcoming Movie Of The Week

Since we're talking popular culture, does it get any better than a combination of Jack Black and Mexican wrestling?

Game Of The Week

Thus far, I've managed to avoid seeing Super Size Me only because -- call me crazy -- I actually like eating at McDonald's from time to time. In moderation, of course. What I've never done, though, is manage a McDonald's ... until I played this week's game. It's a heck of a simulator. Hopefully the people that built this game will soon come up with an NBA franchise simulator.

Lang Whitaker is the online editor at SLAM magazine and writes daily at http://www.SLAMonline.com.