Words With Sneakers is Kicksologists’ latest feature, where we put the spotlight on full-time writers who are part-time sneaker heads.
Question: How did you come to be a sports journalist, and how long have you been in the industry?
Dave McMenamin: My first job I ever had was a paperboy. That led to covering high school sports for the local paper from the time I was 14 years old. So, as I’m pushing 30 (don’t tell anyone) I guess you can say I’ve been doing this whole sports writing thing for half my life.
Q: When did you realized you had a passion sneakers? What was that first shoe that really captivated you?
DM: The first pair of Jordans I ever had were the Air Jordan VIIs, the suede ones he wore in the ’92 All-Star Game. Now, see, they were special to me because I got them in 1994. I grew up in a working-class family as one of five kids and my mom used to take all of us to get our sneakers at this place called John’s Sneaks in Ardmore, PA. It was this place that had shelves that literally went from the floor to the ceiling and all the shoes were in clear plastic bags, instead of in boxes. You would take a ladder up to the section that had the shoes in your size and just burrow through the anonymous bags and see what you could find. That’s how I ended up with my first pair of Jordans. Somehow they ended up on John’s Sneaks’ shelves two years after they were released and then they ended up on my feet. I was the proudest fifth grader around wearing those things.
Q: As a former staff writer for the NBA and current writer for ESPN covering the Lakers, there’s no doubt that you are an authority when it comes to basketball. How has being around so much basketball helped your passion for kicks evolve, if at all?
DM: It’s fun being a bit of a sneakerhead and doing my job because it’s good to engage in normal conversations with these guys, outside of the pressure of interviews, and I find that talking about kicks is an easy common ground to find with a lot of guys.
Q: You told me that if you could change careers, you would be Tinker Hatfield (storied Air Jordan designer). Is it safe to assume that you are a pretty big fan of Michael Jordan’s signature line? Have you ever explored your potential as a shoe designer?
Growing up, my dream career was to one day become a Disney animator. That changed sometime in middle school when I first started to play hoops competitively, but that artistic side has always been in me. I’ve never formally pursued that path, but I bet if I thumbed through my notebooks from high school, I’d find a bunch of nascent sneaker designs.
Q: If you could design any current NBA player’s kicks, who would you want to work with most and why?
DM: Tough question. The sneaker game in today’s NBA has changed a bunch from when I was growing up when it seemed like every super star got his own shoe. Now, there’s only about 10 guys I can think of — Kobe, Durant, LeBron, Wade, CP3, Melo, Howard, Rose, Brandon Jennings and John Wall — that have their own shoe. I’d like to work with a guy who was a sneakerhead on the verge of stardom. Maybe someone like Russell Westbrook. I mean, Kobe would be the natural guy to want to work with, but I think he’s had a great team working with him at both adidas and Nike.
Q: You also mentioned that NIKE iD will have to suffice when it comes to appeasing your sneakerhead needs. What shoes have you had customized with through the program? How would you rate the options and interface of NIKE iD?
I have used NIKE iD for one shoe thus far, an Air Max I retro. I’ve personalized it twice – the McTens and the McTen IIs, ha – and I love all the options it offers. I was on the NYC subway once and a good looking girl started up a conversation with me based on the shoes I designed through NIKE iD, asking where I bought them as if they were available in retail stories, so that pretty much sold the whole NIKE iD thing for me from then on.
Q: In your opinion, what makes the perfect shoe?
DM: I like a clean look. Not too many frills. But it also has to be unique. Functional (i.e. you can wear it with jeans and with shorts). Light. Comfortable. And noticeable – what good is a great shoe if nobody even sees it?
Q: I don’t suppose I could trouble you for a list of your Top 5 favorite sneakers of all-time?
DM: I’ll give you 11 (how could I just go five?)
- Air Jordan XI Concords – That shoe is as good as it gets and has to be mentioned. Everything else is on another tier.
- Nike Air Max Uptempo – KG’s rookie year shoe that Scottie also rocked and D-Fish kept in rotation for years after it was off the shelves. The perfect aesthetic.
- Air Jordan XII Playoffs – Like the Yin-Yang symbol, only a sneaker.
- Nike Air Max I Retro – my signature shoe. I own them in at least 10 colorways.
- New Balance 574s – Brings me back to my college days.
- Nike Air Max 95 – Kind of futuristic when they came out and still look futuristic today. Plus, they give me some extra height.
- adidas Sambas – Tough to choose between Sambas, Gazelles and Campuses. All classy, understated and essential.
- Reebok Question – Iverson’s rookie sneaker. I grew up a huge 76ers fan. These shoes still hold up.
- Nike MAG 2011 – Marty McFly – I desperately want these.
- Nike Air Force 1 – The standard.
- adidas KB8s – I wore them when I played 9th grade basketball. I have a pic of me wearing them when my team went to Bobby Knight’s camp in Indiana with the General’s arm around me.
A big thanks to Dave for taking the time to give us his thoughts on sneakers, and to Kicksologists alum Mr. Spark for conducting the interview.
[phpbay]Air Jordan VII Bordeaux, 6[/phpbay]