A good quality pair of basketball shoes endorsed by an NBA player and selling for only $14.98? Virtually unheard of, right? Not thanks to Stephon Marbury, the New York Knicks point guard who launched his line — Starbury — of affordable basketball shoes back in September. His flagship style, “The Starbury One,” was so successful with kids and parents alike that he has released another pair, “The Starbury Two,” this week. Ben Wallace of the Chicago Bulls has joined in endorsing the shoes as well.
What’s more, the shoes are credible and durable. Growing up in the Coney Island neighborhood of Brooklyn, Marbury’s family wasn’t privileged enough to buy him $100 basketball shoes. So, when he was famous enough to have his own brand, he didn’t want the shoes to be out of anyone’s reach. In lieu of accepting a big endorsement check, Marbury has decided to wear his shoes on the court, which shows he has enough confidence in the quality.
It’s a wonder that it has taken a celebrity this long to come up with an idea as simple as an attainable brand. There is no benefit –and really no lesson — in having kids beg for a $150 pair of shoes that most parents don’t want to spring for. I mean, isn’t everyone happier when we don’t have to spend unreasonable amounts of money just to look cool? I’m sure most people, when given the choice, would wear Starbury’s over the most expensive and revered pair of basketball shoes simply because of the price, not to mention, the theory behind it.
While the concept of owning Starburys for $14.98 sounds all well and good, there is one minor issue — how can Marbury keep costs so low without exploiting child labor overseas and underpaid sweatshop workers? The shoes are produced and sold by Steve & Barry’s, the low-cost sportswear company where almost all merchandise is priced at $15 or less. But it is still known that Starburys, like most merchandise in the athletic shoe industry, is manufactured in China. It is troubling to think that a figure like Marbury, whose intent is to promote social justice, would allow his shoes to be manufactured under deplorable conditions overseas.
Very little has been reported about the exact working conditions for those making the shoes in China. However, in an October article in The Nation, Howard Schacter, the chief partnership officer at Steve & Barry’s, says that the retailer is a member of the Fair Labor Association, and “costs are kept low because their business model eliminates the middleman by producing their own product and selling them in Steve & Barry’s stores. They also rely on word-of-mouth instead of national advertising campaigns.”
Whether this is true or not, I doubt that Marbury will lose many customers over it. In the minds of many inner city kids, he is already a hero.