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When Joe Girard III was in middle school, his mom Arleen Girard would bring him and his cousins to the mall. It was there that Girard remembers getting his first pair of Starburys, a shoe worn by former NBA star Stephon Marbury.
He’d ask for those Starburys multiple times, eventually racking up six pairs in different colors.
“The only way I would get him to go to the store or the mall is if we promised to go to Dick’s Sporting Goods or Foot Locker,” Arleen said.
Now, Girard’s collection has spread past just Starburys, and he estimated that he has roughly 70 pairs of shoes stowed away in his closet. Girard joked that his mom always tried to count the number of shoes in his closet, and Arleen said, “he has more than 80 here, I can tell you.” What started with a desire to match his uniform with his shoes evolved into a collection that Girard and Arleen have added to over the years. Because of his collection, Girard claims to have the best shoe game on the team.
“Benny’s pretty close. Symir’s got some good ones. But I think I got them beat,” Girard said, laughing.
Arleen said that Girard’s love of shoes originated when he was about five years old, when he began playing organized basketball. Girard grew up in a basketball family because his dad was a coach, so Arleen said he had an idea of what a basketball player looked like.
Eventually, Girard’s desire to match uniforms led to him needing many new pairs of shoes, since his team’s colors changed when his basketball career took off. Once, the color scheme was green and black, then red and black and now orange and blue.
Friends and family began to ask Girard about his new hobby as the closet in his room began to grow with more and more shoes. But those kicks weren’t just for basketball games. Girard has some for collection, like two pairs of shoes from Jimmer Fredette, a fellow Glen Falls native. But his cousin Trent Girard remembers that Girard would wear certain pairs of shoes for big occasions as well, like when their high school team won the state championship or at prom.
“When he dresses up in suits and stuff, that’s when he likes wearing his Jordans,” Trent said. “He’s not a dress shoe guy. He likes wearing Jordans with his dress clothes.”
But the process of buying shoes has evolved from walking into Dick’s Sporting Goods and browsing the giant wall of shoes to timing his online orders for limited edition shoes and even visiting Divine Sole Saratoga, a local sneaker and streetwear store down the road from Girard’s hometown of Glens Falls, New York.
Last summer, Girard visited the store to check out its merchandise. The store’s owner, Ryan Smalley, said he remembers walking into his store and seeing one of his employees helping Girard.
“He knew what he was talking about,” Smalley said. “When people come in they can tell a Jordan one generally but they can’t (identify) … all the different iterations of Jordans that have come out.”
The shoes are also a part of the close bond Girard has with his mom. Arleen joked that she freaks out whenever she sees how many pairs of shoes Girard has in his closet. She always asks what Girard is going to do with the new shoes, telling him, “we have no room for them.” Still, as a mom, Arleen said that she’s part of the reason why the collection has grown so big.
“I’m probably the worst at it. Because if I’m shopping and I miss him and I see a pair of sneakers, I’m like, ‘Oh, I’ll send him a picture. What do you think about these?’” Arleen said. “So sometimes I’m guilty of that where I might be willing to get him a pair of sneakers without him asking.”
Shoes were always Christmas gifts and birthday presents for Girard. Arleen called herself the No. 1 and Girard’s grandmother the No. 2 for buying him shoes for various holidays. His grandmother would always ask her what gifts to get Girard and Arleen’s answer would always be shoes.
Through Girard’s love of shoes, Arleen has learned more about shoes than she expected. She said that in the past, she might’ve just gone to Dick’s and bought a pair of Nikes, but now she’s learned to identify retro pairs of Jordans and look on websites like StockX for shoes. She explained that now, Girard will send her a wishlist of shoes that she can narrow down for a present.
But a lot of these shoes have sentimental value to Girard. Arleen said some of the shoes are in “retired mode,” including the shoes he wore to score his 2,000th, 3,000th and 4,000th high school basketball points in.
By now, the collection in the closet has grown so large that Arleen has had to put the shoes back in the boxes instead of displaying them. Still, she said Girard can easily pick out which shoes he wants by reading the box labels, including his favorites — the Jordan 11 lows. Arleen joked that as long as Girard’s foot size doesn’t change, he’ll never have a need for a pair of sneakers “for a very long time.”
“He’ll do something with (the shoes) someday,” Arleen said. “Right now he just likes to keep them, and many of them give him memories and we’ll find a good spot for them.”
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