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A Serious Footwear Fetish
Jeff Pearlman
April 07, 1997
Ronnie Duquette, aka Sneaker Man, collects shoes worn by celebrity athletes
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April 07, 1997

A Serious Footwear Fetish

Ronnie Duquette, aka Sneaker Man, collects shoes worn by celebrity athletes

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We are standing in a parking garage, Sneaker Man and I, and it's way too cold. I think back to Ron Harper—to his words—and wonder if the insightful Chicago Bulls guard is right: Maybe 31-year-olds should buy their own sneakers.

Did I mention the cold? Alaska-like, with a Klingon chill. Sneaker Man is leaning against a metal rail, surrounded by five or six kids half his age. Sneaker Man does not notice the temperature. He does not notice the security guard. He does not notice me, blue in the face, dying, inches away.

He is in the garage adjacent to the Rose Garden, home of the Portland Trail Blazers, and he is in "the zone."

"Hey," Sneaker Man whispers. "That's Clifford Robinson." He points to a tall man 30 yards away.

"How can you tell?" I ask.

"Trust me," he replies. "It is."

A second passes. "Hey, Cliff!" Sneaker Man yells. "Cliff!"

Robinson, a Blazers forward, turns our way, nods and then disappears through a door. When he returns five minutes later, he has in his hands a pair of hightops. I le slowly walks toward us—me, Sneaker Man and, by now, about 25 kids. "Is he gonna give 'em to me?" a silly girl asks. "Is he?" Robinson hands his Nikes to the security guard and then points to the tall, freckled Opie Taylor look-alike standing 10 feet away.

Get real, kid. These shoes are for Sneaker Man.

The idea, I tell Sneaker Man, is this. Wherever you go, I will follow. Whatever you do, I will watch. In a five-day span, Sneaker Man says his goal is to attain a pair of Michael Jordan's game-worn shoes—signed by His Airness, to boot.

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